As a young boy I can remember my parents bringing me to Church every Sunday morning. During the morning service the children were ushered into the Sunday school. For many year’s I went to Sunday school, told many stories of Jesus, but I never learned of God’s saving grace, and salvation.
It was during my childhood when I was around ten years old that my sister started going to an after church meeting on a Sunday evening at a Church on the Shankill Rd. I always asked her to go, probably to the extent that she give in just to keep me quiet. The excitement of going was unbelievable, as I had butterflies in my stomach.
The meeting was very unusual the choruses were cheerful and everybody enjoyed singing them which I thought was very strange, as the people at the Church I went to didn’t seem to enjoy the hymns they sang and had never sang choruses.
A feature at this meeting was called “How do you do”? Someone would start of with his or her testimony and finish of with how do you do? Then name the next person to get up to give their testimony, and so on.
It was the second time I went to the meeting that I wanted to become a Christian, I enjoyed the meeting so much that I wanted what these people had. A guy named Robin prayed a prayer for me to repeat, and ask for my sins to be forgiven. I felt a glow, within me, which made me feel on top of the world. Then a few weeks later my sister stopped going, and I had no way of going, because I was only 10 years old.
It wasn’t long till I left primary school and started secondary. During the time in school the Lord placed before me, a guy named Eddie Ireland who was a year older than I. He witnessed to me on many occasions. Eddie belonged to the Church that the after Church meetings took place in that I had gone to earlier with my sister.
It was amazing how God was directing my path. There was a deep yearning in me to search after God because of my earlier experience.
It wasn’t until 15th August 1980, a Friday night I was out with my mates heading up the Ballygomartin Rd. when we happened to be stopped by two people witnessing, and one of those people was Eddie Ireland, who spoke to me at school. Eddie and his mate Stephen, shared with us their testimonies, and although there was a bit of light hearted messing around, with questions about evolution and dinosaurs, and so on, I was taking in more than I realized.
Eddie’s mate Stephen, lent me a book “The cross and the switchblade” (which I read from cover to cover) I thought that was odd as he never knew me yet he was willing to lend me a book. During that week I was what seemed to be under conviction from what had been talked about the Friday evening previous. On Saturday the 23rd August I decided to go down to their coffee bar and return the book, and to give my heart to Jesus, and this I did.
Little did I know of the struggle of my inner self between the old and new nature, things I thought were all right seemed to be displeasing to God. Now this time I had a Church and fellowship and wanted to know more about Jesus.
It wasn’t long till I started in the Shipyard, as an apprentice on the 22nd September that same year, as I witnessed to other apprentice’s it wasn’t long till they gave me the nickname the Rev Bill. There was no harm in it as it was just banter. A few months had passed and the apprentices were placing throughout the yard, I was placed in the East yard.
It did not take long before word spread that I was a Christian were I was working. Other Christians, who I was introduced to ask of what assembly I belonged to, their reply was “oh the one with the brass band”. They started discussing things I never new about, such as soul sleep, the oneness, the trinity etc. As these were brought to my attention I thought why the difference, are we not all Christians serving God?
As I started to read about these subjects I became distracted, I was searching and began to put the Lord second place, then third place and so on. I still went to church but my desire to worship had gone, I became cold and critical of people, certainly not the attributes of Jesus. Soon I stopped going to church.
Over the years I have came and went to Church and was drawn towards Christians, but found myself lacking, for some reason, dipping my foot into the water and then quickly withdrawing it.
It was coming near the end of 1989 and I was working with a young man, Stuarty Harris. Stuarty loved life and was full of joy, he was always ready to give his testimony, and speak of his Saviour. It was a pleasure to work along with Stuarty just to hear him speak, I knew that what Stuarty had was commitment and that’s what I had lacking, giving my all to Jesus. It wasn’t long still Stuart and I got shifted apart as work in our trade was running out, and we were being utilised into other jobs.
Later in the year 2000, when work picked up, I was put along with two men Dave and Robert, as the day progress I sensed that Robert was a saved, and when I asked him his answer was yes. While working with Robert we had a lot to talk about as our conversation was on the things of God, even though I was backslidden. I learned that Robert went to Whitewell although he invited me on a few occasions I declined.
Soon Robert left the Shipyard and climbed over the wall into Shorts, as did many shipyard men. Work was running out and the threat of closure as the company could not secure future orders.
Soon afterwards I left the Shipyard and followed the exodus trail into Shorts. After a few months of being there, I met Robert once again, and also many other Christians. There was a prayer meeting every Tuesday and Thursday lunchtime; little did I know I was being prayed for.
A Christian was shifted into the area I was working; for some untold desire I wanted to speak to him, and a day or so later the opportunity came. Why I wanted to speak to him I don’t know but I was compelled to do so. Paul and I got on well, and he knew I was searching, he knew there was a desire in me. I was still lacking commitment to the Lord and letting the Lord take full control of me.
One day Paul took me for a cup of coffee, but to my surprise he prayed for me as well. I was taken aback at this as this was done in view of the work force around us.
Over the years I did drink but during this last year or so that I began to drink more to excessiveness. Which happened to be every night after work as well as at weekends.
Robert invited me to Church near the beginning of 2002, I got the children minded and my wife Jacqueline and I went. I enjoyed the singing , the Choir and the sermon, but as the plea was called, “Just as I am without one plea”, I became deaf.
Later that year that year around April for two Sundays in a row I went to Whitewell as the Lord lead Robert to invite me. After the service we went home and as usual routine back into the bottle, but this time drink wasn’t helping me to forget. As Jacqueline and I were talking, I realized we had to get things sorted out. We knelt down to pray that God would reveal himself to and direct us.
That Friday after work I arranged to meet Jacqueline for lunch; while waiting at Cornmarket, there were a group of people witnessing from Everton Drive, which was very unusual for them to be out on a Friday lunch time. The Pastor of the Church spoke to Jacqueline and myself. And it let Jacqueline see that God answered our prayer from the Sunday night.
Sunday Jacqueline and I went back to Whitewell, Paster Blake give his testimony, and I remembered what his mother said to him “How could you listen to a church service like that, and leave the same way you went in”? Little did I know those words would haunt me during the next few days. The plea was given at the end of the service, I wanted to put my hand up, but the thought that my daughter would shout out over the place “why are you putting your hand up daddy” put me off.
One of the nights we went to the service we heard a guy named Kieran give his testimony, he mentioned the name Sammy Hill . The same Sammy Hill who was in the Gospel group with his friend Robin, who had prayed with me at the after Church meeting all those years ago when I was 10.
Friday 3rd May was the last of the Church Rallies and I knew I was going. I was going to put things right, I knew that If I rejected Jesus this time it may be my last chance. The Lord provided baby sitters for the children and my wife Jacqueline and I went. The plea was put forth, and I knew what I had to do, but part of me still wanted to hold back, I could feel one hand trying to hold the other arm down. My decision was made when I went in the door. I wanted Jesus the same way Stuarty knew him, I wanted Jesus the same way Robert knew him, I wanted Jesus the same way Paul knew him. The same way that the people at the after Church meeting knew him when I was ten years old.
A few months later my wife Jacqueline gave her heart to the Lord,
As the Lord answered my prayer.