Out of Every Kindred, and Tongue, and People, and Nation: Northern Ireland

The Clear but Unrecognized Voice

I as born in Belfast, NI, in 1962, the youngest of three, into a very loving home. Sadly, my mother became ill when I was two and a half years old and six months later died of cancer. My father remarried; we were fortunate to gain a stepmother who loved us as her own. When I was 10 years old my brother became ill and he also died of cancer.

Shortly after these tragedies we moved from Belfast to the lower Ards Peninsula where I spent happy teenage years. We attended the local Presbyterian Church and were brought up to be respectful in godly matters. I was generally of the belief that you were to be “as good a person as possible and not do anybody any harm; then God would be pleased.”

My first encounter with gospel preaching was when I attended gospel meetings with my then girlfriend Hazel. I refused to go back as I was very opposed to preaching that stated, “You must be saved.” Hazel and I were later married in a Gospel Hall; and then we attended the local Presbyterian Church. Hazel, although not saved, always leaned towards the gospel preaching. I originally was opposed to allowing our two children to attend the local Gospel Hall Sunday School, but eventually gave in.

At this time I was drinking fairly regularly, almost daily. I tried to convince my wife and myself that I was in control, but inwardly I was starting to worry. On November 10th, 2000, I was watching a television program dedicated to a famous footballer. I certainly was not thinking of anything religious when what seemed like a bolt straight out of the TV hit me. As I saw this famous person, who looked half-dead because of his drink problem, I realized that fame, fortune, talent, and drink hadn’t done much for him. The Holy Spirit really shook me that night.

The following evening my wife and I were attending a dinner dance. After the shock of the previous evening I had decided to drive, therefore I was not drinking. By the end of the evening, again not thinking of anything religious, I looked around at the drunken revellers and all I could think of was Sodom and Gomorrah. The Spirit of God spoke strongly to me a second time, although I did not recognize at the time that it was His voice. I did not tell my wife any of this and drove home that night quickly and quietly. The next morning was Sunday and I wanted to get up early and go to church on my own, which was something I never did.

Before I went I decided to read the Bible, which again was something I never did, and didn’t even know where it was. I sat down with the Bible and said, “Where will I read? There are four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I’ll read John.” The Holy Spirit led me to John’s gospel. I started reading at chapter 1, never having read this before, and the words just came alive, and I understood of Whom it spoke. I read chapter 2 and tears flowed down my face, and then I read chapter 3. As I read verses 16-22, all I could see was the love of Christ as He stood before those who mocked Him and scourged Him and eventually crucified Him. I saw the sin and wickedness of man and I was part of this humanity and Christ paid the price for our sin, my sin.

Alone, as I read John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease,” straight away I knew that God had just saved me and that I was indwelt with the Holy Spirit. My whole life had just changed in a moment. I went to church that morning and couldn’t sing because of the lump in my throat. I had tears of joy in my eyes.

From that moment my life changed completely. New desires filled my life. Reading the Scriptures daily, praying, spending time with the Lord, meeting with other believers, and discussing Christ, salvation, and scriptural truths were now my life. I never had the desire for another drink from that moment.

Soon I saw and accepted the truths of baptism and gathering unto the Lord’s name. My wife Hazel was saved 6 months later, and we were baptized together, which was a very special moment in our lives. Both of our daughters have since professed faith in Christ, and we thank God for His rich blessing on our little family.