I am from a Non-Christian background, but I do believe my mother, who died from cancer, came to know the Lord on her death-bed. I was very much a product of the 70’s alternative society, first a rebel dropping out of public school, then a hippy with a beard and long hair – my father would often refer to me as his son and hair – then a punk totally at odds with the world and the establishment. I went on demonstrations to prove it. I was very political, interested in left-wing politics, especially anarcho-syndicalism. I had a great respect for Christ as a revolutionary leader but that’s all. I would describe myself as an agnostic. I had dabbled in Eastern religions and had had a short flirtation with ‘Plain Truth-Armstrongism’ but had decided that this was a right-wing Christian cult, which in fact it is.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Cor. 1:18
I had a particular interest in drama and the theatre and had studied Drama and the Theatre Arts at Newark Technical college. During this period I gained a particular interest in Remedial Drama using drama as a teaching aid to help children with learning difficulties communicate. During this time in the late 70’s I shared a flat with a Christian. I believe he prayed for me to come to know the Lord.
In the Summer of 1979 I enrolled as a counsellor for an American Jewish summer camp for brain- damaged children. It was a very rewarding six weeks. But coming back to London to be with my girl friend, I found life oddly empty, especially after the experience of working in America. I finished with my girlfriend and returned to Nottingham. My life had no direction. Looking for work I phoned a company which sold stage lighting. I remember a conversation I had with the receptionist. She asked me whether I was a Christian. I distinctly remember saying I was not. She said that she had asked because the company was run by a group of Christians. Through difficult economic times they had prayed to God to keep business flowing. No work was available but she would phone me if something turned up. I thought it slightly odd and thought nothing more about it.
1980 came, and as I was watching a TV programme called ‘The Christians’ a historical documentary by Bamber Gascoigne of University Challenge fame, what struck me for the first time was the idea of God dying on a cross. I couldn’t get this idea out of my head. A Living New Testament had been gathering dust on my shelf, and I then started to read the Bible for the first time. There was one passage that struck me from Mark’s gospel, that of Christ healing the demoniac man. I could see in this passage that Christ had a power and authority. I had not realised this before, but I do remember praying to God saying, ‘if you are real show me!’
That August I was youth hostelling in Derbyshire, and I remember watching The Christians TV programme. As I recall, it featured a Christian college called Cliff College. To my amazement I found it was in Derbyshire. I appeared on its doorstep and started grilling the Principal on Christianity, asking who this Jesus was. He showed me great patience, sending me away with some Christian literature. I made my way up to Curbar Edge, a magnificent outcrop of rock above Cliff College, to reflect on things. I realised that there was something wrong with my life.
That evening I checked into a youth hostel in Bakewell. As I strolled around the town that Summer evening I passed an old Wesleyan chapel. From it I heard some weird electronic music. I ventured in and found a group of Christians rehearsing a gospel presentation on a scientific theme. They were to perform this in a local park as part of their outreach mission. I started asking them questions about Jesus. Finding out I was a drama student they began asking me about production, and invited me to a coffee bar they were organising that evening in a local restaurant.
Listening to the testimony of and and another I found that these Christians were from similar backgrounds, had been involved in counter-culture. One couple had been involved in drugs and pornography, but the Lord delivered them from these things, and their marriage which had been in danger of breaking up, was saved. Another couple had been researching the background of tarot cards in Iran. It was while they were laid up with a fever that they came into contact with Christian missionaries. This led them to being converted – returning back to England and eventually becoming involved in the Anglican ministry. Another had been the town drunk but was now converted, becoming a Christian potter who made pots with texts on, for the Lord. In giving their testimony each testified to a changed life through Christ dying for their sin on the cross.
I returned to the youth hostel. The following morning I came to a point where I confessed that my life was wrong. This was a big step. Being a humanist I believed man was basically good but things that I had just learned now challenged this. So on the banks of the River Derwent in Bakewell on August 13th 1980 I confessed that I was a sinner and Christ was my Saviour and Lord.
I returned to my family home in Nottingham. It wasn’t all glowing. I eventually returned to Bakewell to grill these Christians thinking I had been taken in by a cult. But this was not the case, it was real. My life changed. The Lord gave me the confidence to go to teacher training college. Four years later I ended up with a Hons Degree in Special Education. My CV makes interesting reading – employers ask me how-come I only have a few O-levels and a Drama A-level in 1979, but in 1984 I’ve got a Honours degree. The reason, I explain, is entirely due to my conversion to Christianity.
I can testify that God has the power to change lives. He changed mine. But I have to say life as a Christian is not all rosy. The Lord led me into Special Education, and later-on to train and serve as a missionary in Kenya, eventually having to return to the UK exhausted, and then going back into Special Education to teach pupils and students with Aspergers Syndrome and Autism.
There have been good times, but also many storms in my professional and private life. But I learnt that you are not alone in these trials. He, the Lord, is with you in those storms of life. (Mark 4:35-41). May God bless you.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Ps.34:8)