In this part of the website, you will find some encouraging and uplifiting personal stories about how people have come to know Jesus and their ongoing journey of faith.
Derek shares with us his story, from when he was a young boy in the 1930s through to the modern day...
How was it that you came to know Christ?
I was born in 1930, in the middle of the Great Depression. I was four when my Father died. I had nobody but my mother. I have always felt the lack of not having a father, and, when I look back, I realise I had no one to direct me. My mother had to be father and mother to a family of three boys and a girl. It was a very poor house. There was always a meal on the table, because my mother could make a meal out of nothing. I had a lovely family and a lovely childhood.
I was always a naughty lad. When I was 9 the war came, and I was evacuated. They soon got sick of me and sent me home. You tended to be able to run wild, you had nobody to correct you. By the time I was 13 years old, I was on probation for shop-breaking. I continued thieving, then went into the army when I was 18. During that army career, there was a shortage of potatoes, so we went potato picking near Wolverhampton.
It was on the farm that I had me first drink. This farmer made cider, and it was very strong. The drinking became a habit. I only went out to get drunk. When I came out of the army, I got a job at the Coop, which was known as ‘the steelworks’ because everyone was stealing. Once I was standing in the shop doorway I suppose we may have frightened people with our bad language, because somebody must have knocked on my mums door, and my little mother came round the corner. I was 23 at the time, and she came round and she said ‘Come on Derek, get in the house, and I followed her in.’ I was so angry I hit her. I went to bed that night and I realised how uncouth I was. I was wild, I was just unprincipled, and I felt I had hit rock bottom. I cried, ‘if there is such a thing as God, then why don’t you help me and make me the same as other people.’
A few days later, I went into a little snack bar, and these three lads came in, and they put their bible on the counter, and started reading. I said ‘I funny place to be reading your Bible in here, mind.’ They started to tell me that God loved me. I said, ‘God doesn’t love me, I am just a filthy beast.’
Eventually, they took me to a little gospel tent behind the Scotswood Road. They got these bairns off the street, and got them to sing.
And they sang,
‘Somewhere in the shadows, you’ll find Jesus,
he’s the only friend who cares, who understands.
Somewhere in the shadows, you’ll find Jesus,
and you’ll know him by the nail prints on his hands.
Oh I love him, yes I love him, since for me he bled and died,
Oh I love him, yes I love him, more than all the world beside.’
That night the preacher said, ‘Does anybody want to become a Christian?’ And I put my hand up that night. And I went home. I said ‘Mother, I’ve been converted.’ She said, ‘I’m glad son.’ That was 64 years.
I am just an ordinary lad, but Jesus came into my life that night and changed my life. I didn’t see any bright lights, but he came into my heart. I read the Bible everyday, and I just love it. He’s been a wonderful saviour, he’s become a father, and a guide, and a shepherd.
How does your life with Christ compare to your life before him?
I have prostate cancer, and both my hips are bone on bone. I can hardly walk. But I have learnt to live a day at a time. I have a lovely wife, she’s been such a good friend, she’s my best pal, and a good family who all believe in the Lord Jesus and follow him. I’m so thankful and so blessed. I pray every day, I just ask that I might take up my cross daily and follow Jesus. I prayed, before I became a Christian, that he would make me like other people, but I’d rather be like Jesus.
What is God doing in your life right now?
I do a little bit every day. I clean a couple of rooms, I do the bathroom. I get very exhausted with this complaint. I get very involved with the Cameo (Come And Meet Each Other) club at Bethany. There is 90 to 100 of us, all old people. We have a great time. I also, on a Friday morning, go to Bethany City Church, where my son is one of the leaders. On Friday he puts a meal on for people on the streets, There is a lovely meal, then a few of us have a little bible study.
Are there any parts of the Bible that you have found particularly meaningful, in your life?
There is the story of how Jesus was invited to the wedding feast and the wine ran out. His mother said to the servants,
‘Whatever he says do it.’
That is my motto. If the Bible says something, I try to do it. If it says do not steal, I don’t steal. If it tells me there was something in my life that is controlling me, like smoking, I stop it. It does not say you should not smoke, but I was a captive to it. I needed God to get rid of that habit.
What would you say to anyone who was unsure about whether to follow Jesus?
I would just tell them what Jesus can do for them. He can help them, he can save them. He died for them. It is wonderful to be able to tell people this. God sent him to die for us. This was the work that God gave his son to do. He went to that cross that he suffered and died for you and or me. I know no other argument, I know no other plea, I only know that Jesus died and that he died for me.