‘My Travel with Christ’
I never had a ‘Road of Damascus’ moment. I would say that my experience of Christ has been in the first half of joy, but has been in the second half like the trials of Job, and I make no cut of that, because it is true and you will hear my tale and can judge for yourselves, but through it all God has been there. I have never had a time in my life where I have not known God. I was sent to Sunday School in the Church of Scotland from as young as I can remember, and then went to the wee meeting of the church in the afternoon on a Sunday. My parents never had much, but that was the same for everybody else in the village. I grew up and went to the Junior Section of the Boys’ Brigade and then the Senior Section. I joined the City of Glasgow police, and met my first wife in the training school in Glasgow.
We had difficulties having children, and in the first eight years my wife had seven miscarriages. We were told ‘don’t have any more or it will kill you’. So we prayed about it. Liz was a Sunday School teacher, and we asked God for His guidance where should we go, what should we do. We looked at adoption, but unfortunately Social Services said that we weren’t suitable. At the age of twenty-eight and a policeman, I don’t know what does qualify! Anyway, when we were told we weren’t suitable, my wife was approached by a doctor in Glasgow who said he was trialling a new drug for women in her predicament. There were twenty-five children in the UK born because of this drug, and I’ve got two of them. So God answered our prayers through our daughter. Again Liz was told to have no more, and to be sterilised. So we went forward for her to be sterilised and found she was pregnant, with God’s gift of a second daughter.
After that, life continued. I was still in the police and my wife set up a small baby goods business and was doing really well. So well, that we were building our own house. The small business she had turned out to be in competition with that of a major Glasgow criminal. His daughter was running baby shops as well. We were forced out of one shop, and we took all the stock to our main shop. The following week it was broken in to and totally emptied. It turned out that we had employed a manager who was really in the employ of the criminal gang. We never found out where the stock went. My wife was accused of an insurance fraud, on the false evidence of the manager. The authorities seized the business and closed it down. The insurance company said there was no claim. About four months later, nearing completion, the house we were building was burned to the ground. Again the police thought, an insurance job. I pointed out that the insurance money would go to the bank and the builders, and the only thing I would be left with is a bigger mortgage. But they still persisted.
My mental health deteriorated and I had a nervous breakdown. It took the authorities over four years to take anything to trial. By the time it went to trial my wife’s mental health was shattered, and she tried to commit suicide and had to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. The Sheriff took advice and the Crown deserted the case implicita, which means ‘no case to answer’.
We were left bankrupt. We were forced out of our house with two young children and the clothes we were stood up in. But again, someone came to help us, and they got us into a house and they helped with various other things to keep us going. The minister in the Church of Scotland in Glenboig did a fantastic job. He put his faith in us, and he stood by us.
It was very very difficult to know where to go, but the thing went on for years and years and everything we tried to do failed. But every time we came against a stone wall problem, someone stepped forward and gave us advice and a bit of help.
Nothing ever seemed to go right. The debts accrued and we couldn’t write off anything and my pension didn’t cover it, so eventually we were told we were being made bankrupt for a second time, and they said they were taking everything off us - our house, and everything we were stood up in. So we prayed. Many people around us thought we were sanctimonious going to church, and look at all the stuff that’s going on in their life, they must be bad ‘uns. We prayed about it, and we decided that as our two children were going to Leicester University that we would move with them. We told the powers that be what we were doing and where we were going, and we moved down here.
Life seemed to improve. We came with nothing and we started to build things up again. We were going to the Church of England in Countesthorpe. We thought things were improving, then my wife came down with breast cancer. We had a long hard struggle with the breast cancer, and eventually beat that, but just as we had defeated it, she came down with a second primary tumour which was bowel cancer. That battle she didn’t win and, on 4 Sept 2009 - my birthday - we were told that her condition was terminal. For some strange reason, we found a great deal of peace after that. We prayed together and put our lives in order. The Congregational minister at the LOROS hospice looked after our spiritual needs. We were all there – me and the two girls when she passed away. We had been together for thirty-five years.
I went into mourning for two years and went nowhere I just sat in the house. And then a breath of air came through me. I don’t know what it was, but there was a call to start going back to church again. So I started going to Countesthorpe Parish Church again, and one or two other churches round about. I felt I had been called back to the body of the Kirk. I took up motorbiking and realised I wanted some adult company. Once again, God sent someone to me. That someone you now know as Liz Connelly. We were both Christians. I had wavered slightly after what I had gone through in my life, but where did she bring me?
She brought me into this wee Kirk. I walked through Whetstone Baptist Church’s door, and felt at home. Every one of you has been fantastic. You have been welcoming, and it is a pleasure to know you all as brothers and sisters in Christ. The housegroup too - well they make me feel positively youthful now! When I look back through my life, especially the dark times, every time I hit an impossible impasse, someone stepped forward who didn’t need to step forward.
There is only one set of tracks in the sand in my life, and that is God’s. He carried me through the really dark times when everyone else deserted us. They turned their heel on us and wouldn’t speak to us. Friends I had served in the police service with, turned to dust.
When my late wife passed away, her brother, an atheist, said ‘There will just be nothing’. And she said ‘Well, if there’s nothing, the pain will be over and I’ll have a rest of sorts’. But as she was slipping in and out of consciousness she said ‘I’ve been to a beautiful place’.
Well that’s me, ladies and gentlemen; it’s my travel with Christ. I wouldn’t be here today if God hadn’t led me here, that I am convinced of. God walked in my life every way, shape and form. He gave me everything I had, and I’ve lost everything. But like Job, he has rebuilt my life, and to him, I am his servant, and what more can I do than present myself, like Jesus, for baptism in His name.