My dad hadn’t had a great upbringing either - as his parents divorced when he was a young child.
My dad was away a lot with his job in the military. Mum was left on her own most of the time to look after 4 kids. The marriage wasn’t good and they were always arguing from as far back as I can remember. It seemed liked my 2 brothers, my sister and I were mostly left to ourselves, although at the same time my folks certainly laid down fairly strict rules. There were some values.
My older brother and I were made to go to Sunday School, although I found it boring most of the time. I just raked around and it never really made an impact (at the time).
We lived off the Whitewell Road and my parents took us to hear Pastor McConnell a few times when we were kids at the Church up the road. And I remember going to the Church of Ireland nearby with my dad. (Again it didn’t really make much of an impression on me).
A few years on when I was 14, a girl/friend asked me to go to Whitewell on a Wednesday night – the bible class. She was a Christian – I went along….
This time I felt very uncomfortable at the meeting. I really felt under pressure, but couldn’t figure out why. What stood out was the fact that I didn’t even understand what the Pastor was talking about. How could I be feeling this way??? I didn’t tell anyone about how I felt, but the experience stayed with me.
I went to Whitewell here and there (on and off) with friends etc and sometimes on my own over the next couple of years. It was also somewhere to go instead of hanging round the street. I even put my hand up during the appeal on several occasions, but was too scared to tell anybody about it. I did feel a lot of joy in my heart for no apparent reason. (Again I didn’t really know what this meant) I didn’t pray or read the bible, so looking back it is easy to go in the wrong direction.
My dad was worried about the safety of the family with him being in the forces, so he took a job in London to move the family away from Northern Ireland.
Shortly after moving to England I got a job with a big Airline at Gatwick Airport. I was 18. It was a childhood dream come true for me. I spent 3 years working in London, but didn’t really think about the Lord with being so caught up with everything.
The family didn’t settle in England, so we moved back to N.I. – But I continued working in London and flew home on days off. Although I loved my job I was finding it difficult to manage financially and felt isolated. I remember praying and asking the Lord to help me get out of this situation I was in.
About a year and a half later I got promotion and a job at Aldergrove with the company I worked for.
When I got back home I started to go out drinking with my old school buddies to bars and nightclubs. I thought I was making up for lost time.
About 2 years later I started feeling the urge to read the Bible and decided to read a chapter every day.
My dad (who wasn’t saved) had noticed me and my younger brother both reading the bible in our bedrooms at night. (He was amazed as my brother and I didn’t get on - and rarely spoke to one another). My brother had been attending another church in Glengormley. My brother handed my dad a gospel tract about salvation.
A couple of months later my dad died of a stroke he was 49. (I was aged 22).
This was the first time I had experienced the death of a close family member. It really shook me up. I started going to Whitewell again to hear Pastor McConnell preach. I was looking for answers about life and death. But I still went out with my mates drinking. (On one occasion out in a nightclub the Lord spoke to me – He said you don’t belong here) Now I wish I’d listened to him. But I can see now that I was trying to have it both ways. Or Sitting on the fence. Still went out drinking for another couple of years.
Went to church regularly from then on but wasn’t saved. I met my then wife at 24 at a nightclub, got promotion at work etc. My Career really took off.
I got saved at whitewell when I was 26 (in Aug 95) and got married a short time later, but my wife wasn’t saved. I used to attend church on my own, but didn’t have any fellowship. I read the bible sometimes and loved attending church, but still didn’t pray or understand the importance of prayer.
I was working late a lot with a busy work schedule. Loved my job, but it was full on all the time. In my own mind I was trying to build security for myself. I’d a good job, house, money in the bank, holidays etc.
My wife and I had some problems in the marriage and grew apart. My job didn’t help. At the end of 2000, my wife left and my marriage was finally over in 2001 - I was 32. A few months after the marriage ended I was made redundant – as a result of massive cutbacks after the sept 11 attacks.
I managed to get another job working shifts at the airport, but got in with the wrong crowd - I started going out drinking again. Everything I’d worked for seemed to have gone up in smoke. I was going through a divorce, I stopped going to church. I couldn’t think straight. Everything was up in the air.
During a period of about 5 years I moved house changed jobs and finally got a divorce. I didn’t really no where I was in life. I was in the wilderness. Totally backslidden, I thought well that’s it, that’s your life. I even thought about suicide.
Just over 2 1/2 years ago I bumped into a few people from Whitewell on more than one occasion. They said I should come to church. I started reading the bible again… Within a short time I started going back to church. I was amazed to see all the regulars there.
After about a month at whitewell, pastor McConnell was preaching on the parable of the sower on a Sunday morning. I came under conviction very strongly and had to raise my hand. That was on 31st Dec 2006. I asked the Lord to plant his seed deep in my heart. I’m shocked and overwhelmed he has given me another chance.
For the last 2 ½ years I have attended Church more that I ever have in my life. I have a prayer life and read His Word regularly. Things have changed so much. Before I was hopeless, now I have hope in Jesus.
I had a wonderful experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit whilst at another church last May. I constantly feel the Lords presence in my life too. Things can still be tuff for me sometimes. But I have put my life in the Lords hands.
I heard Teen Challenge wanted to start up in Belfast a couple of years ago, and was intrigued. After a while of thinking and praying for what I could do for the Lord, I somehow got a Teen Challenge volunteer leaflet. Was thinking about asking one of the Pastors about it, but bumped into Charlaine one night and ended up talking about Teen Challenge. I attended a Teen Challenge prayer meeting in the summer of last year… My feet have rarely touched the ground since. God is good. I just want to be out there involved in winning souls for Christ. Glory to His name.