Last night we joined friends in Owton Manor Baptist Church to listen to the testimony of Peter Gladwin and his wife Sarah.
Peter was badly burned as a baby. He started his message by simply asking us to think about what a start in life that was. He also urged us to not let people out a label on you.
As young Peter was growing up he kept asking his parents “Mum, Dad what happened to me?” The answer he always got was “We don’t talk about that son.” He later came to realised that evasive answer was probably driven by feelings of guilt. At 10 Peter went off track, stealing drinking, so many petty offences at the age of 13 the judge sent him to prison! Once out of prison he ended up on probation afterwards. At the age of 15 Peter got on a bus with a friend, a group of young people from a different area got on the bus and Peter and his friend were attacked. One guy stabbed his friend with a 10 inch knife. Peter thought his friend was dead. Then the knife attacker came at him. Peter remembers thinking I’m only 15 years old and about to die! He turned away from him as the knife came for him.
Years later John Lennox was preaching on Issaac . John said I bet none of you can imagine what it to be stabbed with a knife. Peter couldn’t help himself. He shouted back ” I do!”. Unlike the Isaac story there was no angel on the bus that night to save Peter. The lad with the knife stabbed Peter in the arm, severed tendons in his right arm. Back in hospital Peter found himself yet again asking himself “Why me?” He couldn’t answer and didn’t know where to turn as he didn’t know god. Because he couldn’t use his arm he lost his job as apprentice cutter. His arm didn’t work for two years. Peter turned to drink and drugs and tried to bury pain. That doesn’t work. Buried pain never stops buried.
He couldn’t keep a job down or a relationship down. Then at the age of 24 he was hit by a car flung 16 feet in air broken skull femur etc. Again he found himself asking “Why me?” He couldn’t get off this treadmill of gloom and doom. Then at 27 his Dad committed suicide. Peter found himsef filled with a void and emptiness that no one could touch, nothing in the world could help and he felt so so broken. One Sunday Peter thought if I jump off North bridge 80 foot down it will be all over. He’s standing on the bridge and realised that he could see his mum’s flat. He goes to see her instead, Mum lets him in. He was distressed, dishevelled and she didn’t know what to say to him. So she reverted to what she knew “Do you want a cup of tea son?” Then mum rang his big sister Annette. She didn’t give him a quick fix or a glib answer.
Annette just said God had a plan for his life and he could have a personal relationship with Jesus. Peter says that at this point it was as if the room filled with mist and he looked in corner and saw a man in a cloak. “Jesus is here” he said to his sister. There and then he surrendered to Jesus and asked for help and to be saved. Sister took him to church for the first time and he went forward to be prayed for. Peter remembers amazing grace played as he walked . His eyes were opened to Jesus, who is alive, and he knew for the first time that God loves him and has a plan for his life. He was so on fire for Jesus. When God reveals himself you can’t get enough of him. Peter cautioned though that we need to test everything as there are a lot of things out there that look like Jesus. He reflected on the fact that those who have sinned much love much.
Over time Peter got the message “I want you to go to bible college”. Peter couldn’t help thinking, this must be a mistake, “I didn’t even go to school.” He told his pastor who pointed out how much money would be needed and said he would pray about it. 6 weeks later a cheque for £8000 come through the post and Peter is off to college. He had to humble himself and ask students for help with even the most basic things. In second year a friend asked him “Have you seen the new girls that have come from Switzerland?” “I’m not interested” he said and then went to see them. He sees Sarah for the first time but the deceiver’s voice is saying “she won’t like you.” Peter believed the lie. Then he met her in the corridor and took her to cinema. He realised he was not going let this girl go. He asked he to be his girlfriend but she said no. The Lord said to Peter do not give up! God’s got a way of perfect timing, his timing not ours. Listen to the Lord and he will open great doors for you . Peter tries to forget her and then he sees Sarah sitting in park looking troubled. He plucks up the courage to ask her what is wrong and she replies “I can’t stop thinking about being asked by you to be your girlfriend.” Outside Peter appears calm. Inside he’s cheering and thanking Jesus. Peter acknowledged that it was difficult for Sarah and her parents. Yet within two years they are married. Sarah’s sister had shown her mum a magazine article about Peter and this helped them.
Peter ended up working for a drug and alcohol service . Then the Lord told him over and over to apply for probation service. Revelations says the doors I open cannot be shut. Peter thought this was a waste of time, he’d been on probation himself and they would not want him. When it came to the bit about criminal convictions he ticked the box to indicate Yes. The box for details was too small for Peter to list what he had done but the Lord said to him just put “Would like to discuss further if selected for interview”
Interview day came and he shared his background and what he was up to now with the panel. He was convinced that they would not want him but to his surprise they said he was just the man they are looking for.
In prison visiting he met a glum prisoner. When he quizzed him he found out that he’s got 12 months for non disclosure of criminal background. This seemed a bit severe until he revealed the job was at Barclays Bank. None of us are perfect. We’ve all ticked the wrong box at times. Tick the yes to Jesus box. The works could not heal me but Jesus can! Be aware that Jesus can speak back. God speaks today. Will we all make time for God to speak to us. God loves you.
Peter got promoted. Got job in crown court for probation service. A real Joseph moment from prison to palace.
Peter did 2.5 years in crown court . Best money ever then Holy Spirit said don’t get comfortable this is only temporary. Never know what God has planned. God said hand in your notice and follow me. Peter took 7 months but handed notice in and went to work with Sarah. Sarah had opened little cafe as Christian witness. This was then they had a valley time, Sarah got cancer and they faced a long battle until she was eventually declared cancer free. Throughout they decided as a couple that regardless God would reign over whatever happened. God was faithful, Sarah was cured, Peter’s book was published out of ashes and their ministry was born. Will you come when God calls?
Their calling has led them to South Korea, Cambodia, India, Australia and many other places. God opened up the world. Peter had never been out of Halifax before becoming a Christian . Out of the Ashes is now going to be a musical.
Peter asked us to reflect on being at peace with your past, content with your present and prepared for an exciting future. Cry out to god , how do you want to use me?
God has no grandchildren, no favourites.
Peter shared an experience of time he visited a women’s prison. He got a 10 page letter from someone who wasn’t at the service, but one of the other prisoners threw a copy of book into cell.
8 weeks later at a really low point she read book and said it saved her life. She was feeling suicidal.
Peter stressed the need for us to take God off the shelf. Let God walk in front of you. Life will grow in excitement, experiences and challenge. Aim at things for God. If your heart is burning for Jesus you’re in for an exciting life. He closed by saying he’d been on fire once nearly killed me, second time in church he was set alight for Jesus.
At the end of the session people asked him to expand on when his sister Annette came to Christ. Annette has been working in a butchers when a man from a small roadside church had come in asking to put up a poster about the church’s activities. She agreed and the man went to leave the shop. Then he paused, turned and told her that she would be born again in Jesus. Needless to say she thought he was two pork pies short of a picnic. Then a fortnight later she sees the man walking into his church, follows him in and gives her life to Jesus. 12 weeks later she helps Peter after he comes down from the bridge.
Peter’s mum came to Christ as well and he was finally able to have that conversation about how he got burned. Peter finally learned that his mum had gone next door to the neighbours, that she had forgotten to put the fire guard up and a hot coal set the rug on fire. He learned that Annette had tried to rescue him, couldn’t and in going to get help, leaving the house had pulled the door shut, stopping people from being able to get in to rescue him in time for him not to be injured. A burden was lifted from them all once they were able to talk about what happened.
Best summed up as Annette may have closed the door that affected his earlier life but she also threw open the door that changed his later life.