Raised from my Deathbed

Firstly, just prior to my accident (I was seven at the time) I recall playing with Lego bricks building houses. Every house I built had a red cross on it. One day I was in the middle of building a house when I was asked by my mother to fetch some cream cookies. Those of you who are here and lived during the sixties may know what they are (especially if you lived in Ireland). They were a sweet bap cut though the middle and filled with cream. I was excited as this was the first time I had been allowed to go on my own. I ran up the street and down the next, carefully crossing the road to the bakery. I purchased the cookies, left the shop then started to run, not stopping to think of my highway code. I darted out in between two cars, and a transit van came around the corner. He did not stand a chance of missing me as he was traveling far too fast and knocked me down. My forehead was split open during the accident.

Neither I nor anyone else knew the full extent of my injuries. I was knocked down completely unconscious. I was told at a later date (and I put this down to a God incident) that one of the first people to reach me was my GP. My father then appeared. The GP was very concerned as he had a personal interest in my health. He then asked my father to hold me in his arms, as the ambulance was taking too long to arrive. My father agreed and they travelled to the hospital, some 15 miles away in the doctor's own car. They met the ambulance half way there. The ambulance stopped and after a very short distance radioed the hospital to prepare for my arrival. All the emergency medical staff were waiting for me to arrive. When I arrived my blood pressure level went seriously low so I was immediately given a blood transfusion. My head was stitched up and it was discovered that my skull was also fractured. I was then transferred to a specialist hospital some distance away from the family home. My parents travelled many miles each day in order to visit me. At one stage the doctors were about to give up on my life, as I did not respond to treatment. They discussed this with my parents and as my mother later informed me, she had at the time cried out to God to heal me as she had already lost one son and she did not want to lose a second. (I had a brother who had died at only 5 days old some years previously).

The following day, when my parents returned, the doctors and nurses hugged them both and were giving thanks to God that I had started to make an improvement. However I was still critically ill. I was unconscious for an indefinite period (no-one can recall how long I was unconscious). When I began to recover, it was discovered that during the accident I had incurred split brain damage. I could not walk for a time as I had forgotten how. I was so weak I used chairs and other pieces of furniture to support myself in an effort to walk. One day a nurse asked me to move a dining table across the ward. I did not realise what her motives were. But I walked without support for the first time since my accident. It was only when I came to England that I had an X-Ray on my shoulder and the doctor asked me if I'd ever had a neck injury, to which I replied "Not to my knowledge" The doctor showed me the X-Ray and pointed out an old spinal injury that had been undetected previously. This had healed itself during the time I lay unconscious. I believe my mother's prayers and the prayers of other people were answered. My mother was an occasional church-goer, but was not a believer until many years later.

When I returned home many folk came to visit me and said that surely God must have had his hand upon me and that one day I would be used by Him. This was said on different occasions over a period of 14 years, mostly by friends of my grandmother who attended the Salvation Army. I paid no attention to this, not realizing what lay ahead of me.

At school, a friend of mine, whose parents were committed Christians, asked me to accompany him to the religious education teacher (a Methodist minister who came into school on a weekly basis) as he wanted to make a commitment to God and he also wanted me to become a Christian myself. We both made a commitment at that time. Sadly, however, neither of us followed it through. For 14 years I went my own way, doing what I wanted to do.

When I left school, I went to work in a bakery for a number of years and obtained an apprenticeship. One day when I was travelling home, I noticed a large sign in a field advertising a tent mission during the month of June. Daily I passed this sign for about a month. People all around me were discussing the tent mission and how good the speaker was, and during this time God was also speaking to me. However I had a battle going on within me. I told myself I would attend the tent mission as folk kept telling me I should go. As I mentioned earlier, people had predicted that God would use me in some way. People were still saying this during the time the tent mission was taking place. I set out to go on a number of occasions, but the tent mission was situated near one of my 'locals'. The pub won on several occasions as I ended up there instead of at the mission. That was until one night when I actually sat outside the mission telling myself I would wait until the singing commenced and then creep in and sit at the back. God had different plans, as the only free seat was at the very front! I was ushered to the front of the meeting, and when the preacher rose to speak, his first words were,
"I see we have someone new here tonight, someone who has been sitting outside on a number of occasions."

He preached on the scripture John 14 v.1-4 which was a passage I had memorised at school. However, until that night I did not understand its meaning. When previously I asked people its meaning, their explanation didn't seem to make sense. It was not until that night, when the preacher spoke, that verse 3 jumped out at me. This man, Jesus, had gone away to prepare a place for us, especially me. I realised its full meaning that night. I also realised that when I had been injured at the age of seven, God had His hand on my life and He had a purpose and a plan for me - and it wasn't for me to die at that time.

At the end of that Tuesday evening the speaker made an appeal for folk who wished to commit their lives to God to remain in their seats after everyone else had gone. He said that someone would speak to those who stayed. I tried to leave my seat, but I found I could not move. Later I was introduced to the speaker who was in his small caravan, beside the mission tent. We had a time of fellowship together before I left for home and you can guess what happened. I gave my life to Christ. I attended regularly for the rest of the week, wondering what I would do when the mission ended. Amazingly, the mission was extended by two weeks; this was a 'God incident' as this helped me immensely to progress spiritually.

During the summer period I attended many baptismal services at a nearby lake and at the seaside resort of Newcastle (County Down). Although I took others in my car to be baptised at these services I still hadn't been baptised myself as I didn't feel it was necessary. In January of the following year I heard of a trip to Israel. The speaker under whose ministry I had become a Christian had made these arrangements so I decided to go as well. I still had no intention of being baptized. On the first Sunday morning that we were in Israel, and were in the Garden of Gethsemane, I felt the Holy Spirit come upon me, telling me I should be baptised in the river Jordan. The morning was lovely and sunny, calm without even a breeze. At that moment I felt a breeze come over me and a quiet voice whispered, "you must be baptized." After the morning service, I asked some of the other folk who were with me if they had felt a breeze, to which they replied in amazement, "no." I told the group leader what had happened and I said I wished to be baptised in the Jordan river, and this took place later in the week.

On returning home, I gave talks on my trip and helped in a Christian coffee bar, serving coffee etc. This was where I met my first Christian girlfriend. We dated for some time until she died tragically in a motorbike accident. Shortly after this time, I turned away from God, feeling hurt and anger at what had happened. I knew this was the wrong attitude to take, but although I didn't disbelieve God, He was not central in my life. Instead I tried to fill the emptiness I felt with other things that the world provided. However the emptiness continued. This went on for several years. The more I chased after things of the world the less happy I became and the more I messed up my life.

One Saturday evening I visited a small gospel service run by a family friend. I recommitted my life to God. I started helping at this by serving coffee and undertaking other small jobs as they arose. I also started to sing with their music group and playing guitar. About this time I did some voluntary work for the DCF (Disabled Christian Fellowship), which involved going on residential holidays acting as a carer on a one to one basis. I also helped run the evening meetings. During one of these meetings, someone gave a prophecy over me that I would be moving or changing groups. I began to seek God as to what this meant. It was not long after this, when I was playing my bass guitar at one of the meetings that a music group came to entertain everyone. They asked me to play along with them for the evening. Later that evening several members of the group invited me to join them on a regular basis. I prayed for direction, then agreed, concluding that my prophecy had been fulfilled. However this was not the case and the best was yet to come. I had joined a Christian introduction agency in the hope that I might meet a Christian girl with whom there might be a future. I received introductions to several girls, but none of these seemed right. It was through this agency that I was given the name and the telephone number of a girl living in England (who was a single mum). Although this did seem a long way off and I was rather doubtful, I made the initial call and we continued to talk over the telephone and corresponded for about 5 months. Then I invited her and her son to come and stay in a caravan that I owned. It was in a caravan site on the coast in Millisle, Co. Down. They agreed to come, and to cut a long story short, their visit was a successful one. We continued to correspond and talk over the phone and they both returned at Christmas. We spend a wonderful time together and this was when I asked her to marry me. She agreed, so we were married the following year in June, and I moved to where she lived in England. We have had our difficulties the same as everyone else, I'm sure. However, we have done many different things together, including working for an international radio station and travelling around the country giving talks. We established a monthly service for adults who have a learning disability (Causeway Prospects Group) and we also took the folks out regularly on trips. This went on for 8 years with some other groups starting up also.

At present, we are involved with Prison Fellowship and go regularly into prisons as facilitators for the Sycamore Tree courses........ God has not finished yet.