“You asked for a miracle – and you have got one!” said a senior hospital doctor to my wife – also a doctor – after the dramatic survival of our premature baby son, Jonathan. His name means ‘Gift from God’ which he certainly is.
It was almost unbelievable that our tiny baby on a ventilator had survived such severe medical problems. He weighed only 2lbs 6oz and was in a coma for three days. The senior consultant said he feared for him living, because he was going to have so much brain damage.
Today, almost 15 years later, Jonathan is a lively teenager with a great gift for music. We are a happy family of four, including Jonathan’s lovely young sister, Isabelle, nearly 12, whose birth was without complications.
As a family we have much to be grateful for. Apart from the gift of children, my wife Bernadette is still a practising doctor and I’ve seen success as an architect on award-winning projects. But this has not always been the case.
During my childhood my family faced a series of tragedies. I’ll never forget the day when, as a 12-year-old schoolboy, Mum arrived with a friend at our boarding school. She looked very distressed, and it was clear she had terrible news. we drove home in silence – I was not sure what to think. Then, in our lounge, Mum broke the news: “Darling, your father has died in a car accident.”
I was numb. Dad’s sudden death left a great void in our lives. Oh, how I missed his letters – he had such fine handwriting. Those regular letters of encouragement to me at boarding school had meant so much. As a child, I thought Mum must have fallen in love with Dad because he wrote so well!
Further tragedies followed. My mother married again but then my stepfather died in a diabetic coma. I was involved in a car accident where another close family friend died. My younger brother Geoffrey, then 34, also died in a car accident, leaving behind two young children.
Although we were not a church-going family, I dutifully took part in my school’s Church of England traditions, even being baptised and confirmed. Leter I moved to Dundee University to study architecture and found myself lodging with a Scottish family. Sometimes I had discussions about deep things – such as God – with my landlady.
Then, out of the blue, she invited me to a dinner of the Full Gospel Business Men. I was only 19, but a free dinner sounded good. The guest speaker was a South African trader who described some ‘miracles’ in his own life. Once he had faced bankruptcy having bought a huge number of blankets that wouldn’t sell – they were all the wrong colour! But he prayed to God who is ‘very present help in trouble’. The next day a tribal chieftain came to his store, liked the blankets, and bought the lot! As the dinner ended, the leader asked if anyone wanted to know Jesus as their personal saviour? He said people could experience the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
I was curious and, along with others, went to the front. There, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and to come into my heart as my Lord and Saviour. Then I found myself praying in a strange language which is described in the Bible as ‘the gift of tongues’. Tears filled my eyes as words of praise to God bubbled up from my heart in a language I had never learnt. It was not just a passing emotional experience, but a turning point in my life. At last I had a relationship with God as my heavenly father.
To my joy, I also met other university members who had the same radical experience – architectural students and trainee doctors included.
Later, I moved to Norwich where I met my beautiful red-haired wife, Bernadette, at our lively local church. We were engaged within a year. Bernie, as a GP, knew that Jonathan, our first-born, was a miracle baby who had survived a brain haemorrhage, a blood-clotting disorder and other complications. He was so ill that the senior consultant advised us to turn off the ventilator and let him slip away. Medically there was nothing that could be done.
“Oh God,” we cried in despair, “take this decision from us – please intervene and decide for us.” At this point I remembered how God had intervened at the last moment to save the boy Isaac, the beloved son of Abraham, from certain death. I knew God was calling us to trust Him, just as Abraham had done. Then to our great joy, just as the ventilator was about to be turned off, Jonathan suddenly began breathing on his own after 3 days in a coma. He was able to leave hospital eight weeks later; weighing 5 1/2lbs. Brain scans revealed NO damage!
Many have been touched by the story of our miracle baby. The Christian consultant who had prayed with us. Also Bernie’s father, who came to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of the recovery of his grandson. Yes, my family has known deep tragedies – but also great miracles. We also know that God’s love changes lives – and he is ‘just a prayer away’. He promises that if we look for him with all our heart we will find Him.