William Wade is on the staff of SASRA, an evangelistic organisation working among Army and RAF personnel. This is his personal story.
‘You’re all sinners!’ The pastor of the small church was passionate as he preached. Actually, I had no problem with being called a sinner. I was in a world of trouble.
I had recently been charged with assault and criminal damage, along with other alcohol-related offences. I had tried without success to put glue-sniffing behind me. I was involved with the National Front and on the fringes of paramilitary activity. I had no doubt that I was a sinner.
But what the preacher said next would ultimately change my life forever – ‘But I want you to know that God loves you’.
There were six or seven of us there that night in the Jubilee Hall on a housing estate in Greenisland, near Belfast. With only 12 in the congregation we almost doubled the attendance. We sat along the back row, and laughed our way through until the preacher started to speak, when we fell silent. It was bizarre – he was actually making sense of life.
As he told us that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died that we might have eternal life, I began to think where I would be in five or ten years’ time. It didn’t look good. I was being offered a way out, but not an easy way. It meant surrendering my life into the hands of God and becoming a ‘born-again Christian’.
It was a strange event that got us there in the first place. My friends and I were having a party in my sister’s house. At 9-10pm the door was knocked. Standing there were two girls we knew from the estate.
They asked if they could come in and began to talk to us about God, Jesus Christ and being ‘saved’. Even though we were all sitting around drinking and makingfun of them, they kept telling us of the love of God.
They eventually challenged us to come to the evening service at their little church. We said ‘yes’ just to get rid of them; and then decided to go and disrupt the service.
The pastor preached a straight gospel message. And we tried to act hard and unaffected after the meeting, but I had been convicted. The same thing happened the week after – Saturday night, drunk; Sunday night, at the meeting.
Heaven and hell
The following Thursday we had a chat with the two girls and the subject of heaven and hell arose. I realised that I was heading for hell. These girls spoke about heaven with such a certainty that I wanted to go there, but I knew I needed to get ‘right with God’ as they put it.
I decided that I would respond to the appeal on the following Sunday night. We all went again, and the pastor faithfully preached a message we could all understand.
After the message, he asked us to bow our heads and close our eyes. He asked if there was anyone who would like to give their life to Christ. My heart was beating like mad. What would my mates think? Could I keep up the Christian faith? What about my family? All these questions seemed to disappear as I thought about a life at peace with God.
Army Scripture Reader
I couldn’t believe what happened next. All my friends responded to the gospel. Four of us in one night! The pastor took each of us aside and explained a bit more what salvation actually meant and then led us in a prayer of repentance.
The only way I can describe it was that for the first time in my life I felt clean. It was like I had been washed from the inside. I knew God had done a work in me.
A lot has happened since then. I spent seven years as a soldier in the Royal Irish Rangers Regiment. I also completed a two-year residential Bible study course. This is where I first met my wife Tulsi. We have been married for seven years and are working with SASRA.
As I go around the Barrack rooms in Rheindahlen, Germany, visiting British army units, I am constantly reminded of the state I was in when God began to speak to me. I bring God’s message of love in Jesus Christ to every soldier, no matter what their background or religious affiliation.
General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, is President of SASRA