My own childhood was a very happy one. My brother was born in May 1931. I came along in July 1937. My brother and I were brought up by two very loving and very caring parents, who seldom (if ever) had any disagreements with each other. My father was a very devoted, caring and loving husband, who adored my mother. My mother was an equally devoted, caring and loving wife, who adored my father. What more could anyone ask in a family? So I grew up in a very loving and stable family environment.
At the start of the war, we lived in Loughton, N.E London. Things weren’t always easy. I nearly ran under a bus at the age of five. I slipped at the last moment, and the front wheel of the bus just nicked my ankle. Another inch and my leg would have been crushed. Also at five, I got stung in the eyelid by a wasp (I was crouching down watching the wasps nest) A fraction of an inch and the sting would have entered my eyeball and blinded me.
We were evacuated during the war (in 1943) after a bomb landed in our back garden. They were probably aiming at the Debden artillery base a mile away. The bomb missed the house but chewed a few lumps out of the garage! However, a crater in the field behind us was so large that it would have swallowed up a whole row of houses. Shortly after the evacuation, I had a serious illness at seven years of age, which almost cost me my life. The illness was encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) which can kill or in some cases cause permanent brain damage. I was saved by a piece of equipment known as an ‘iron lung’, which helps critical respiration in weak patients.
In all of these things, I have God’s grace to thank for the fact that I did not succumb to what might have otherwise befallen me.
However, neither of my loving parents were Christians, and I was therefore never taken any where near a church (except for weddings and christenings). My father had once had a frightening experience with spiritualism. This experience completely turned him off of churches of any sort.
When I became a Christian in 1979, I suddenly realized that neither of my parents knew the Lord, so neither of them was saved and assured of a place in Heaven. As a new Christian, I continually prayed that someone would witness to my parents and lead them to the Lord. I didn’t feel ’empowered’ to do that myself. Witnessing to others outside the family is one thing, but witnessing to people inside your own family is another.
Both my parents experienced reasonably good health, but my father constantly dragged one leg. It was thought this was due to a stroke he had during his sleep. He had this ‘dragging leg’ for years. It didn’t get better or worse.
On Fathers’ Day, on June 17th 1984, my wife, two daughters and I were round at my parents’ house celebrating the occasion. During the afternoon, my father, who was then 78, experienced sudden chest pains. We phoned for a doctor. They actually sent an ambulance. He was taken to the cardiac unit at Southend General Hospital.
For years I had been praying that someone would witness to my parents, especially my father, but no-one ever did.
I felt that the Lord had given me a picture of two railway lines, positioned very close to each other, which ran parallel to each other at the start of the track. Two long trains moved side-by-side very slowly along the two parallel tracks. So slowly that it was possible for passengers to climb from one train to the other. However, there came a point at which the two tracks diverged. One track led to paradise (Heaven), but the other led to a precipice and sudden death (Hell). The point at which the tracks diverged represented the point in time at which a person died. People further up the train would meet the divergence sooner. Those further back would meet it later. However, once you passed the point of divergence, you could no longer move to the right train, and each of us STARTS OFF ON THE WRONG TRAIN. To avoid death, it was necessary to climb across to the train leading to Heaven.
It was 9 o’clock that Sunday evening on Fathers’ Day. I was aware that no-one had witnessed to my Dad. Was the Lord saying to me “the buck stops here, Graham – tell him”. So I asked him if I had ever told him how I became a Christian. “It was through someone at work, wasn’t it?” he asked. I then went on to share this picture that the Lord had given me. He said very weakly “Yes, when you get to my age you start thinking about things like that” There were three other people in the ward that Sunday evening, so discussing this with my Dad was not easy. But I got through it.
On the Monday evening, I went to visit and gave my father a booklet by David Watson called ‘Start a new life’. The booklet explains in very clear terms what Christianity is and how each of us can be saved. My mother had also told me that during the afternoon that my father was taken ill, she saw him out in the kitchen on his own. His eyes were closed and he appeared to be praying. She thought this was unusual, as my Dad was a person (we thought) who had no religious belief.
When I went to visit my father on the Tuesday evening, he said (very enthusiastically) “Oh, I’ve read that booklet. Terrific. I’ve given it to your mother to read” There was an obvious change. I’m, convinced he was wonderfully born again after reading it. He was really fired up about it in a way I had never seen before.
On Wednesday (June 20th), my mother and I went to visit, but we were told that my father had just collapsed and that they had a team of people working on him. A few minutes later we were told that he had died. Apparently, he was sitting up in bed when he suddenly lost consciousness and keeled over. My father was a person who normally feared death. It was a relief to me that it happened very quickly for him.
The point is that it is never too late for anyone. Whatever their age or state of health. All that person needs to do is to ask the Lord into their life and forgive them. Some people are Christians for most of their lives, for decades. My father was a Christian for just a day.