How I was saved – literally :)
I live in N. Ireland, and although currently reside in Belfast, I originally lived in a tiny little village called Belleek (yep – the home of the famous parian china pottery) which sits right smack on the border with Eire (S. Ireland) until moving up to the big smoke at the age of 20 or so. It’s a lovely little village (population around 1500+) primarly Catholic in religious makeup, so an interesting place to live as a “token” Protestant family in the late 1960s when things kicked off.
I was 9 when the ‘Troubles’ started in the Province, and my life changed somewhat radically for a pre-teen from there on. I lived with my mum & dad (grandparents had died a year or two earlier, and elder brother had already left home by that time.) in the village Post Office which was my dad’s workplace as well as our home – a common practice in those days to live in the same premises. By the early 1970s things had really kicked off heavily in Belleek with regular shootings at the Army who were stationed in the local Police Station to support them, as they were being fired on by the IRA from across the border (just opposite the Station at its rear). I’d already escaped being shot twice by 1973 – mainly by just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and taking cover in precarious places, although the first occasion was rather more scary, in that I was told that quite likely the gunman had waited until I’d just gone indoors before firing a salvo at close range at a soldier on foot patrol outside my house! That was my first taste of how dangerous the “war” was going to become. It became a daily occurrence to have to dodge gunfire out on the main street or have soldiers bouncing around all over the place taking cover for one reason or another. But it was in 1973, things changed dramatically for my family and not just me.
That year the summer had seen the village having a spate of bomb alerts and minor incidents, which quite often meant the army were out on the main street doing road blocks so I was fairly used to hearing them shouting and clanging about. On Friday 14 September I was in bed at 9 (being a school night), and around 9.20 or so, heard the army making a lot of noise out on the street. I pretty much ignored it for about 10 mins or so, but then the phone started ringing. At that time, our neighbours didn’t have a phone, so we were often answering it, only to find it was for them, hence my parents weren’t bothering to answer it on this particular night either. But something was rattling me that I couldn’t put my finger on, and next thing I knew I found myself in the living room screaming (according to my mum later) at my dad to answer the phone. Took him a few minutes of arguing with me before he finally did, only to be told by a neighbour that there was a bomb on our doorstep and we’d only minutes to get out. Just as we were evacuating the house at the rear, a soldier did come up the back canal to help us get to a neighbour’s house a few doors up. We literally had just gotten in there and sat down when it went off, and even 6 houses up, it was one almighty shockwave lifting us out of our seats, and extremely scary to boot.
It was followed by a second blast of a car bomb that had been left at the local hotel (just across from our house which would be on the left of this photo – sadly lost the one photo I’d taken of it!) at the same time, so was really a rough night for the whole village. When we were allowed to return to the house which was still standing only because it used to be a prison house at one time, and had 12″ thick walls in places, I discovered a plate glass mirror had fallen right on top of my bed (my room was directly above the blast!). So overall, we had a very fortunate escape – as did the house, unlike the hotel which ended up having to be demolished!!
However, while that was quite a dramatic experience in itself, it wasn’t enough to make me think to consider commiting my life to God at that stage. After all I was 13, and life was really just beginning for me, especially with guys so hunky as all those soldiers were floating around the village daily, and I was having a great time enjoying myself. I was made to attend Sunday School and church weekly despite the fact that our Methodist Church only had 7 people attending it, and all apart from myself and another young friend Joyce, were all over 50 if not older, so we really didn’t have much happening there to attract us to any degree. But that was to change too the following year. In August 1974, almost a year later from that challenging night, we had our usual Harvest Service in the church, at which a visiting minister called Brian Blacoe spoke (never have forgotten his name!). While I’ve no memory of the content of his talk, I do know that he (unlike our regular minister) stated very clearly the nature and purpose of the Gospel message, and said that if anyone was interested in knowing more to see him at the end. I was overwhelmed with a need to do so, and to get more information, although am unsure looking back that I really understood exactly what it was I was looking for in a sense. But God’s Hand was certainly heavy on me, and as I read through the booklet Brian had given to me about how to become a Christian I absolutely knew beyond any doubt that I had to repent and give my life to Jesus that night, and so I did. And while I didn’t perhaps have any major obvious sign of anything having happened, I absolutely knew something had, and the outward change was very obvious to all my friends and family thereafter.
But it was shortly after that night, that the Lord seemed to impress on me how He had saved me the night of the bomb for this purpose – to give my life to Him and use it to serve Him which is what I have attempted to do ever since. Whether reality or my imagination, I can’t help now, but look back on that night, as my having been divinely lifted out of the bed and walked downstairs, as I certainly have no recollection of making a decision to do so, and I know I have remarked on that in my early diaries of that time.
I pray that if anyone reading this ever doubts that God can use the worst circumstances to bring about the best in their lives, please be encouraged by what He has done in my life. I can utterly testify to many occasions of similar circumstances where He has walked me through periods of time where I felt the situation to be of no possible value to anyone let alone Him, yet has turned out to be the best and most incredible time for me of learning and experiencing His Will in a new and incredible way. If you would like to write to me and share your own experiences of His work in your life, or if you have questions you’d like to throw my way please email to : BlessedByHim(usual symbol here)ntlworld(period/full stop etc) com .