I was born in Bromborough, Wirral on 31st May 1945, the last of three boys. The eldest, John, was born in 1937 but died of pneumonia when only 5 months old and Gerald my elder brother was born in September 1938. My parents John & Dorothy Green were married in Salisbury in 1933. They were good parents and I was brought up in a very loving home, and I have very fond memories of my childhood. These were the halcyon days of the 1950’s, which many people think of being Britain’s golden age. Although we didn’t have very much we appreciated what we did have and as everybody else was in the same boat we never thought any differently. I do remember ration books that continued for some years after the war and taking them to the local newsagents to get some sweets, even around 1950/1, if I’m not mistaken. But as I think back to those days the thing that sticks out in my memory was the great respect for authority that still existed then, particularly in schools and for the police and the government, both local and national. In Port Sunlight they used to have a "village bobby" who used to ride around the village on his bike, and he was very much looked up to by everyone. The other thing was the strong family unit, with everybody I knew being in a family with both mother and father at home. In fact, apart from one situation (due to mental instability) I never heard of a single incident where anybody had left their spouse until sometime after I had left school. Most children of my age also went to Sunday School which was considered the right thing to do in those days. My parents were not Christians but one day when I was about 5 or 6 years old my mother told me that I had been baptised as an infant at Bromborough Parish Church and that I had become a child of God following that. Although I now know that this was incorrect I did believe her at the time and I remember feeling elated and very special for a long time after this.
At the age of 5 years I started school in the lovely village of Port Sunlight. I was an extremely shy boy, so much so that my mother couldn’t leave me for school meals for the first year and had to come and collect me and take me back again. As it was about a mile from our house and she couldn’t afford the bus fares it meant that she had to walk 8 miles a day just to take me to school and back. There was a church next door to the school, which was Lord Leverhulme’s church and when I was 7 years of age I heard that the choirboys were being paid for singing in the choir. The pay was 4 shillings a quarter (which rose to six shillings & sixpence for a head choirboy) but for weddings they were paid two shillings and sixpence (three shillings and sixpence for a head choirboy). Accordingly I applied to join and was there for the next 7 years. This wasn’t an evangelical church and I really can’t remember anything that was said, apart from the minister saying one day to the congregation that they should pray for the choirboys which caused us all to start giggling. Lord Leverhulme didn’t come all that often, usually on special occasions such as Easter, Christmas and Remembrance Sunday and he came with his wife and 3 daughters. The thing that stood out in my memory was watching the collection plate being passed along his row and them all putting £1 notes in the plate, which to me in those days was a lot of money.
My father was always very much interested in music (he was actually a semi-professional musician, playing the double bass) and when I was 8 years of age he taught me to play the piano. I am so glad that he did because this was to be very useful to me later in my Christian life. When I was 14 years of age, having heard about a military band that was playing in Birkenhead, which was a Territorial Army band, he asked if I would like to go and I didn’t hesitate. As they rehearsed on Sunday mornings it meant the end of my church life, this being morning and night in the choir and Sunday School in the afternoon. Although my parents weren’t Christians they, as with many parents in those days, insisted on me attending Sunday School. When I joined the band, however, all this came to an end. In any case I didn’t need the money then because I had a well paid paper round and a year later was paid from the Territorial Army as a Junior Bandsman. Also at this time I no longer believed in God and had no time for Christianity. The instrument that I took up was the French Horn and as time went on I joined a number of orchestras also, including the Cheshire Youth Orchestra. I loved this instrument and when I was 17 years of age took the London College of Music Associateship (ALCM) and passed. Music dominated my life in those days and I had little time for anything else. I became an atheist and was quite vocal about it. Another subject that interested me was astronomy and as a boy my parents bought me a second hand telescope to encourage me in this hobby. My interest in astronomy actually intensified my atheistic stance and I used to think that belief in God was ridiculous and pathetic. I have to say that at this time I would describe my life as very contented and enjoyable. One night, however, I was returning home from an orchestral practice and it was a beautiful starlight evening. As I was gazing at the heavens as I often did something happened to me which I couldn’t explain. It was like a bolt of fear which shot through me and with it came a realisation that the pieces of the jigsaw in my thinking, which I had thought fit so neatly together, no longer did so. A thought also came into my mind, "how do you know that there is nothing beyond the material universe, and that death is the end?" It shook me to the core, it really did come out of the blue, and it made me very afraid. I really had had no prethought of anything of this kind. I didn’t know what to do about it, so I spoke to my father, who I had always been very close to, but he advised me to dismiss such ideas out of my mind. However I was unable to do so (as much as I’d have like to have done), and I felt alone and afraid. My age at this time would have been about 16/17 years old. Shortly afterwards I was told that I was going to get a prize for music at my school and a number of us were taken to a book shop in Liverpool in order to choose our prize. As I was browsing through the books I came across one on Greek Philosophy and started reading part of it. It surprisingly gave me quite a lot of comfort because as I read it I didn’t feel so alone anymore because it came to me that these philosophers were looking for a meaning to life and an answer to our existence, just as I was. This became my chosen book and what a look I got when this was presented to me at the prize giving! Most of this, however, was over my head, but nevertheless it did give me a great deal of comfort at that time. Following on from this I bought a book on the World’s religions and sought for one that I could identify with. Buddhism was the one that seemed to outshine the others. I loved the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, and to read of the noble eightfold path to Nirvana and longed to be enlightened as he was said to have been. This was before the eastern religions were popularised by such people as The Beatles, so it was at that time something quite rare and so consequently I didn’t have anywhere to turn to in order to pursue this. Despite all that had happened my disdain for Christianity had in no way diminished and I used to ridicule it with a friend of mine who I worked with and we were particularly hostile to the idea of missionaries taking Christianity to the east, which in our view had vastly superior religions.
My first job was with the Commercial Union Insurance Company, but after a couple of years I left there and in 1964 went to work with the Cunard Steamship Company at the Pier Head in Liverpool. It was there that I met a girl who I was attracted to by the name of Tricia Crowder and decided to ask her out, which she agreed to do. What I did not know, however, was that she had recently become a Christian and during our date she started witnessing about her new-found faith. This quite alarmed me because it was something I didn’t want to hear about. A week later I was at an annual camp with the Territorial Army and I shared my alarm with a fellow bandsman. He managed to pacify me somewhat but when I returned she continued to witness to me. She also introduced me to a fellow Christian by the name of Dave Kearney who also witnessed to me about his faith and they gave me a book to read entitled Basic Christianity by John Stott, which I read right through and did enjoy reading. Unbeknown to me they were both praying for me and there were also a number of other Christians working there that I didn’t know about. Despite all this I really struggled to accept all that they were telling me although I had to admit that there was something about them that I admired and wanted for myself. One day, however, when speaking to Dave he introduced me to a scripture in the book of Revelation (3:20) "behold I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me." He said that this was an invitation and that I could treat it as an experimental thing if I wished. That seemed a reasonable thing to do I thought, so I did just that and asked Jesus to come into my life and accepted Him as my personal Saviour. Nothing happened and I didn’t really feel any different so I kept on asking Him and praying the same prayer for quite a while. I eventually decided to tell people that I had become a Christian, but without really being able to give a precise date when it happened nor was it, I believe, all that convincing at first. Tricia was attending an Elim Pentecostal Church in Southport and she told me that she had heard that there was a Pentecostal church in Birkenhead. I went to the Citizens Advice Bureau to see if they could help me locate this church, but they were unable to do so. I therefore undertook my own search and eventually found it, which turned out to the Assembly of God in Birkenhead.
One Sunday night I told my parents that I was going to church, which really astounded them and they asked me what type of church it was so I informed them that it was a Pentecostal church. During the time that I was away they got their dictionary out and looked up the word Pentecostal and found that it was a Jewish festival and consequently assumed that I had become a Jewish convert. Pentecost of course also refers to the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early disciples so I put them right over that. My father was very puzzled over my conversion and in particular over the dramatic change from my previous atheistic stance. At the first service that I attended I felt completely at home and was there for 16 years. The pastor Will Burnham was a very fine Bible teacher and under his ministry a good foundation was laid in my Christian life, which I have appreciated every since. The change in my Christian life was not perhaps as dramatic as others that I have known, but I can say that although others may not have noticed a great change outwardly, I was all too aware of a great change that had taken place inwardly. Before I became a Christian I told lies frequently, and was also quite immoral in my thinking, but that changed when I became a Christian, albeit not immediately, but gradually. There were a number of things in my former life of which I am now ashamed, but thankfully that is all gone now. In the scriptures it says that "if a man is in Christ he is a new creation the old has passed away, behold the new has come," and that has certainly been my experience.
Will and Florence Burnham went out as missionaries to Africa in 1970, when they were both about 60 years of age, and their ministry was very much appreciated in a number of African countries, although I did miss them very much. This church was never very large but after I’d been there about a year a young man by the name of Paul Dalton came in with his wife, Nora, and was converted in that meeting. Nora had come from a Christian family but had backslidden from her Christian faith, but that night she was restored again. Paul became very earnest in his new-found faith and after a while he greatly desired to be involved in some sort of Christian witness to the town of Birkenhead. He asked me to join him in an open-air meeting each Saturday in the centre of Birkenhead, which I reluctantly agreed to. That we should do was confirmed by prophecy in one of the prayer meetings, so off we went with the church minibus, with a loudspeaker system and some music tapes. The reason for my reluctance was because I have always been a shy person, and have always found it difficult to speak about my Christian faith openly. I have to be honest and say that I did try to throw obstacles in the way by saying to him that we just can’t go along there without the permission of the police. Accordingly he said that he would go along to the Police Station on the next Saturday morning and would phone me around the lunchtime to let me know the outcome, and then hopefully we could go there in the afternoon. I was really nervous about the whole thing and was dreading the phone call. At about the time he was expected to phone me I went and had a bath and grabbed a tape from somewhere and put it on loudly so that I wouldn’t hear the phone. It worked, but unfortunately the tape that I put on had a choir singing and they sang the words "throw out the lifeline today" and kept on singing it over and over again, with the emphasis seemingly on the word "today," until I just gave in. As soon as I was out of the bath he phoned saying that he hadn’t been able to get through earlier, but was now pleased to tell me that we had received permission from the police. I never told him what had happened, so, very reluctantly I went along with him. What we did was to take turns in preaching with music played in-between. As one was preaching the other would go further up to distribute gospel tracts. For 5 years we did this every Saturday and as I recollect it never rained once during that time when we went to speak. We always had a captive audience because there was two bus stops, on one side of us and a further one on the other side. We never really had any problems during our time there but the people on the whole seemed apathetic to our message. One day, however, a man came to where we were with a bag of coal whilst I was speaking, and he was obviously very upset and angry with us and he started throwing lumps of coal at me whilst I was speaking. Fortunately he wasn’t a very good shot and none of it hit me, but the amazing thing was that the normally apathetic crowd standing in the bus stops suddenly came alive and one lady in particular started shouting out in support of me, encouraging me to carry on, and not to be intimidated by this man. The other amazing thing was that whereas I sometimes struggled in speaking in the open, as soon as this happened I felt the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me and became quite fluent and bold in my preaching, which was something I experienced quite rarely and still do.
I was at Cunard for two years from 1964 to 1966 and really loved it there. One of the jobs that I used to enjoy was when the ships came into Liverpool and I used to go on board as the company representative to check that everything was okay. This was sometimes early in the morning and the chauffeur would pick me up in the company’s limousine, used for the Chairman, Sir John Brocklebank, so I really did feel like a VIP. But the thing that I most enjoyed was the Christian activities. A Christian Union was formed because there were quite a lot of Christians there and we used to hold services in one of the rooms provided for us by the Management. It was so lovely for me to work amongst so many Christians, it was a real joy to go to work each day. I do believe that the witness of the Christians was good. One young man who I worked with used to go with me on my coffee break and because I used to read my Bible then he decided to buy one also so that he could read the Bible at the same time. At our Christian Union we used to show Fact & Faith films which were very good or have visiting speakers. One of these was a successful businessman by the name of Bob Sergeant, who was very well known in Liverpool in those days as a motor cycle dealer. He told us his testimony of how he had everything in life, but that on one Sunday when he was cleaning his car he heard an audible voice saying, "go to church Bob." He looked around but couldn’t see anybody so he decided to obey the voice to try and find a church to go to. As he was quite well known in Liverpool it was not easy for him to find one where he would not be treated as a sort of celebrity, but eventually he found an AOG church in Toxteth were he wasn’t recognised or least they didn’t treat him any differently to anybody else, so he immediately felt at home there.
In 1966 sadly Cunard moved its operations down to Southampton and although I was offered the opportunity of going down there I didn’t feel that this was the right thing to do. I was recommended to another shipping company, the Blue Funnel Line, where I worked from 1966 to 1970. It was good to find a number of Christians here also and I enjoyed my time there. The Christians there also decided to meet together and we had some good meetings. At times we also met up with other Christians in Liverpool during the lunchtime, and on a couple of occasions held open-air meetings at the Pier Head. Some of us also took part in the Billy Graham Crusade in 1967, acting as counsellors. This was relayed to the Liverpool Empire Theatre and the Methodist Central Hall from London, and it really was an amazing time. It was at this crusade that Cliff Richards came out as a Christian, and sang the song "It is no secret what God can do." About this time I also went on an evangelistic crusade with Project Evangelism under Ken Terhoven in St Albans and this was very powerful and challenging. Later on I also went on another crusade with them to Mevagissey in Cornwall, but it did become clear to me that evangelism wasn’t something that I was particularly good at and I’ve never been away on these types of crusades again.
As I look back on the 1960’s I do thank the Lord for them. There were many fine and earnest Christians around in those days and I do wish we had some of them with us today. Open air meetings at the Pier Head were a regular feature of Christian life in those days. I used to go to work on the Ferry (across the Mersey) from Birkenhead to Liverpool and this was nearly always an opportunity to have fellowship with other Christians as we walked around the top deck. Many people used to do that (always walking anti-clockwise) it was perhaps the only exercise that they got during the day. There were so many great characters around in those days. On a couple of occasions I remember an old lady who had a drum strapped to her front and some musical instrument in her hand ( a piano accordion I think) and singing heartily to the Lord on the boat as a witness for her Lord. In my church many of them were elderly but that didn’t bother me, in fact there was still a regard for older people in those days. They were people who had been through two world wars and the hardships, the suffering and the deprivation, had wrought in them strength of character and resolution that we don’t see much of these days. Many of them had also been part of the early Pentecostal movement and had witnessed the great working of God’s power by people such as Smith Wigglesworth. In fact Smith Wigglesworth was a personal friend of the previous pastor of my church and used to come to the church to visit him. One couple in the church told me that he once stayed with them for two weeks. How many people today would have loved to have an experience like that. One of the members of the church was a lady by the name of Jane Hawkins, known to everybody as Aunt Jane. What an amazing woman she was, I don’t think that I’ve met anybody quite like her. She was a great woman of prayer and had a prayer list of some 300 people who she used to pray for regularly, every day I think, and I felt privileged that I was one of those people. She was also a great encourager and said to me one day that she believed that the hand of the Lord was upon me, that she felt it in her bones. She was very disabled and we used to pick her up for the meetings in an old minibus and it used to take us about 5/10 minutes to get her in and out of the bus, but I never heard her complain once. She had a joy in Christ, which was very precious indeed. Shortly before she died she found that she had cancer in an advanced stage. The consultant spoke of the possibility of immediate surgery but she asked him how long she would live without it. She was told that she would have about 7 days. Her reply was "oh that will be wonderful, in 7 days I shall be with my Lord" The consultant remarked that in all his experience he had never met anybody like her. Another great character in my church was Harold Hutchings, who was the father of the famous evangelist of the 1960’s/1970’s Eric Hutchings. Harold was also a fervent evangelist, who was once sacked from his job for his excessive witnessing. However, he was an excellent salesman and when another employer, who knew of his reputation as a salesman, and what had happened to him, took him on and said to him that he could witness as much as he liked! In his later years he was more or less housebound, and apart from attending an occasional church meeting, the furthest that he went was to the pillar-box a few yards from his house, which he nearly always used as an opportunity to witness to somebody. In the last couple of years of his life he taught himself Spanish and commenced a postal evangelistic outreach to South America, which I helped him with on a couple of occasions, and he saw number of converts through this ministry.
In 1970, Blue Funnel Line told us that most of their business was going to be transferred to a group of companies operating a container service in the name of OCL, so I thought that it would be wise to look for another job. I got a job with Burmah Oil Company, in Ellesmere Port and worked in a new state of the art building in their Refinery. It was a lovely place to work but sadly for the first (and only) time in my life I found myself alone as a Christian which I didn’t find very easy. I was to be here for 12 years until in 1982, when the Company decided to close down the Refinery and so I found myself without a job. This, however, was to turn out very much to my advantage because something that would be a life changing experience for me would come about from this. During my time working there also, something else happened that would bring a significant change in my life.
It was in the year 1976 that Dorothy and I got married. We first met at a convention that our church held a year previously because she also attended an Assembly of God church in Golborne, near Wigan. We used to hold a convention each year with a special speaker at the August Bank Holiday and that is where we met. The circumstances in which this happened were rather unusual. The pastor of the Golborne church was somebody by the name of Tom O’Grady who before he became the pastor used to travel around different churches with his wife, Sandra, and their daughter Sharon, and our own church in Birkenhead was one of those churches. When he became the pastor in Golborne he came over to our church from time to time, including one night with some people from the church including Dorothy and another man who gave his testimony in the meeting. Whilst he was giving his testimony he referred to his wife on a number of occasions and Dorothy who was sitting quite near to me was smiling every time he referred to his wife, which gave me the impression that she was his wife. I remember thinking to myself at the time that she was the sort of person that I would like to marry, because she looked such a lovely person, with a lovely smile. At the August Convention a number of them came over from Golborne including Dorothy and after the meeting I asked her how her husband was to which she told me that she wasn’t married. I was confused more than anything else and wondered to myself that if she wasn’t the man’s wife, then who was she? Dorothy told me that her church was also holding a convention shortly and wondered if I would be interested in going. I went and prayed that if Dorothy was the person for me that He would arrange things accordingly. There were two meetings, one in the afternoon and the other in the evening, with a sit down meal in-between. As I was unable to go in the evening I made my way out to go home but Sandra, who was standing at the door, asked me why I wasn’t staying so I told her, but she said that it was okay to go for the meal. When I got into the Dining Room there was only two seats left by this time so I made my way to one of them, and then shortly afterwards Dorothy came in, and had to sit next to me, because that was the only seat left. Well, the rest is history and we were married about a year later.
We had only been married 3 years when my father-in-law died in 1979, and after deciding that she was not coping very well living on her own Dorothy’s mother came to live with us. After a while we bought a large 4 bedroomed house between us and with my redundancy money from Burmah Oil, it meant that at 36 years of age I was completely out of debt with no mortgage or any other loans. This was so important for what was to follow later on. When I finished at Burmah Oil I managed to get a temporary job with Squibbs Pharmaceutical (later taken over by Bristol Myers) for 6 months and I loved my time there, particularly as I was back working with a lot of Christians again, with a fairly large Christian Union. A few years later I was invited back there to talk about the work I was to be involved in during my next employment.
In 1981 our church in Birkenhead had still not really grown very much, despite Paul Dalton taking over as the pastor, partly because most of the congregation were quite elderly. Accordingly when the building was found to have extensive dry rot it was decided to close the church down, which it did do, but was re-opened about a year later under the pastorate of Bob Smith. By this time, however, we had moved to another church, the Elim Pentecostal Church about half a mile away, which was later re-named Wirral Christian Centre.
It was about this time that we stayed with a lady by the name of Eileen Bailey, a former counsellor with Selwyn Hughes, as I recall. She lived with an Anglican vicar and his wife in Huddersfield. As we were leaving to come home she took me to one side and said that she had been praying for me and that she believed that God has shown her that He was going to lead me into a very wide ministry, but that she didn’t know precisely what this would be. It really did set me thinking, as I really couldn’t imagine what kind of ministry it could be, but I would not have to wait very long before I found out.
One of the concerns that I had whilst at the AOG church in Birkenhead was for an elderly couple by the name of Arthur Holme and Violet Johnstone. Mr Holme, a former seafarer and son of a former captain of the Queen Mary, was a retired port missionary at the Birkenhead and Liverpool Docks. He wrote his life story in a book entitled 'From ships to sailors' a very interesting book. One of the things he mentioned was that his father was appointed as the Chief Officer for the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but at the very last minute was transferred to a sister ship, which took part in the rescue. Arthur himself as a young boy, although born in Birkenhead, was in 1912 living in Southampton, and with a friend of his, after school, went down to the docks to see the Titanic sailing away, describing this in some detail. He was an extraordinary man who could speak about a dozen languages, including Japanese, which he could speak fluently. In his later years he only went on board Japanese ships and the crew were often amazed at this fluency in their language, which I personally witnessed, because just before he retired I sometimes took him to the ships because of his failing eyesight. Violet had been his housekeeper in a large house that he had in Birkenhead, but the time came when they could no longer cope with such a large house, and they took residence in an Abbeyfield House. However, Abbeyfield’s policy at that time was that it was strictly for single people and although they were not married they were considered to be too close to be allowed to stay in the same home together. Consequently they had to take residence in two separate homes, which were unconnected by a bus route. They would have liked to have gone into a Christian Residential Home but the only one that there was at that time was in Southport, with something like a 5 year waiting list. I didn’t feel that this situation was right and when we moved over to Elim I mentioned this need to Paul Epton. He agreed with me that there was a need for a local Christian Home and we therefore decided that we should set about looking for a suitable large house. One of the members of the AOG church in Birkenhead was a widowed lady by the name of Alice Garside. She had a very large house in Birkenhead with something like 8/10 bedrooms. I spoke to her one day about selling it to the church, because I knew that she was looking for something smaller and at first she was very enthusiastic about it. Paul Epton thought that it was ideal for what we were looking for so it was agreed that the church would seek to purchase it. Shortly afterwards, however, she completely changed her mind and said that she didn’t believe that it was God’s will for us to have it. This was very perplexing to both of us and we were quite upset about it. Over the next year or so we looked for a replacement house but we looked in vain. Then one day the church’s solicitor by the name of Alistair Martin brought to Paul Epton’s attention that a former hospital was on the market for auction and asked if he would be interested in it. At first he said that he wasn’t but after consultation with the elders and deacons it was decided to put in a bid for it. A group of doctors were also bidding for it but eventually we came up with the highest bid. This was to a large extent a venture of faith because the church had virtually no money (approximately £12 as I recall) and the success of the venture depended on our getting a bank loan, the support of the church’s headquarters and also a government sponsored Community Programme. All these were achieved and so we went ahead by turning this into a multi-purpose Christian Community Centre, with accommodation for around 38 people, a children’s nursery and a church that would seat around 500 people.
When everything was all set to take over the former Children’s Hospital Paul Epton had to find himself some key staff to run the Centre, including an administrator and as I was available he asked me to take this on, which I was happy to do, particularly as I was now out of work. Obviously he was not able to pay great wages, but in my now debt free situation it meant that I was enabled to do so without any difficulty. The early days of this work, although they were a real test of faith, were most enjoyable and were a completely new experience for me. For example there was a gap from the time that we took over the building until we received approval for the Community Programme (this was a story in itself, and is mentioned in Paul Epton’s book, "Love in Action.") We received a small advance from the bank to do some necessary works, but this soon ran out. One day the builder came into my Office and presented to me a bill for £800 and asked if this could be cleared as soon as possible. However, we had no money so I just prayed for God to undertake. The next day I received a letter from the Elim Headquarters to say that we had inadvertently been charged for stamp duty i.e. £1200, which as a charity we shouldn’t have paid and that they would be arranging for this to be refunded to us. On another occasion when the mortgage payment was due there was again no money to pay for it, but then, out of the blue, we received a gift for £500 which enabled us to pay this.
The words of Eileen Bailey given to me about two years previously about having a wide ministry came back to me and were very much fulfilled in the many different roles that I had with my new position. Sometimes I would start work at 6am and work for long hours but I enjoyed it so much and it was a great learning experience for me. After 2 years we invited Princess Alexandra to come and open our Centre, which she agreed to do, and it was a great honour to have her do this. The Princess was shown around the Centre and then came to a service of dedication at which both Tom Walker and John Smith from Elim took part, and at which I also played the piano. It was lovely to see the church packed to capacity on that occasion.
Sometime after this another former hospital in Leasowe became available and we put in a bid for it and were successful in our bid. This was a substantially larger building and it was used to accommodate 3 nursing homes, a children’s nursery and a conference centre. Another Community Programme was successfully procured from the Government, which we believed was the largest of its kind in the country. At the same time we also acted as a national agent for this scheme which became a help to a number of churches and community projects around the country. At one time we had around 200 staff employed at Birkenhead and Leasowe, plus another 800 people employed in a variety of schemes around the country.
At this time also, which would have been in the late 1980’s the church had also grown considerably and I think had a membership of around 400 plus, a number of which were employed by the Centre, or should I say by the Charity formed to run this work, Wirral Christian Centre Trust Ltd. By 1992 the work had become known around the country and we were featured on television in a Songs of Praise broadcast, with Martin Bashir (the person who famously interviewed Princess Diana) being the interviewer. He interviewed a number of people during the broadcast including myself. The impact of this programme was felt far and wide and we had people from all over the country who wanted to know about the work, and also from people abroad. I remember three young people who came especially from the South of England who stayed over night and asked many questions about the work. Two ladies from Brisbane in Australia having seen the broadcast there some time later came over to this country and looked us up and spent some time with us. It is good to look back on those days and I am thankful for the inspiration that it did give to numbers of people seeking to do a similar work in their own community.
Coming back to Arthur Holme and Violet Johnstone, It was sadly the case that Mr Holme died just before the home was opened. Violet did come in, however, and it was a pleasure to see her looked after during the last 7/8 years of her life. She lived until she was 96 years of age in 1991. Just before she died she asked me what she should do with the money she had so I encouraged her to use it to pay for Paul Epton to visit Japan to minister there. As she had a number of friends in Japan, because of Arthur Holme’s ministry with the Japanese, she was pleased with the suggestion and this happened the following year when Paul and his wife Evelyn went in 1992. When he was invited back there two years later, Evelyn was unable to go with him so he invited me to go with him, which I did. It was one of the great experiences of my life, which I shall never forget. We spent about 12 days there and visited both Tokyo and Kumamoto in Kyushu Island in the south. Over the years, Dorothy and myself have had quite a lot of contact with the Japanese people, and for a number of years we attended a bi-lingual Japanese service held each month in Stockport.
With regard to the Wirral Christian Centre Church, had it continued to grow the way it had done since we moved into our new church building in 1985 I think that we may have been in a financial position to support the ongoing work of the Trust. Sadly it did not do so but suffered a decline in its membership thereafter until it became half the size it used to be. As to the reasons for this I have my own ideas, but suffice to say, as previously mentioned, it was a great learning experience for me personally and I have greatly valued the many lessons that I learnt during my employment there, some good and some bad. But that is life, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, "The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything" I only hope that those lessons have been learnt by all concerned. The work at Leasowe suffered a great decline during the 1990’s and got into serious financial difficulties. After a while it became clear to me that the work was going to wind up at Leasowe, so when I was made redundant in 1996 it came more of a relief to me than sadness, although I know that this was a hard thing to do for Paul Epton. As to the reason for the decline, again I have my own ideas for this, which I would prefer not to go into here. All I will say is that although there were some fine Christians working at the Trust I was very saddened by others who clearly had their own agendas and it was not in their heart to put their own interests aside in order to seek God’s kingdom first and His righteousness. We sadly see this in everyday life these days, people who go into nursing, medicine, teaching or even politics as a career rather than a vocation, which used to be the driving force in days gone by. The same can be said of Christian work to a large degree these days. I did not feel at all depressed at being made redundant as I felt it was in God’s hands. This certainly became evident on my last day working there when something happened which was to open a completely new chapter in my life.
As I was driving out of the car park of Wirral Christian Centre on my last day of work, a Christian architect by the name of Phil Young saw me and overtook me in his car and signalled me to stop. He asked what I was doing so I told him the situation. Phil worked for a company of property developers and he told me about a new site that they were developing in Chester and asked if I would like a job with them. I had got to know Phil and his colleague John Ward at Leasowe because through somebody, who both they and Paul Epton knew, some Office space was given to them for a period of time at Leasowe. Naturally I took the job although it was not to be for another 9 months later. This, however, gave me an opportunity to improve on my computer skills, which were virtually zero at that time. Some months afterwards having felt drawn to Chester I decided to leave the Centre and I went to a church in Chester, this being the Queen Street Christian Centre, an Assemblies of God church. Dorothy came with me for a while but then returned to the Centre because she felt that it was too far for her to become actively involved in the work, particularly as she does not drive. The 3 years or so that I was there was an important time of learning for me and I did appreciate my time there and the people that I got to know there particularly Mike Dixon one of the pastors and a gifted Bible teacher. Also Kevin and Jill Pearson who became actively involved with the Open Doors organisation, a ministry that supports Christians around the world in 50 countries who are persecuted for their faith. After a while Dorothy and I joined them in their monthly prayer meetings and after a couple of years, following our attendance at an Open Doors conference with Brother Andrew, we decided to start our own group in Birkenhead, which we still run today.
I came back to the Centre in June 2000 and was partly involved in its activities, such as doing the church accounts, but after some time it became clear to us that God was leading us in a different direction to what the Centre was going. The property developer that I worked for had also moved away from Chester to Runcorn and then came to Birkenhead, close to where I live, as well as Phil Young, who was one of the directors. During the next 5½ years whilst in Birkenhead we were able to take on a number of people who had previously worked in the Centre including Jan Williams, who I had worked closely with and often prayed together with since the Centre started, as well as Phil Holmes an accountant and for a short time Anita Dellaway, who had been Paul Epton’s secretary. It was lovely to have such a strong Christian presence in our Office during that time. The amazing thing was that John Ward, who was our MD, actually encouraged me to try and find members of the church to come and work for us. It was as though he appreciated having Christians working for the organisation, which I felt was a good witness for the Lord.
I think that it was in 2002 that we went to visit some friends of ours Henry and Mary Walker in Rhuddlan near Rhyl and whilst we were there they showed us their wedding photos. Whilst we were going through them something fell out of the album and when I picked it up I saw that it was a souvenir programme of the Edward Jeffreys Crusades in 1934/5, held in Liverpool. I had heard of them before from Will Burnham who told me of the fact that God had moved there in a powerful way despite the fact that there had been virtually no publicity advertising the meetings. This programme was written in 1960 to celebrate the Silver Anniversary of the Crusades and of the great things that God had done there. I went with Henry to the local newsagents and copied what I thought was the whole of the programme. I didn’t really pay much attention to this though and don’t think that I read it completely for about 2 years, although Dorothy did and made copies of this to pass on to people she thought might be interested. Sometime towards the end of 2004 I picked this up again and thought to myself that it was a shame that what God had done at those meetings wasn’t more widely known in the churches in Merseyside and further afield. I decided, therefore, to re-do this and attempt to circulate it to anybody that might be interested. Part of my inspiration for this was a booklet that I had read a short while before, entitled "Birkenhead Awakening," by Arthur Davies, a member of WCC, this being an account of how God had moved in revival in the area, in the early part of the 20th Century. With regard to this souvenir edition, however, I noticed that some of the pages were missing and when I contacted the Walkers to let me have a copy of the missing pages they told me that they were unable to find it. I didn’t know where to get another copy of this, but I did notice that one of the churches mentioned had its address shown. Consequently I took an afternoon off work and went over to Liverpool to try and find this church. I was successful and when I came to the front of the building the pastor of the church arrived at the same time for one of his meetings, and he invited me in. I asked him if he had a copy of the souvenir programme, which he not only said that he had, but also showed me a folder of photographs taken at the time of the crusades, as well as other information. He also told me that there were also in the local library a number of reports of the Bootle crusade in the Bootle Times in 1934 that were worth researching, and he told me that he thought that there was a story to tell about the crusades. I did ask him if he would not consider doing the research himself, particularly as his church (Bethel Baptist Church) came out of the crusades and also that the church building stood on the very ground where the Bootle crusade took place. He replied that he had spent several years’ research doing his PhD degree on local church history and that he was not inclined to do any more research. I therefore set my mind to find out all I could about the crusades not realising what a wonderful story was going to emerge from all this. The following week I went back there to get some more copies of the information that he had in his folder and whilst I was there the pastor of the Elim Church in Bootle, Steve Yates, turned up to see Mr Patterson and he introduced me to him and told him what I was doing. Steve told me that a member of his congregation had been healed in the Bootle crusade as a young girl so I asked him if I could interview her, which I did, a couple of weeks later. This led on to other interviews of elderly people who had either been converted or healed in the crusades, which eventually led to nine wonderful testimonies. After a few months, in the spring of 2005 I completed the booklet and started circulating it around Liverpool, mostly with the help of my friend Magnus Brand but also further afield, including Northern Ireland where an interest was shown in the story. Many other copies were also distributed to various parts of the world, particularly from people who had originally come from Merseyside. Following on from this I wrote booklets on other revivals in Merseyside and Chester, also on some of the people who have impacted our region and one on some of the inspiring testimonies in our region.
In the Spring of 2005 we started attending the Day of Prayer for Revival meeting which is held once a month in Wavertree, and shortly afterwards we moved to the Elim Church in Bootle, where Steve Yates is the pastor. Steve was very supportive in promoting the distribution of my booklet on the Edward Jeffreys’ Crusades. We fellowshipped at this church for about 3 years. The following year we also began attending a newly formed prayer group for revival, which is held in the Lady Chapel of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool each month. Since 2005 our focus has therefore been very much on the whole of Merseyside rather than just on the Wirral, where we still live.
Over the years I have used my administrative gifts for the benefit of the kingdom of God and have served in a number of different roles in this context. Currently I am am involved in a number of different charities, eight in total, all Christian apart from one. A few years ago I also set up All Africa Outreach Ministry which operates from Nigeria.
In 2008 we started attending the Waterside Evangelical Church, off Breck Road in Everton, Liverpool under the pastorate of Richard Woods, somebody that I have known for most of my Christian life. I carried on at this church when Dorothy went to be with the Lord, but started attending a church in Chester in 2014 (see below) but am now back at my old church in Birkenhead, the Wirral Christian Centre.
The year 2011 was a very difficult one for Dorothy and myself with her being so ill during the year, and then the Lord took her in December 2011. In 2013 I became friendly with a Christian lady who lives in Chester and attended her church for well over a year, but sadly this relationship broke up in the early summer of 2015. So I am very much looking to the Lord to guide me as to His will for my life at this time.