Prodigal to penitent
My name is Douglas Slack, a retired engine fitter at the Derby-based aero engine maker Rolls-Royce, and I have lived in the Derbyshire town of Wirksworth all my life.
I am married to Winifred and we have three sons. My wife and I are members of Crich Baptist Church, where we have attended for the last six and a half years.
Although brought up in a non-Christian home, I had to attend the local Methodist Sunday school where I was a troublesome pupil. The only piece of the Bible I remembered was the verse, ‘What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?’ Religion for me was always a ‘turn-off’.
However, when I was 18 years old I worked with a fellow apprentice who was a born-again Christian. After much ridicule, argument and discussion I later came to make my own confession of salvation at a local Cliff College outreach in Wirksworth (Cliff College is a Methodist Bible college at Calver, in Derbyshire).
However, the attractions of the world for an 18-year-old were very great and I thought then that I was missing out on the pleasures of this life. Alcohol was my weakness and I soon found myself in its vice-like grip.
Like the prodigal son I went into a ‘far country’ for about seven years. I was two years in the Royal Air Force, and then, when I came out and got involved with a group of heavy drinkers, life went rapidly downhill.
This took a heavy toll on my health and wealth. Often in the morning after drinking ten pints of beer I could not remember what had happened the night before. Frequently we were in the pubs until the early hours of the morning.
In 1960 however I had my ‘wings clipped’, in that I was convicted for a drink-driving offence for which I received a three-year driving ban and heavy fine. This restricted me to the local pubs in Wirksworth.
Soon afterwards, the local Salvation Army came round the pubs and invited us to go to their place of worship for coffee and eats, which we did after closing time. I was sobered up somewhat when a young lady Salvation Army officer came to me and said that God wanted her to speak to me!
I can’t remember what she said but it brought me under conviction of sin regarding my lifestyle and my need of Jesus Christ as my Saviour. Drink did not give me the satisfaction or fulfilment that I craved for as a young man of 25.
I started to realise there was a purpose in life that only God could fulfil. He created us and made us with that God-shaped hole that only he can fill.
At a New Year’s Eve watch night service in 1960, I made a commitment to give my life to God by trusting in Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I believed that his death had paid for my sins and through faith in him I could be united with his Father in heaven. His atoning death gave me a clean slate.
It is now 40 years since I stopped drinking and began to base my life on spiritual principles. Everyone said it wouldn’t last, that it was a ten-day wonder, and something we all go through. But – praise God! – he kept me and has led me from strength to strength.
I have moved in different church circles – Salvation Army, Methodist, Pentecostal, C of E and Baptist – but have always believed in the same Jesus Christ. It was during my 30 years in Pentecostal churches that I met my wife in the Assembly of God church at Matlock.
I give thanks to God for a life worth living and assurance of eternal life in heaven when it is over. One dreads to think where I would have been without Jesus.
After the drink-driving conviction I later learned that one of the magistrates wanted to send me to prison. A few years later this same man, a local councillor, came to my house and asked me if I would preach for him at his local church in Middleton!
When God does the converting, a person truly becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus! Jesus said, ‘I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly’. Why don’t you take him at his word and prove it too?