I grew up in an average working class family in Belfast N.Ireland in an average working class estate called Westland Drive. In many respects I was fortunate because many of my friends were Roman Catholics and as far as I was concerned the only difference was the fact that they went to a different church than I did. This fact meant nothing to me as long as we could play together and fight together, as all kids do, so what! these where my Primary school years and nothing existed except the moment. I make mention of the fact that religion is a major factor for our present situation in N.Ireland and because of our siege mentality. For many generations it has been the catalyst for our so-called troubles and we cannot seem to get past this barrier. My Christian Faith has given me the eyesalve to see past this barrier and realise that they are only nametags, if we go up to heaven they drop off, if we go to hell they burn of. According to GOD'S word there is only the lost and the saved.
I digress, my Father was a very strict man who would not suffer fools gladly or foolish behaviour, which I had personal experience of many times, at the wrong end of a rather large leather belt of which I was unashamedly terrified. As a boy I was seldom out of trouble, it seemed to dog my steps with monotonous regularity. As I grew older my neutrality started to waver and along with the start of the present "troubles" segregation became part of every day life, and with separation came more bitterness and to my shame along with bitterness came hatred.
Then in the early 70's came the paramilitary groups the U.D.A. the P.I.R.A ad infinitum, who opened their illegal drinking clubs and permitted kids of 16 myself included to openly buy and drink on the premises without fear of recrimination. At this point in time, as far as I was concerned I was accepted as a man, these were the people I would join and help fight for the "cause", WRONG, I was just about to have a sharp lesson that would soon knock that idea out of my head. Early one summer afternoon my whole, secure little world was about to have a major earthquake in the form of four large men who effortlessly scooped this 16 year old into a car, put a hood over my head, pointed a gun to my head and told me; "if you make one sound, one movement out of place you're dead". They drove me to one of their clubs and dragged me inside, still hooded and remained so throughout for what seemed like an eternity. The common term for these punishment beatings was Romper-room. Basically they seen themselves as the local police and their methods of interrogation were brutal. I was beaten and questioned about the alleged "crime", acquitted and dumped back on the street and only then was the hood removed. For month's after I was waiting for their return to finish their work, and that was the most terrifying part.
Years later I drifted back to the clubs, though I never joined up, I just bought the cheap drink before going to the disco's. Even here among our own kind we were very territorial and rival gangs would fight often with knives chains, whatever, this became a lifestyle for me until after many drunken nights and fights I met my wife and who, it must be said had a very calming affect on me, well the fighting side anyway. We were married have three children, Aaron, Ryan, and Claire.
Then on the 11th of July 1987 which is the celebration of the battle of the BOYNE which is a festive highlight for the Protestant population I was totally bombed out of my mind I decided to walk home at 02:00 in the early hours of the morning, through a republican area which is not the done thing. Many such people from both sides have not lived to tell the tale. I stuck my thumb out at a car in this republican area which stopped and I didn't even look to see who was in the car, I climbed in and asked in a drunken slur to be dropped of at the Woodvale road which every person in Belfast knows as a staunchly protestant area. Lucky for me, and on reflection, I can see GOD'S hand in it, a lone driver took pity on a drunk man which probably saved my life.
When I eventually arrived home I could not make it past the garden, I collapsed in a heap and was sick all over myself, I'm sure you get the picture, even my dog would not come near me I was so bad. Just then I remember looking up to the sky and saying if you are there GOD please help me. From that day everything pointed me towards my Church (as it is now) and I found myself there one Sunday night and the message I heard about a saviour called JESUS CHIST who gave His life that I could be forgiven for a life of past sins. I left the church that night filled with wonder about this Saviour, is it true, is it possible that my life of sin could be forgiven if I accept this JESUS Christ as my Saviour. Another thing why were these people at this Church so open and friendly with me, when all I ever knew were people filled with suspicion and aloofness. I returned to the Church in the following weeks until the 4th Oct. 1987 and after Pastor McConnell preached his Gospel message I could hold out no longer, I accepted the LORD JESUS CHRIST as my Saviour and my whole life has been turned around. Where once I lived for myself I now live to serve HIM. He saved me and healed me of asthma instantly as soon as I asked HIM, HE has given me hope were once was despair, HE has given me strength were once was fear, so you see I know that HE is real and alive and because of these facts my destiny is secure in HIM and as reference to this fact I quote
JOHN Chapter 3 verse 16 which states "For GOD so loved the world that HE gave HIS only begotten SON that whosoever believeth in HIM should not perish but have everlasting life"
Finally to all who read this may you also find peace in my Saviour the LORD JESUS CHRIST, if the good LORD can save a guilty hell deserving sinner like me then HE can save anyone.