I was brought up in Adlington in a stable and loving church going family. I have two sisters and one brother and I have never known a life without going to Church and Sunday School on a regular basis. We attended a "low" Anglican church and I have many happy memories of Church life and yet I can say that I cannot remember the gospel being preached. This, of course, could be for two reasons 1) the gospel was never preached or, 2) My ears were closed to it.
In the early 1950's my dad took my elder sister and me to Main Rd (Manchester City's football ground) to see and hear the famous American evangelist, Billy Graham preach. The three things that I remember quite clearly about that sunny summer evening were a) The large number of people there b) the tears in my dad's eyes as my sister went to the front as Billy Graham gave the "altar call" and c) the question and answer I gave to the person who asked me why I had come to the front, as I followed shortly after my sister. My answer of "Because Mr Graham asked me to" still haunts me. My life, and that of my sister changed little after our encounter with Billy Graham. Now I understand why!
As I grew older I found that the love of my life was sport. I played cricket, football, golf and badminton and at school I was also reasonably ok at athletics including cross-country running (never brilliant but reasonably ok). Of these the one I loved the most was cricket and at 17 years old I joined Adlington CC and played until we (me and my wife Marie) went out to Swaziland in 1979. The Lord used cricket to stir up in me my sin before a Holy God. In 1974/75 I had what is known as a "purple patch" when I played well enough to be selected for the league team.
It needs to be explained at this point that in my early days of playing cricket it was rarely, if ever, played on a Sunday and so there was no conflict of interest. But things slowly changed and as I was still a Sunday School teacher Sunday matches caused me a problem (it was religion not salvation that caused this conflict). But somehow I managed get round it by being allowed to turn up late for Sunday matches, which on one occasion included a cup final. This satisfied my conscience for a time. But the Lord allowed it for a time and then intervened.
I was selected for the Bolton Association league team and we played against the Northern League team at Blackpool and as they wouldn't let me turn up late I was left with a choice to make religion or cricket. Clearly cricket won and I left late morning to go to Blackpool. I couldn't even use the excuse that I had been to the morning service to ease my conscience, as I had to miss that as well. I remember sitting on a bench overlooking the ground on that beautiful Sunday afternoon thinking that I had blown it and that I had shown my true colours. The Lord had convicted me of hypocrisy. I am sure that He could have convicted me of many other sins as well but in His gentleness He left it just to hypocrisy at that time.
Shortly after this my elder sister and her family and my dad (my mother had died 2 years earlier from a massive stroke, which devastated the family) invited me to go with them for a weeks holiday in Morecambe (no jokes please) and on the Sunday we went to Morecambe Zion Baptist Church and I heard an old gentleman preach (a visiting preacher if I remember rightly) and I vividly remember after he finished preaching he sat down, took out his handkerchief and mopped his brow and I thought "he really believes what he preached". The Lord was moving in my life and softening my hard heart.
At the end of September 1975 I went with my dad to Chorley Baptist Church for the first time (which is a story in itself of how the Lord worked a miracle to get me under sound biblical preaching) As an aside, not only did the Lord save me but the first person I saw as I entered the church was a young girl (Marie) who fifteen months later became my wife. How gracious is the Lord.
From that day the Lord not only gave me salvation, a wife, two wonderful children and two wonderful grand children but godly men (Mr Hewitson, Mr White and currently Ian Moulton. He even took us to Swaziland for five and a half years and enabled us to grow in grace and be baptised in the Holy Spirit) to teach me the whole counsel of God and the blessed Holy Spirit to continually point me to the one who died on Calvary for my many sins (it started out with hypocrisy) the Lord Jesus Christ of whom I can say "My Jesus, my Saviour" and the one who loved me unto death and who now I can say "I love thee Lord Jesus thank you for saving me!"
Garry had a difficult time as a child and as it was with so many of us he didn't know and didn't want to know Christ. Then his life changed...
Thanks to my parents, I was brought up to go to Church and Sunday school. I loved Religious Instruction at school and I loved Jesus in my own child-like way. But that is not real faith in Jesus; besides when I reached my 'teens' the things of God started to mean less to me and I thought I was too old for that kind of thing, and I wandered far from God.
When I was 21 I went out to live in Vancouver, Canada and made the most of being able to join in outdoor activities and socialise. Things seemed to be going well and I shut God out of my life completely. We might forget about God, but He never forgets us.
Just over five years later I came back to England to live with my parents again, but I was still restless and couldn't settle in any one job for long. In my late twenties I fell in love and got married and even though I had what I wanted, I somehow felt empty inside and thought there must be something more. More importantly, from somewhere deep within I knew I was not in a right standing with God. I used to see Christians attending meetings at my neighbour's house and I remember thinking that I could do with something like that.
A little later, just about the time our third child was two years old, my neighbour invited me to a Christian Mums and Toddler group and then to a dinner put on by Christians where I heard what it is to have a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So I turned once again to the Bible and was reading the parables in Luke's gospel. I realised that Jesus loved me and that my sins could be forgiven. I then felt an urgency to put my life right before God and that Thursday morning whilst on my own at home, I knelt down and told the Lord I was sorry for all the wrong things I had done and asked Him to forgive me and I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come!) 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV
Even though I did not fully understand at first all that Jesus had accomplished on the cross to pay for my sin, I soon understood that being saved is about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. As I fellowshipped with other believers, prayed and read my Bible, the Word of God became clearer to me.
(Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.) Philippians 3:12
(My husband came to know the Lord six months after I did. We soon found a local fellowship where we were able to serve the Lord. Our five children all came to know the Lord and served with us in the fellowship. Being a Christian is a daily walk with Jesus and it is like getting to know a friend. He is still showing me lots of things through His Word. First of all, He cares about me and everything about me. Through His indwelling Holy Spirit, He is my Counsellor who reminds me of God's love and His Word through Jesus.
At times when things got difficult in my life and I cried out to the Lord in all sincerity, He was my only true comfort and source of inner strength. The Lord is always faithful. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us and to provide for our needs (not our wants). We have had long periods when my husband was out of work, but the Lord provided. There was a time when we were moving house and we needed somewhere to live for an interim period. We didn't have anywhere to move to right up to the last day, but then a house miraculously became available.
In January 2008 we felt deep pain and sadness when our second to the youngest son, Steven, was knocked down and killed in London at the age of 22, but we know that Steven had given his life to the Lord Jesus and we remain strong in our belief that Steven is now in heaven with his Lord and that one day we will see him again. We really appreciated the support of Christian brothers and sisters at this time, not only through prayer, but in practical matters as well. Our other four children are of course grown up now with lovely families of their own and are all serving the Lord in different parts of the country.