There is a verse of scripture in 2 Corinthians 5:17. (NLT) that says, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life has gone; a new life has begun”. When my new life began on 25/2/1975 I was not immediately aware that I would lose many of my old friends. Those who I would have gone rioting with and those I would have done my underage drinking with would quickly fade away from my life.
The only old friends that I seemed to be in contact with were those from my football world. I don’t think any of my old friends really believed that I would stay a Christian very long; they maybe thought that I was just mixed up in my head because my mother had taken her own life. I am very pleased to say that they were wrong, thirty nine years later I am by the grace and mercy of God still walking with him and he is more real to me now than he was then.
Old friendships faded and new friendships were formed. The thing with friends is that there are friends and then there are FRIENDS. I am not sure exactly what age I was when I met this new friend, I would say either seventeen or eighteen but not for certain. If it were to save my life I cannot remember how or where we met but we came together somewhere. What I do remember is going with this Godly man to some church meetings where he would preach and I would give my testimony. He was a great encouragement to me in my new faith in Christ. Looking back I think he perhaps saw something in me that I did not see in myself?
Sometimes in life you will meet someone significant who God has brought across your path for some reason or another, I believe that God brought this man across my path not only to encourage me but to prayerfully and also in tangible ways help me find God’s purposes and plans for my life. One day I came home from work to find a large box of Christian books sitting on my door step and I had no idea who left them there. I suspected that it was someone from my church but I was not sure.
In the box there was a note that is currently in my bible, this is what part of it says. “Dear Jimmy, take these books as a gift from God rather than a gift from man. It is best if you don’t know whom God used in this service so that man is not thanked but only God is praised”. The letter concludes by saying, “May God strengthen you and guide you”. 2 Timothy 2:15. This is what the scripture says.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”.
At this point in my new journey with Christ I honestly had no idea what would be ahead of me in life but those words would prove to be very meaningful to me in the years that lay ahead. At some point in our friendship we lost contact for a number of years until many years later I found myself at an important crossroads in my life and I believe God showed me very clearly to renew contact with this man and ask him to pray with me for direction for my life.
During our conversation for some reason I felt led to ask him about the box of books that quite a few years earlier were left on my door step. When I asked if it was him he just smiled at me. I would be jumping many chapters in my story if I were to go into details of what happened after our renewed friendship. I will say this though, he is still a significant friend that prays for me and has helped me in so many ways. God bless him.
I truly thank God for all the people that he has allowed me to meet and become friends with during my thirty nine year journey as a Christian. Two of those greatest friends have been my first Pastor and his wife in Lurgan church of the Nazarene. MR and Mrs Spence. They made me feel not only part of their church but also a part of their family. They looked out for me in different ways and gently nurtured me in the things of God. I was only disappointed in them once, when they left Lurgan and went to Canada to minister there. I have forgiven them now, not that there ever was anything to forgive. I thank God he brought them back to Lurgan.
I can remember Mrs Spence coming up to me one Sunday and asking me if I had seen the poster on the church notice board concerning what was then called International Institute. What that meant was that every four years the Nazarene youth would meet somewhere for a week of fun and fellowship. That particular year they were meeting up in Italy. Mrs Spence asked me if I was interested in going to it, I pretended I was not interested but that was not strictly true. I would have loved to have attended but financially there was no way I could afford it, I would have been around eighteen to nineteen at this time.
Once again Mrs Spence approached me and suggested that it would be a wonderful experience for me to go and meet up with other Nazarene youth from all over Europe, this time I told her the truth that there was no way that I could afford it. She then told me that a couple of people in the church wanted to pay for me to go. I did not know what to say but she was very persuasive and I accepted the offer. To be honest it did not take much arm twisting.
That trip was one of the highlights of my Christian journey. To meet up with young people from all over Europe and listen to their stories of faith and find that we were all a part of the family of Christ was amazing. There were five from our church that I can remember going, two girls and three boys. Just because you become a Christian does not mean that you can’t do a little messing around and of course we did our fair share.
There were a few memorable moments; we were thrown of a bus because we were not wearing tops, only shorts. The police in Monte Carlo shouted at us for not wearing tops, they did not seem to realize that back home you hardly ever got the chance to take your top off, here was scorching sunshine and we were being told everywhere to keep your top on. Monte Carlo was something else, I think I became aware for the first time of how the world is ill divided.
Our trip of a lifetime was almost cut short as one of the organisers of the trip threatened to send some of our group home. They apparently did not see the funny side of one of our antics. What had happened was to us hilarious but then we were on the giving and not the receiving end of the antic. To cut a long story short we drenched quite a lot of young people who were asleep on the outdoor tennis court around two thirty in the morning. Due to the heat at night many of the young people decided to sleep outside and we saw an opportunity for some major mayhem.
We had become friendly with a young lad from Italy whose job it was to look after the grounds of the place where we were staying. We noticed him putting sprinklers around the place to keep the vegetation from burning up in the heat. We asked him to show us where the pump was for the sprinklers, he had no idea why we wanted to know and we did not tell him. Then one night we positioned the sprinklers around the tennis court where many of the young people were sleeping and turned on the pump. We unfortunately could not stay and witness the mayhem first hand but our imagination was good enough. There were girls screaming in different languages, most of the boys apparently thought it was great but the leader from Scotland was not amused.
We had beaten a hasty retreat into our dorm and shortly after someone had found out how to turn the sprinklers off the lights were switched on in the dorm. A very irate Scottish man for want of a better term through a wobbler. We of course pleaded like dumb Irish hillbillies not knowing anything. The game was up though because one of our boys was quite tall and his feet were hanging over the end of the bunk bed and he had not taken the time to remove his trainers when he scurried into his bed. He could not explain why he went to bed wearing his trainers.
We should have known better because the bible does say that your sins will find you out. The man was very serious about sending us home but after we apologised sincerely he calmed down. O to be young again.