I come sixth in a family of seven. Our home was mad and strict, funny and serious, loving and disciplined in a complicated mix which seemed to work very well. Life revolved around the wee assembly of believers where my father was an elder, Sunday School superintendent and missionary secretary. My mother also taught a Sunday School class, but if I’d never been through the door of that hall I would have known the gospel, because its life changing message was lived out before my eyes each day in our home.
Both my parents were devoted to prayer. Both prayed audibly and passionately naming each of us before the throne of grace. I was sure that they knew Jesus well, and their trust in Him instilled in me a deep sense of the reality of God. All my siblings trusted the Saviour as young people and have gone on steadfastly with the Lord, chosen spouses who were saved and of the ten children born to them only one has yet to trust Christ. Household salvation is possible!
One day at primary school my world came crashing in. A classmate informed me that the ‘Elim Hall’ I attended wasn’t a real church; and didn’t have a real minister! WHAT? I was devastated. Although I didn’t doubt the existence of God I began to doubt that my parents were right. How could all these ‘big’ churches with their educated and collared clergy be wrong? I became rebellious and the gospel message started to wash over me.
Then my parents’ prayers began to be answered. An aunt and uncle of mine had no children so they ‘borrowed’ me and the result was that I became a very spoiled and rotten youngster, my granny lived with them and I became her favourite but quite unexpectedly she died and I was brought face to face with death. At the funeral, another aunt tried to console me by assuring me that my granny was in heaven, but by this time the good foundation my parents had laid was being chiselled away by doubts and yet somehow I knew that I wasn’t ready to meet God if I were to die.
Thank God for conviction of sin. I had an unbearable sense of guilt and misery and fear which wouldn’t leave me for the next year. I was a sinner and I knew it. At the age of 12 a gospel mission was held in Ballymoney Town Hall. I couldn’t wait to go because the evangelist was a ‘Rev.’ and he wore a round collar! I reasoned that he must know what he’s talking about. The Lord was getting my attention but of course Rev. Sam Workman’s message was the same one that I had heard in our wee Hall. Then something different happened. A hymn was sung which was new to me and it got under my skin. ‘Almost persuaded now to believe’. The message was clear. ‘Almost, but lost’ (Acts 26:28).
None of my pet excuses held any water now. I just had to have forgiveness and know that I was right with God. I was so concerned I think I cried to the Lord to save me every night of the mission. But a real assurance came soon afterwards when I realised that I was completely changed, and no one knew it better than me.
I took my stand at school and by the age of 14 was boldly reciting Scripture texts in open-air meetings in my own neighbourhood. How the Holy Spirit witnessed to my spirit as I began to grow in grace for I started to beg my father to take me to ministry meetings and conferences and I would torment him with endless questions about the scriptures. I was saved, and I knew it.