Before becoming a Christian, I used to think that ‘heaven’ was some place in another dimension somewhere, that you automatically got zapped into when you die! I wasn’t an atheist, but on the other hand I wasn’t a Christian either.
At the time, I was very much into Science Fiction and got hooked on the theories of Erich von Daeniken (was God an astronaut). At the time, I didn’t realise just how false such theories are. I once read a book titled, “Does God drive a flying saucer?” Thinking about it now – why would a God who is omnipresent, in all places and all times, need a mechanical contrivance to get from one place to another!! Our God is mightier than that.
My conversion happened in 1979. I was working in an agency office 54 miles from home (before the M25 motorway was built, which would have made the journey easier). The pay wasn’t very good, and the petrol (gas) to get me there and back each day was expensive (petrol costs about four times as much here as it does in the US and Canada). But I was enormously happy there. I shared a small office with four women (that was great fun).
One day, an agency rang me up and offered me work as a technical author at Marconi, in Basildon, Essex (just 7 miles up the road) at 60% more money. At first I turned it down, as I was so contented where I was. Then the monetary side of my nature took over and I decided that I must be crazy to turn down that sort of offer to work so much nearer home. So I rang them back and told them I had changed my mind.
I went for the interview, got the job and started the following Monday. On my first day I discovered that the technical author sitting next to me (whose name is Mike Baker) was also the minister of a Pentecostal church in the nearby village of Laindon. The church couldn’t support him financially so he had to have another job.
He shared his faith with me and I responded by saying, “What, does that mean I’m not going to heaven?”
He replied, “No, I can’t say that. Certainly, if you walked out of here this evening and got run over and killed by a bus, then no you wouldn’t. But that probably won’t happen.”
However, I decided not to delay the decision, and embarked upon the road to becoming a Christian, and started to attend their lunchtime fellowship meetings. My rebirth was a slow one – with old, false (in some cases totally stupid) ideas gradually receding and being replaced by new ones, grounded in God’s truth.
Shortly after that I sought out a church to go to and started off at a Methodist church in Rayleigh (a nearby town). On my first morning there, they asked for volunteers to help out in the Sunday school. Although I didn’t offer my services (it was my first morning there) it did occur to me that if I took any active part, that’s what I would like to do. But I didn’t mention it to anyone. A few weeks later, the Sunday school superintendent came up to me and asked if I would like to help out in the Sunday school!!! I was amazed, and accepted! When I later asked the lady why she chose me, she said, “Well, I notice that you have a Methodist hymn book and I found out you have two young children” (our two daughters were 5 and 8 at the time). Personally, I think the Lord had a hand in it.
Although I came from a loving stable home, my parents weren’t Christians and I was never taken to church. Being a Sunday school teacher enabled me to learn and catch up on the Sunday school experience I never had as a child.
A few years later I went back to Marconi (which had since become GEC) and met Mike again. It was good to meet again the person who had first set me on the road to becoming a Christian.