One of my first ever memories is of sitting on the back door step at my Grandparents terraced house in Openshaw Manchester, with my brother and my maternal Grandfather, as he was teaching my brother how to tie his shoe laces. There was nothing special about this moment and we have no photographic evidence that it ever took place, but in my mind I can clearly see us sat there as we watched and listened to this man teaching my 4 year old brother; left over right, under through, make a loop , over under through. I was 2 years old when he died and I don’t remember anything else about him, but I have heard his story many times.
For some 40 years before my grandfather was an alcoholic. One night he was in his local public house drinking hard with his friends, when The Salvation Army came in and did a Pub-raid. To be honest I have no idea what that actually means. Other than somehow a group of Salvationists came into the public house, with the good news of Jesus Christ, preaching of salvation, new life and God’s peace. Meanwhile the Band was outside the pub playing and singing, and the officer was preaching of repentance and forgiveness. The story goes that on this night my drunken grandfather listened to the life changing message of Jesus. He left the pub and went out into the street. The gospel message brought home by the Holy Spirit convicted him to kneel at the drum and give his heart to Jesus. Someone knelt with him and prayed the sinners prayer, and when he stood up he was no longer drunk but in his right mind and was gloriously saved. There was a young Salvationist widow in the Open air ring who was heard to say that God had told her she would marry that man. And she did. My Grandmother, who was struggling to raise two sons on her own after the early death of her first husband.
I’ve heard that story so many times in my life. There was a gentleman fondly known as “Hallelujah Fred” in my home congregation who loved to tell me that story often. He had been part of the Pub Raid that night, and he witnessed firsthand the saving grace of Jesus. As I was growing up he would never let the opportunity pass where he didn’t share his experience of how Jesus saved my grandfather. It was always good to hear and was a means of encouragement to me.
When I think about all this it makes me ask certain questions. How crazy were those early Salvationists to embark on such errands of mercy? Rushing in where angels feared to tread, believing that Jesus can change lives and set men free. How many nights did they do this and came back with nothing to report? What made them ever think it was worth going out again and again? Well I dont know thae answer, but they did, and now over 90 years later it makes me realise I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t! For that date ,y grandfather had with Jesus knelt at the drum in the open air in 1920’s Manchester, has great significance to my faith today. For the saving grace of Jesus that Albert Haynes claimed for himself on that day was for his children, and his children’s children, and his children’s children’s children! And now I have a responsibility to share this good news, which is timeless and just as powerful today.
Thank You Father, for the fact that your change the hearts of women and men and bring peace, forgiveness, salvation and grace.
Jesus – during this Lenten season – remind me again that this is a costly business and you need me to be as generous with the gospel message today as that band of happy people who changed my destiny.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!