In my life I have been most blessed, though I did not realise it at the time. I have been constantly surrounded by Christian relations: a Great Grandmother, both sets of Grandparents, Dad and Mum, later a Brother, my dear wife Judy, and her Dad and Mum, just to name a few. I am truly thankful for them all.
From an early age I had always believed in a Superior Being. I knew that our family was different than others, but it was not until I started school that I found out the reason why. Even from a very young age I was subjected to “mickey taking” from my classmates because my Dad was a minister. To combat this I went out of my way to shatter the image that the minister’s son was a “goody–goody.” This continued into high school, and to be honest I was a total nightmare—a right “Jack the Lad”! Wherever there was trouble in school, I was not far away from it. Please pray for the children of Christian Ministers. They do take a lot of flak from the world.
My life consisted of church in the morning, Sunday school in the afternoon, followed by the evening service. Then we had Young People’s Fellowship on a Tuesday evening. This routine continued until I was 16. My head was full of knowledge, but I had no heart knowledge of the Lord.
In September 1978, just after my 16th Birthday I entered the British army, and after 15 months of training I joined my regiment in Osnabrück, formerly West Germany. After a period of inductions, I was accepted as one of the boys. This meant I was back to my old tricks again, except this time with an extra ingredient—alcohol. Life was great, so I thought. I was like the prodigal Son, living life to excess.
In 1981 my regiment was sent on active service to Northern Ireland. The tour of duty began against the back drop of the 1981 Irish Republican hunger strike which was coming to a head. This was a massive wakeup call for me. During my time there I saw sin at its worst, and to my shame I was involved in a lot of it. This included people getting hurt. I had sunk to the bottom of the pit.
On Christmas Day 1981 my Granddad was called Home. Before he died my Mum made a recording of him singing hymns and talking of Heaven so that I could hear his voice when I got home on Christmas leave, in the event of him passing away before then. On the tape he kept referring to me being in Heaven with him. This troubled me greatly as the sins I had committed in Ireland where weighing heavily on my soul.
In 1982 my Dad was called to Holywell and on my first leave, I was introduced to an ex-Royal Marine who attended church. His name was Andy Peterson, Husband of Doreen and Dad to Mark and to Rodney. He invited me to his house on many occasions over the next 18 months. I had found a kindred spirit and we shared army tactics. I was able to open myself up to him and tell him about the sins I had committed in Ireland. These still troubled me. Through Andy’s witness and example, and the fact that during his war service he was not saved, I saw that there might be hope of my sins being forgiven. It was with great sadness that in January 1984 I heard that Andy had passed away and gone to Heaven.
I left the army in July 1987 and returned home and settled quite easily. Sunday church attendance was done out of politeness to Mum and Dad since I was living at home. Dad had been diagnosed with M.S. and was starting to struggle. I was amazed by how positive he was and by the strength of my Mum. Their faith still amazes me. As my Dad has told me on many occasions, God does not make mistakes, and everything happens for a reason.
Judy and I were married on the 18th May 1991, and set up home in Greenfield, attending this Church. Very shortly afterwards Pastor started his ministry here.
In January 1995 Judy was expecting Hannah. During her 20-week scan I remembered what Dad had told me years before: that one day I would have to stand before God’s throne and answer as to how I had bought up my children. This worried me, but I quickly dismissed the thought. However, the night Hannah was born, the thought returned again. So when I arrived home from the hospital in the early hours of the morning, I picked up my Bible and randomly opened it. It fell open on Proverbs chapter 1. The first verse I read was verse 8: “My Son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (KJV). This shook me to my core. I decided to read a chapter every day. Once I reached the end of Proverbs, I started reading from Genesis.
In August 1996, Tudor Lewis passed away. I was fond of Tudor so the week of the funeral I phoned Eirian to send her my sympathies. Typically, I saw Eirian and her Sister-in-law Dorothy Lewis as people to keep at arm’s length, for they would challenge me about my spiritual state, which was embarrassing. However, after spending a long time on the phone talking, I realised that their marriage was a three-way partnership between the Lord and Tudor and Eirian.
After the funeral and during the refreshments Eirian called me over. She thanked me for my call, and then said a sentence that would knock me for six; that, “she would quite happily give up her Husband for the sake of one soul”. I was lost for words and amazed at this dear lady’s faith. I excused myself as my eyes were welling up.
By 2002 I had completed reading the whole Bible, but the book of Revelation scared me immensely. It brought back a memory of what my Dad had said to me while I was still in the Army: “Andy, lad, you are walking over the flames of Hell on rotting cloth”. So I started to pray as well as to read the Bible.
The year 2006 was not a good year. We had a car accident which left me in plaster and in constant pain. Surgery was needed, but the biggest pain of all was that my prayers were not being answered. I was beginning to think that I was beyond redemption and I was nearly ready to commit the cardinal sin of writing off my soul and putting my Bible away. 2006 was also the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Republican Hunger Strike, which brought back memories of my time in Northern Ireland. I was reading about the hunger strike on the internet and saw a link to Billy Wright. He was someone I had met on numerous occasions. He was one of the Loyalist leaders of the Ulster volunteer Force (UVF), a terrorist group which had been a constant thorn in our side. I read the link, and was astounded that while in prison, Billy had read some Christian literature and had been saved. Billy was assassinated while in the Maze prison in 1997 by a Catholic terrorist group the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).
My spirits were now lifted and I decided to read the Bible slower, and to pray harder.
By the middle of 2011 certain things had changed in my life. Church was now interesting and I enjoyed attending. I was now using telegraph prayers on a regular basis, but I was dreading reading the book of Revelation again as I approached the end of the New Testament for the second time. But this time, when I read Revelation, it had a great calming effect on me.
I have no date for my conversion, only the period between June and Dec 2011. But I was still not sure and lacked assurance of my faith, so I asked the Lord for a sign. When the sign came it was a most terrifying experience. Early in December 2011, I walked to work due to snowy weather. As I crossed the road into the business park, a car shot around the corner and lost control. It was sliding straight towards me. I tried to run but was slipping all over the place. I felt the whole length of the car brush the back of my legs. What was my knee-jerk response? “Boy, that was close!”? NO! It was “Thank you, Lord Jesus.” The relief was immense. My prayers had been answered, and my sins had been forgiven through the shed blood and death of God’s Son at Calvary.
Straight away I had an urge to read more. Again, my prayers were answered. One of the first presents I opened on Christmas Day 2011 was Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening from my Mum and Dad. I wanted more.
On my Birthday in 2012 Judy bought me a Kindle. So I uploaded the Bible, the whole Works of Mathew Henry, Pilgrims Progress and Foxe’s book of Martyrs, all for free. I decided that, for my quiet time every morning, instead of reading a chapter each day I would follow the passages from Mathew Henry and then read what God’s servant had to say about them. I am still following this format.
In April 2013 Eirian was called home. During her funeral, Pastor mentioned that Eirian had told him that she would give up her Husband for the conversion of one soul. This hit me hard, since she had said the same to me all those years ago. I had been saved nearly 18 months by that point, but still had not told anybody. As a secret disciple this affected me greatly. I realized I was missing out on so much.
On 22nd January 2014 we received the sad news that Pam Parry had suddenly passed away. I enjoyed our chats on trips back to Greenfield from Sunday School, and I also admired how her family coped with looking after Pam. Pam’s passing brought back to me the thought of how fragile life is, and that we should treat every day as our last day, for we are not guaranteed to see tomorrow. Pastor had made an announcement about people wanting to be baptised. Ellie beat me to it, so the following Tuesday, 6th February 2014, I sent Pastor an e-mail requesting to be baptised.
Why have I been a secret disciple for so long? It’s a question I have been asking myself. I can think of only three reasons:
C= my dear Father and Brother are Doctors in Theology. They have forgotten more than I will ever know. I would not like to be compared to them.
I would like to thank Judy for all her prayers and love shown to me over the past 26 years. I would like to thank Mum and Dad for all their prayers and guidance, and for the faithful way they brought me up; all my Sunday school teachers and pastors under whose faithful ministry I have been; and I would like to thank all my Brothers and Sisters in the Lord for all their prayers for me over many years, and for the Christian Literature they have given me.
Above all, I am thankful that Jesus is fuller of grace than I am of sin. Through his shed blood and death my sins have been forgiven. My name is written in the Lambs Book of Life!
 A shortened form of the slang “Taking the Michael.” It means to be made fun of, to be teased or, more seriously, mocked.
 “Jack the Lad” means a bad boy.
 “M.S.” is Multiple Sclerosis.
 “Knocked for six” is a cricket term bespeaking the highest scoring action. It is equivalent to hitting a home run, or knocking the ball out of the park.
 Pam Parry was a local young adult with Multiple Dystrophy, whose Grandad, Mom, and Aunt had the disease. Brenda and I paid tribute to Pam’s Grandmother, Ann, in our Christmas letter. Pam died unexpectedly one morning a few weeks later. Of all those who had the disease, only Pam’s Mom now remains alive.