I was born in 1953 into an Anglo-Irish family. We were practising Roman Catholics. I was deeply interested in the faith. Religious Knowledge, was, generally speaking, the subject I was best in at school.
I was sent to a private Roman Catholic school. The staff were exceptionally kind and genuinely pious. I was confirmed at quite an early age, and had many religious books, rosaries and medallions, but no Bible.
On the back cover of every issue of a Catholic magazine my mother took, was a picture of a Bible, with an order form. How desperately I wanted my own Bible it is difficult to explain. I yearned for one, and prayed fervently and often for one as well, but always feared I would never own one of my own.
Eventually, I badgered my mother sufficiently for her to ask the priest if she might buy me a Bible, but she was not allowed to. I was very dejected indeed, and seeing the look on my face, the priest relented, and allowed my mother to buy me a New Testament, but, my disappointment at being given only ‘half a Bible’ was so intense, I never looked at it.
The years passed and, in my middle teens I became uninterested in Catholicism and stopped going to church. I became completely agnostic, and veered towards atheism.
When I entered employment, I worked with a young married girl, who, my boss said, ‘had seen the light!’ I did not really know at first what that meant, but then realised that she went to church and was religious.
I was not disturbed by that, but was surprised that she seemed very anxious to make sure that I was not led astray by the bad morals of the managers I worked for. She left not long after I joined, but, later after my conversion to Christ I felt certain that she had prayed for me.
About a year before that, my mother and I had gone on holiday together. She was near to having a nervous breakdown, as her marriage was close to failing. While we were away, we encountered a Brethren family staying at the same guest house. They were exceptionally kind to us — I had never known anything like it. The memory of them stayed with me and I kept the leaflets about true Christianity that they gave me.
A few years later, I came under the influence of a new manager who was interested in the occult. I became addicted to astrology, dowsing, numerology and the Cabbala. I then became friends with a witch, who was married to a girl who ran an occult book shop in a nearby town and who wrote occult novels.
It was agreed that he would teach me Cabbala. Almost immediately I was struck down with the worst bout of influenza I have ever had. One night I woke up, completely unable to breathe, no matter what I did. I was utterly petrified.
The prospect of immediate death held me mercilessly in an ever-tightening grip of terror. The only thing that mattered to me in that moment was to be able to snatch one more breath — somehow, by any means possible.
In complete panic and sheer desperation, I prayed. The prayer was more urgent and more sincere than any I had uttered since I was a small boy! I promised God every breath I would ever breathe again, if he would only let me do just that: breathe!
It worked! My throat cleared and I was left gasping and panting on the bed. By now, however, I was every bit as alarmed as before, but for a different reason! It really did seem that there is a God, who hears and answers prayer! What on earth was I to do?
I resolved that I had to find this God, and that I would make it my business to do just that. Many weeks later, while still searching spiritually, I had gone for a cycle ride and stopped by a bookshop for a rest a few miles from home.
I recalled that I had seen a book with an interesting name in another branch of the same chain, and resolved to buy it there and then. It was called Good news for modern man. I was quite confident it would be about technological inventions and what life in the future would be like, given our immense strides since the Industrial Revolution.
When I bought the book, the assistant acted strangely. In spite of my protests, she insisted on getting a brand new copy from the stock room for me, because the copy I had picked up had a very slight crease on the cover! I did think she was making a fuss, but worse was to come. She wrapped the book almost lovingly in a bag, patted me on the hand, and said she really hoped that I would enjoy it! I had never known anything like it. It was very odd.
When I got home, I left the book lying around, and my mother picked it up and said, ‘Oh! You’ve bought a New Testament!’
I was astonished! How could it be a New Testament with a name like Good news for modern man? Anyway, above all, I was determined not to look stupid, so I grabbed it from her, and ‘Yes! I wanted to read it!’ This was very far from being true, of course.
Nevertheless, I plunged straight into it with mock enthusiasm, but was immediately arrested by it. I read and read and read. But, as I read, something happened. I was struck suddenly by the dawning of an unavoidable and life-changing fact.
Alone in the house, I reached a point at which I knew immediately and irrefutably that the words in front of me were true; in fact, that they were the truth, the absolute truth. They were true eternally and I was being called there and then to live my life by them!
There was no escape. The prayers of the young girl I had worked with, and surely of the shop assistant who had sold me the book, and of the Brethren family had been answered. Set free from Roman Catholicism, agnosticism and the occult, I had found Christ; or rather, had been found by Christ. To God be the glory!