Testimony - the best explanation for this word in The Oxford English Dictionary is “To test or prove by evidence”.
I was asked to give my testimony. As you the reader may not know me and I need to prove my story by evidence, I will tell you something about my background. To do so, I will go back to my grandparents. My grandmother was Catholic and my grandfather was Protestant. They agreed that if they had any children, the girls would be brought up Catholic and the boys Protestant. They only had one child, a boy, and that was my father. My father was a carpenter working for Dockrell’s and he often had to go to England on a job.
On one of these trips he met, fell in love with, and married my mother. It made her mother very angry, so much so that she did not go to her daughter’s wedding. However, they made things up later. It’s amazing what the sight of the first grandchild can do! My parents moved to Ireland as that was the best thing to do at the time.
After some time we went to live with our Irish grandparents, as by then there were an extra five mouths to feed, four girls and one boy. I was the only one of the children to be born in that house.
We went to St. Werburgh’s Church of Ireland, in Dublin. The girls were in the Girls’ Brigade and the boy in the Boys’ Brigade. Both organisations included the Bible in their programmes. We eventually moved to Crumlin and attended St. Mary’s Church of Ireland. There were three more children, all boys, added to our family. The first real challenge in my life was the death of my father. He contracted TB as did many in the 1950s, and I began to challenge life, death, God, and the Bible. I challenged the unfairness of it all. I was a fortnight from my fifteenth birthday. I wanted to be a teacher, but we hadn’t the money so I went out to work as many others did.
Shortly after this, a friend invited me to a Christian Endeavour club, and again the Bible challenged me. We met every Wednesday, and I enjoyed the company of people of my own age. One Wednesday when the YMCA male voice choir was holding a mission, we went to it. I liked the singing. The speaker spoke of some caves he had visited while on holiday. The tour guide asked the people in the group to hold onto something, and then he switched off his powerful light. It was very scary. The speaker likened that to the dark of a life without God. He encouraged anybody to speak to a member of the choir, so I went and talked to ‘Bob’, who explained the Gospel to me and gave me some literature.
Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world”, and in the Gospel of John chapter 5, verses 24 and 25 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live”. As I left to catch my bus, a feeling of pure joy swept over me and I felt like doing cartwheels, but I didn’t. There is rejoicing in Heaven over sinners repenting. Much later I got the opportunity to teach children the Bible stories, and I now teach older people in the YWCA Club.
God does not promise us that life will be a bed of roses, but He does give us the strength to get through all the bad times. God provided Christian young people to befriend me. I went to a club on Fridays for table tennis, on Saturdays to go out on our bikes, and on Sundays for Bible study and tea, and I grew in knowledge of the Bible and made new friends.
I met the person who later became my husband, and we were married in 1960. God blessed us with four children, two girls and two boys. I call to mind one Christmas when our elder daughter had ‘black’ measles and went into a coma. We could not go to the hospital so I concentrated on stuffing the turkey, and my husband did a very large jigsaw puzzle which was a gift from friends; it was called The Last Supper. We sent requests for prayer to different churches. Two weeks later, when she was helped to get out of bed supported by two nurses to try to walk, our daughter just skipped off ahead of them.
Four years ago my husband had a massive heart attack just as he turned into our road. He was alone and neighbours looked after him. He never recovered, but God was with us all the way. I was given some verses which were a great help to me. They are in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 40, verses 28 to 31, especially the last verse:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no-one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)
In prayer King David in Psalm 18 thanked God for reaching down from heaven and taking hold of his life, and I believe that is what God did for me.