I was number seven in a large family of six brothers and two sisters. We were brought up in Shropshire by a loving Christian mother, but my father didn’t believe in God. He suffered with mental health issues after fighting in the Second World War, and I never knew fatherly love like my friends. I would often receive a beating and life was very difficult with him around. We all attended the local Baptist chapel in Madeley, and my mother would make sure we were all clean and tidy before setting off, which was quite a task! Being so young though, I never really understood what was going on in the service.
Turning away from God
As time went by any faith I had in God was severely tested. My eldest sister had several miscarriages and two stillborn children but gave birth at last to a lovely little girl. Sadly she became terminally ill and died at sixteen months old. I felt betrayed by God and totally heartbroken. After the funeral, a local church pastor came to see me, but I didn’t want to hear his words. Apart from weddings and funerals, I never went to chapel again, and I turned my back on Christianity. Soon after this my eldest brother was diagnosed with a rare heredity brain disease, followed then by two more of my brothers. At this time I turned further away from God and went on a path of self-destruction, drinking and fighting. Eventually, needing space away from my family and friends, I moved to Wrexham.
Church or pub?
After being here for some time, I received invitations to come to Bradley Road Baptist Church Christmas services, and I would place them each year on my mantelpiece. I would look at them from time to time, trying to decide if I was ready to try again with God. Then on the 20th December 2015, I made a bold decision. I got myself ready and made my way to the church and stood on the opposite pavement, looking at the people going inside. As I watched a friend of mine appeared. He was worse for drink and asked me, ‘Why are you standing there?’ I couldn’t say anything but turned back to look at the people going inside the church. He exclaimed, You’re not thinking of going in there are you?’ I told him that I wanted to, but I was just thinking about it. ‘Come with me to the pub, let’s have a drink, it’s Christmas,’ he said, and stumbled past me.
Clinging to God
I managed to dash across the road, and I entered the church thinking, ‘What have I done?’ I received a warm welcome at the door and found a quiet spot to sit on the lefthand side towards the back. I thought about leaving before the service began, but I was glued to my seat and I just couldn’t move. The service was great, with children in nativity costumes and I enjoyed singing the Christmas carols. As the service ended I went to make a sharp exit but as I turned to the door an open hand was put before me. I was asked, ‘Are you visiting?’ I explained who I was and why I had come in. ‘Will you come again, what about Christmas morning?’ I committed myself to going, and I loved the service. And as I continued to go to each Sunday, something changed within me. I came to believe that Jesus had died to take away all the bad things in my life. I felt an inner peace about everything, even though many in my family had suffered so much. I began to cling on to God, especially through the loss of someone very close to me. And even though darkness has sometimes crept in, God is faithful. On the 12th November 2017 I was baptised and am so grateful that God did not give up on me. He gave me a second chance, and I am delighted to be called a Christian.