Saved in a shipyard
As a young boy I lived with my grandmother. She taught me many things about God and about the Bible. She used to sing hymns as she did her housework, and it was a really wonderful time living with her.
When I was evacuated in 1939, I was billeted with a lawyer and his wife. He was Church of England, so I went with them to the local Parish Church. I didn’t take much notice of the sermons because they seemed so dry and dusty. However, we had a visiting preacher once, and the sermon was so interesting that I was struck by it. Later, I was confirmed into the Church of England and was able to take Communion.
When I was 25 I came to work in Southampton. I was now preoccupied with drinking, gambling, and smoking, and every other thing that young men get up to. At this time I never went to church at all, except for weddings and funerals. I eventually married in 1958.
After many years working in Southampton docks, I went to work in the local shipyard in Woolston, Southampton. There I met a friend who I had not seen for a number of years. I could not believe the change I saw in him from previous years of going around and working with him. He was so quiet.
One morning, someone at work said to me, ‘I see you know Holy Joe’. I said, ‘I don’t know what you mean’. He said, ‘Well, he is always preaching to us from the Bible’. So I had a chat with my friend and he started to tell me the way of salvation.
I said, ‘But I’ve been confirmed into the Church of England. I’m a Christian’. Then he said, ‘You can’t be a Christian until you have been born again’. I asked him what that meant, and he said, ‘You have to repent and believe, be baptised and follow the Lord Jesus Christ’.
This shook me absolutely rigid. I thought I was all right, but when I started to read the Bible I knew that I wasn’t. So one lunch hour, I sought the Lord in prayer to save me. I started to attend the Evangelical Church in Spring Road, where I was warmly welcomed and, after a few months, I was baptised.
I praise the Lord that my friend pointed me to the Lord Jesus Christ and I remembered a verse in John 17:20, where the Lord says, ‘I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word’.
My first wife died in 1974, very suddenly; but the Lord brought me through it. Over the years I have been through many trials, but the Lord has wonderfully helped and strengthened me, and brought me through. I praise him and give him all the glory. Psalm 34:4-6 sums up my experience perfectly:
‘I sought the Lord, and he heard me,
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.’