It was 1943 when I was born in St.Helens, a large industrial town in the north west of England. The son of a coal minor, I was brought up in accordance with strict Roman Catholic orthodoxy. I recall as an altar boy being able to recite Latin parrot fashion without understanding a single word.
At the age of fifteen years, it was the standard practice to leave school, albeit without the ability to read or write. The latter becoming apparent when I failed the entrance exam’s for the junior Irish Guards. I think the recruiting serjeant was desperate when to years later I was able to enlist into the Lancashire Regiment.
I joined the regular army as a professional soldier in December 1960 and was posted to Fullwood Barracks Preston, Lancashire, for my basic training. Following my three months of the army turning me from a civilian to a trained soldier, they posted me to my regiment who were part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), near to the town of Hilden, West Germany. During this period, two specific things happened. Firstly, I became tied to drink (alcohol) and the freedom to lust myself in the nightlife of some of the large towns and cities of Northern Europe. The second was that in the course this new freedom, my religious upbringing began to disintegrate!
This collapse of my childhood faith continued until the time I found myself serving in Swaziland; when one day, I was sent home on compassionate grounds. The reason, my mother had but a few weeks to live. The army was good to me at the time, but sadly my mother died just four weeks after I arrived back in the UK. The effect of her death was dramatic both on me and the rest of my family. I shall never forget to tell my five-year-old sister that her mum had gone to heaven. Did I decide at that very moment not to believe in God?
In 1967, I went with my regiment to Aden Conflict, now known as the Aden war of Independence. While I was both Up Country on the border with Northern Yemen and whilst down in Aden itself, I found myself regularly having made contact with insurgents who tried every trick in the book to kill British Soldiers. Sadly, they succeed time and time again. For me, it was a particularly stressful time because I was a combat medic and some of those killed or badly wounded were amongst my closest friends. I would say, that If there was every a time I should have believed in God, it was then. I did try; I even went to a service. The priest who took the service did so to a concert of heavy machine gun fire. Eventually, though, the thought of a God who would allow young men to die was just too much. I left Aden with two medals and a citation for treating casualties under fire.
The following year, I spent one year and six months on Malta a very Roman Catholic place, where St Paul found him self-sick wrecked. I saw the big fine cathedrals in the capital Valetta. I witnessed the prostitutes who seemed to be in harmony with the Catholic Church. It didn’t take long to get a picture of religious hypocrisy at the highest level. If that religion – you can keep it, I said.
In 1969, I found myself on the streets of Northern Ireland and patrolling the border region known as bandit Country. Only again to be confronted by a religious bigotry, that caused the needless loss of so much life.
!970 brought a change of direction when I left the army and became a member of the Police Force. During my early years, I had both laughter and heartbreak. But perhaps the greatest event to take place was the courtship and marriage of my wife Maureen who brought two wonderful daughters into this world. I believe God had His hand on me at this stage because Maureen had the experience of being “Born Again” yet she still married me?
The bulk of my service was in the traffic department and after dealing a high amount a fatal casualties from road traffic accidents began to affect me. So, the powers to be transferred me to be the local bobby of the village where I now live. It was here that I started to search for the answer to living. While I was asking questions about various faiths, a number of incidents happened. Firstly, although I worked a cycle beat, I was worked in tandem with a Christian Police officer, and when there was a need, I would work with him in His beat car. I recall one day, after accepting I was a sinner, telling him I would never find a priest to forgive my sins and that I was doomed to spend eternity in hell. In fact, Satan would already have my locker and coal fork ready for me.
My colleague, Dave said, no Bob, “For God so loved the world He died for your sins!” He left it at that.
Later, I went to the scene of a suicide, a man had gassed himself to death. When I had finished with all that had to be done, I left the scene. Pushing my police cycle along a country road, I now call my Damascus Road! I was half way down the road when my mind was taken into the clouds. The scene became a courtroom with a judge sat perched high up. My name was called, a book was opened. It was full of black finger marks which I saw as my sins. “Have you any answer?” said the judge? I didn’t. He said Guilty. At that moment, I came back to the realm of reality. I sweating a cold sweat and I whilst experiencing pure fear, the like I had never experienced in all my life. Not even in battle-torn Aden or on the streets of Northern Ireland.
A couple of Sundays later, I was walking along the same road, it was spring and it felt good to be alive. As I passed a local parish hall, I could hear the singing of chorus like hymns coming from the building. I had only got about ten paces past the hall when some invisible force took hold of me. It turned me around. The Only way I could go was back to the parish hall where I discovered a Christian Fellowship was meeting for worship, praise and proclaiming the word of God. After some small talk, I left with a mixture and peace. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my wife.
It was a few weeks later when I had been invited to a meeting to be held at a gospel hall. My police friend and colleague Dave who had spoken the words, For God so loved the World, but never elaborated on it, who took me. As the speaker was going to the platform and the congregation were still talking, something strange took place. I saw myself rising out of my body. There was an eerie silence. Then without realising it I was speaking to someone about all the problems of the planet and why did God allow wars, crime and all the vicious things of life. The voice was gentle. It said that He (God) had given the man a choice. He said He had sent His Son to die on the cross for my sins. Lord, I prayed, I have been such a sinner, forgive me. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. Be the Lord of my life. At that very moment, it was as though I had been snapped out from some hypnotic trance. I knew I was crying, but I didn’t know that I had been born again. That only came later. Though a few days after I was saved, I felt deeply hurt when heard someone taking the Lord’s name in vain!
Baptism In the Holy Spirit
Shortly after, I was baptised both by full immersion in water and came out baptised in the Holy Spirit. How do I know? Firstly, I physically felt that chains had come off me. Secondly, I knew in my heart that something extremely special had taken within me – I knew that I had been changed – I felt that I was a new creation.
My First Healing
Just before I left the police force, I was deeply troubled with severe back pain. I saw a consultant who diagnoses a bad case of arthritis. In simple terms the doctor said, you will be wheelchair bound with a few years time. In the meanwhile, in as admitted to hospital and put on traction. After a day or so, it was obvious I was under severe stress. I recall vividly going first into tears and then into prayer for many hours. When suddenly a great peace descended upon me; starting at my head and working through my body. The following morning the doctor took me off the traction. Today over twenty years later I am still not in that wheelchair.
Life Changing – An Ambassador for Christ!
To know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is life changing! Through the influence of the Holy Spirit, I began my re-education in the English language. I completed a theological diploma wit the Theological college of South Africa. I obtain a BA Degree in Biblical studies followed by a Masters Degree, then a Ph.D. and Doctor of Theology, finally, I was mad a fellow of the European Theological Seminar. A long way from my youthful days of being almost illiterate. My life is now spent building relationships between Jewish and Christian communities. The Lord as taken me from having lunch in the White to counselling the counsellors at New York’s ground zero, from government offices in Jerusalem to the synagogue of Dublin. I have met with Arab terrorist to Foreign office Ministers in the British Foreign Office. Many times the Lord has saved me from imminent dangers of terrorist activities; I have been invited into the London foreign embassy life, made friend with ambassadors. I could not have done any of these things without Jesus Christ in my life. In each place and on every occasion I have felt the anointing and presence of the Holy Spirit. I recall one day waiting in a room at the Foreign Office in London, reserved for ambassadors and other senior diplomats when I felt the Lord saying that I was now an ambassador for Him
Whenever I have faced the problems of life, be in my health or my lack of wealth, Jesus as been there, day by day, hour by hour – 24/7. I give Him all the glory! For I know that I am rich in Him! Amen.
I lived in Garwood on the outskirts of Wigan. I am married to a wonderful Christian wife, with two daughters who are both married and have the pleasure and blessing of two granddaughters. (For the moment).