“Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul.”Psalm 66:16
On the busy corner of St. Peters, in the town of Bedford, England, stands the statue of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress. Behind him at his feet lies the “burden of sin” that had rolled from his back. I was born about a half mile from that spot, though many years later I hasten to add!
My early years beginning during World War II were spent in a small village with my parents and two siblings. My godly mother made sure that we attended Sunday School and we would also attend the evening service in the small Baptist Chapel. It was a small work with no pastor or baptistry. The evening services were taken by different speakers from a variety of theological persuasions. I still remember many of the old hymns that we sang from Sankey’s “Sacred Songs and Solos, 1200 Pieces.” Chrissie, the organist, was totally blind but could play the vast majority of them without prompting. This she did while pumping the organ with her feet.
At the age of twelve I was taken to Harringay Arena in London to a Billy Graham Crusade. I, among many others, responded to the appeal but there was no marked change in my life. On October 15, 1957, the National Young Life Campaign (YLC), a youth work, brought the Billy Graham film “Oiltown USA” to our village as part of the Seven Villages Crusade. It was on that night that I trusted the Lord. The next day as I cycled to work I lighted my first cigarette, but for some reason simply threw it away. I had no idea why. After arriving I joined in with the usual bad language and crude talk, but suddenly felt inside that this was not right. As the day drew on I realized that something had happened in my life. Mercifully, the Lord by His grace, had positioned another believer in that same shop. Ken was a tremendous blessing to me in those early days and has remained a good friend over the years.
I joined the YLC and began to grow spiritually and serve the Lord. Their mottos were “My Utmost for His Highest” and “Every Campaigner a Soulwinner.” I have since adopted “Every Saint a Soulwinner” as my personal principle and practice. On Friday evenings there would be a fellowship meeting: Saturday 5:00pm tea; 6:00pm Bible Study; 7:00pm kneeling in prayer; and 8:00pm off to the market square to do open air preaching beneath the statue of John Howard, the famous prison reformer. Sundays would be spent travelling to various chapels where some would testify, sing, read, and preach. Vacations were spent at various coastal resorts running children’s programs and preaching the gospel to the holiday makers.
In 1965, I married my beautiful wife. Carol was a State Registered nurse and we moved to Yorkshire in order to allow her to study midwifery. After a year we bought a new house in the small town of Garforth. There we began another YLC branch and continued with beach missions and other ministries. During this time the Lord gave us three beautiful children.
Later, the Lord impressed us with the need for a local church. Three couples and one faithful sister began Garforth Evangelical Church. We had little exposure to assemblies in England and what we did have wasn’t exactly encouraging. On one occasion a good friend told me about his church where they had a completely separate time set aside for worship. As a believer that sounded good to me but I was quickly advised that I wouldn’t be allowed in.
When we looked at Scripture for guidance we discovered a plurality of leadership, so we did that. Later on, when we saw that the saints met to break bread every week, we did that too. The fact is we didn’t really know too much other than we were saved to serve and win souls. The work quickly grew and eventually the Lord raised up fifteen missionaries from that work.
I became very successful in my line of work, becoming the top sales manager in the United Kingdom. I loved my work and was approached by our international suppliers to consider joining them. This would have meant moving back south, international travel, and other exciting possibilities. But the Lord had other plans.
About three years after the work began with Garforth Evangelical Church, we invited a missionary from New Tribes Mission (NTM) to come for meetings over a weekend. On Friday evening there were about sixty people packed into the storage area of the grocery store that we used as a church. The missionary showed a film of the Ayore people in Bolivia. We had no idea that there were people in the jungles who had not heard the gospel. We immediately decided to go. Two friends who had been saved in our house decided to go as well. That was in September 1974. The following January, we all flew to an NTM training centre in Wisconsin to train for preaching the gospel in Bolivia. Our firm conviction was to go by faith alone. That being the case, we have resisted appealing for funds to this day and the Lord has faithfully provided. Our fourth precious child was added during this time.
After this, we went to NTM’s language schools in Michigan and Missouri. Our dear friends eventually headed for Senegal and the Ivory Coast. Carol had suffered ill health for many years, it became evident that she would not do well in the jungle. It appeared that I had leadership skills so we ended up in Canada working at the NTM Canadian HQ and Missionary Training Centre in Durham, ON. For years, I taught New Testament Church Principles to missionary candidates, most of whom were unaware of the principles of leadership so clearly taught in the Word.
About three years after arriving in Canada, I had the privilege of speaking at the fiftieth wedding anniversary of a precious couple at Wallenstein Bible Chapel, Wallenstein, ON. Despite being fifty miles away we decided to attend there. At first, we just went to the Family Bible Hour but eventually were encouraged by a sister to attend the earlier Remembrance Meeting. The Lord taught us about remembering Him every week back in England, but this was wholly different and a wonderful experience. Although I was currently teaching missionary candidates on various subjects, when it came to teaching worship from the Word I was woefully lacking. Eventually the Lord opened my eyes that during this precious time Christ should be the focus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I had been raised completely unaware of the preciousness and importance of the Remembrance Meeting and am deeply grieved to see it diminish among the Lord’s people.
The saints at Wallenstein commended us to ministry in the early 1980’s and I continued to teach, chair, and work within NTM. I had the joy of speaking in various countries until I left NTM, and am now actively involved in gospel work, an itinerant ministry among the assemblies, and serving as Vice Chairman on the board of Guelph Bible Conference Centre, Guelph, ON.
The Lord has led, guided, and provided over the years, and we can say as John Newton wrote: “through many dangers, toils and snares, we have already come; His grace hath brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.”