THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
I began to think very seriously of leaving the Pentecostal faith, but that was not an easy decision to make. Through God’s grace over the years I had come to accept the position of the Reformed faith. I could not deny the Sovereign Grace of God in my life and salvation. I was a beneficiary of his providences directing and controlling my life. Yet, it was a wrench to leave the place where I had advanced in the rudiments of the Gospel, and known the fellowship of such godly men, for whom I was always to retain a deep and warm affection in Christ. They had enriched my life and had encouraged me through many difficult times. So, it was only after much agonising and prayer, that I told the brethren of my intention to speak to Geoffrey Thomas the pastor of the English Baptist church of my intention to attend his services. I wanted this to be done seriously, and not bring disrepute upon the name of the Lord. It was with a very heavy heart that we left the Pentecostal church, and it was not easy. Some thought that we were making a great mistake. But I will always be thankful for those places where the love of Jesus Christ is made known.
When I first met Pastor Geoff Thomas in the study of his manse, I was impressed by the size of his library. The study walls were filled with such works of theology, commentators, and biographies of great men. It brought back the memory of a visit I had made to a grand home when I was a boy, and I felt that I would have loved to spend my summer holidays browsing through those volumes. Some of the works on Geoff’s shelves I recognised as I had borrowed them from other men, books by J Owen, R Baxter, C H Spurgeon, G Whitefield etc. I was a bit awed of him at first because he was tall and like my old schoolmaster with a bearing of authority. He had graduated from Cardiff University, and then spent three years at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.
But Geoff put me at ease at once with my faltering and stammering tongue, as I began to explain the situation and a close and growing friendship began which was to last for thirty years. Phyllis and I were in time, not only welcomed but I became a deacon and was set aside to be a pastor to the deaf. I will always grateful to the grace of God for leading me to such a faithful and Godly pastor who helped to shape my Christian life, lending and giving me many books, and teaching me from the Word of God. A. Tennyson said – ‘Words like nature half reveals, and half conceals the truth’. It is with all sincerity that I say, that only eternity will reveal how much that I have owed to him in my life and ministry, as a Pastor, loving mentor and faithful friend.
So it was with mixed feelings that we attended as a family the next Sunday morning service at Alfred Place church. I was a little apprehensive at Phyllis taking Linda who was nine years old to a strange church, but she had resolved that Linda needed to be taken, and trained. Initially my fears increased with my first impressions when we took a pew, because everything seemed to be in Apple-pie order, and the people appeared so solemn, as they slid into to their pews, in comparison to the warm and bustling Pentecostal church we had left. The church was nearly full, and I knew that a number of them were teachers, who had either qualified at the university, or were still studying. I was conscious of my limitations as I nervously looked around and received a few welcome smiles. But it took me back to me boyhood where the officers would sit facing us in the ‘big seat’, and might frown if we coughed loudly or fidgeted.
The Pastor mirrored an authority when he entered the pulpit and began to lead us in prayer. Then the first hymn was one that I had not ‘heard’ since I was a boy, and that seemed to joint me with the congregation, even though I could not ‘hear’ a single sound. I felt as if the whole house was filled with the power and presence of God, and began to understand in part, the reason why it is a solemn, but glorious privilege to come before the almighty God to worship, as Jacob found-“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it- How awful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven”.
When children stood up to say the Bible verses as I had done so as a child, our son looked nervously at me, but I shook my head to assure him. Then Geoff began to expound a chapter in Genesis, which I thought at first that he was unduly long, but I think that response had more to do with myself, because I had never had to sit before anyone before, who expounded the scriptures in depth and length. Also, I found it very difficult in having to struggle to lip-read for such a long time. Later, Phyl resolved that she would write some notes if it were possible, while looking after Linda.
I had never come under such expository teaching or preaching in my whole life, for I had come to realise during the past year, the truth of the necessity of study. That while I may have learned the scriptures at heart, my wisdom and preference for certain texts that I might feel easy with, was of no use whatever. I might have aroused some passions in others when I had spoken. But, I believe now, that it had more to do with others seeing me getting up and saying a word, and coping with my handicap. I also realised that that although God in his sovereignty had used me in the life of Betty, that I had never preached the gospel in the true sense of the word, because I had never done any serious study, nor prayed over what I was going to say. So what cost me nothing, would not bring honour to Christ.
I thought of the words of Richard Baxter who said, “Certainly brethren, experience will teach you, that men are not made learned or wise without hard study, and unwearied labour and experience. If we were duly devoted to our work, it would be done more vigorously, and more seriously, than it is by most of us. How few ministers preach with all their might- Oh, brethren, how plainly, how closely, how earnestly, should we deliver a message of such importance as ours, when the everlasting life or everlasting death of our fellow men is involved in it! In the name of God, brethren labour to awaken your own hearts, before you go into the pulpit, that you may be fit to awaken the hearts of men.” The Reformed Pastor, Ch.3 ‘Application’ 2,1, ‘By Negligent studies’.
During the following weeks, some of the women who knew Phyl came over to talk, while my son mixed with friends he knew. Yet I found myself isolated, and accepted that I had another hurdle to surmount, because I began to feel myself sticking out like a sore thumb. I believe that most of the men held back, because they were unsure as what to do or say, or that there might be something more than my communication, and it made me rather depressed. Again, when someone took the courage to approach me, my pronunciations made me sound like an idiot – ‘a tale told by an Idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing ‘ I had to teach myself to speak after the war, and I had difficulty to pronounce my H’s, and my speech becomes gabbled when I am nervous, and then people begin to respond as if I was a child. My initial nervousness did nothing to help, because I was still finding it very difficult to carry on a conversation. I had nothing in common with university graduates and professional people on an intellectual level. It took a lot of grace to hang on, and I often wanted to rush out when I was misunderstood, or isolated. But the Lord’s grace was teaching me further patience in my embarrassment, and stripping any defences I still possessed.
I was aware that it behoves us to try and remove splinters, for the Lord had been making it plain to me that I needed to watch out for the plank. But it was very disappointing because it had happened many times. I had to speak to others, and also attempt to lip-read what they were saying, but what was so plain to them was sometimes a mystery to me. When I attempted to reply, what was completely plain in my own head, was often incomprehensible to them, then if I spoke too fast, too loud, that they began to get embarrassed and to look over my shoulder for a way out. When I was attending the Prayer meeting at times alone, to sit through the whole session without anyone reaching out to help, even when I leaned over to ask the hymns or the Bible reading. Another area of frustration was, when I had began a conversation with a person on some topic, then another person would join us, then another until I was either left out of the discussion or ignored. Come on, I thought to myself, this is not fair, it was my argument anyway. When I asked them to explain to me, only to be told, ‘Oh Bud, it is too long to go back over it’, and so I had to make weak excuses to leave. I had to accept that the grace of patience was doing a great work, because there was still were still some rough edges that needed grinding down.
Yet, I can say this, I was not alone, for I was beginning to find in the midst of all my traumas, a very distinct occasional awareness of the stability that resides in the Godhead. They were unflurried, and that did not mean unconcerned. Also I found comfort in God’s gentle dealings with me, so, forgetting the things behind, I endeavoured and under God’s grace, to continue to walk the narrow path.
Then one week-end I went to Bedminster Baptist church in Bristol to support the work among the deaf, but on my return to Aberystwyth on the Sunday night to find out that there was no job waiting for me. This was hard providence. So we prayerfully turned to the wisdom of God and cast ourselves upon him. Soon I was offered a place in a college in Surrey, but I became concerned at first, that I would be away from my family for long periods, and because I could not use the phone it would have been a particular lonely time. Also, it would mean that Phyllis would have to bear the burden of caring for Linda single handed, as well as a young son and the practical tasks around the home. After much prayer we felt that I should accept the opening, and it was while I was in Surrey I took further Pastoral Studies and Old Testament History under a Reformed Minister in Guildford, who seemed to enjoy teaching me in my spare time. I also attended a few reformed churches at weekends in Surrey and Sussex, and went up to London to worship with deaf Christians in the Old London City Mission hall in Bermondsey. It was there one Sunday that the late Dr M.Lloyd-Jones took the Anniversary Services. For although he had recently been ill this great and humble man kept his promise to preach in the two Services. He was delighted when I spoke to him afterwards that I was from Aberystwyth, but more so when I introduced Betty to him and found that her family was from Llangeitho He encouraged me to continue to believe that the pastoral ministry among the deaf would seem to be the prime place under God to which I was most suited.
On returning home from College, I found that there was no social or spiritual outlet for ‘Hearing Impaired’ people within the vicinity, an advert was placed in the local paper to invite all who would wish to meet. Approximately about a hundred turned up, a mixture of Hearing Impaired and the ‘Hearing’ (non deaf), and members of their family, or their friends, and so a society was formed. In this way I began to get to know the deaf, visiting them in their homes and hospitals, sharing their problems, and helping some of the men to find work, or becoming an advocate with their employers for better conditions or pay. Within a short time I learned of the way that their culture had evolved, and their responses to the English Vocabulary.
I was also humbled seeing the fortitude of two women, and although separated by their ages, shamed me by their determination to overcome their Deaf- Blind handicap. One was a young mother, whose husband was totally deaf and mute. They had two lovely children, who like her home, were a credit to them. I was taken aback at the attractiveness and order of the home, that would put many to shame, and at first I suspected that a home help came in each day, only to be told that she did everything herself and by touch! When she attended the services later, she had to remain silent throughout until I shared with her personally on her hands with the deaf-blind alphabet.
The other Deaf-blind lady was in her eighties, and lived in a sheltered home, when the Social Services asked for my help. I found that she had been an unmarried mother, had her baby taken away and she was put in the workhouse at eighteen. At that time she possessed some sight but this was to steadily deteriorate so that by her sixties she was only able to see shadows. And to enable her to see my face when I visited her weekly, I had to place my face approximately five inches away from hers. She did not know the deaf blind language, so everything had to be written down on her hands, or some signals I made . She was bilingual in her language, and still had her voice, and I would occasionally ask her to sing a Welsh hymn. That would give me some respite after being so close to her face for over an hour. She had very quaint ideas of what it meant to be a Christian, firmly believing that she would go to heaven because of what she had been through, and because of her handicap. There were many long, long discussions over this, and being fiercely independent, but she made sure that I took her to every service.
A few close friends were not happy in the time that I spent in social interaction, arguing that Christians should stay out of Social issues as much as possible. But I believed that as there was no Social worker for the deaf, I had to take up the challenge. Apart from my care these people, who had been deprived of the Gospel of grace for so long, needed to know the God of all Comfort and the love of Christ. So, I took steps to start Sunday services, and arranged to hold meetings in the Social Services centre in Aberaeron on Sunday afternoons with a break for sandwiches and tea.
The first meeting was to be an introduction, and to my delightful surprise over fifty people attended, a good percentage of them deaf. After asking some questions to assess their grasp of Christianity, all my plans for teaching them biblical knowledge went out through the door. The main problem was that I had hoped to preach on the basics of the Christian faith, but none of them had any comprehension of biblical theology, or any of its terminology. Coupled with this I was confronted with the complexity of the British Sign Language (BSL is not a written language) which has little grammar or syntax. Absolutes were particularly hard for them to understand. Also, many of the well-known hymns in English are couched in thought which was incomprehensible to non-Christians. It was to them as if I was teaching Greek! Again, the BSL did not have relevant signs for much of the biblical language, while prayer to them had only been offered up by priests. They had been unable to take part in worship, and while a few knew the name of Jesus through Christmas and school stories, none of them had any comprehension of a personal Saviour, or the hope of eternal life.
Throwing myself on the mercy of the Lord for wisdom, I made a blackboard and over the following months taught them the Bible, Christian doctrine and many Christian hymns, which I encouraged them to sign, joining with the ‘hearing ‘ folk. On other occasions I drove them in the Mini-Bus to Deaf Christian meetings, Christian communication weekends, and conferences in England and Wales that would help them to familiarise themselves with Christian teaching, and to have fellowship with other deaf folk. It was after three years, that through the grace of God that I began my first series of evangelistic teaching from Ecclesiastes, and also from the Psalms, the Gospels of Mark and John.
After some years, the goodness of the Lord opened another door, when I began to get invitations from main-stream churches in England Wales to preach on Sunday mornings and evenings, while the deaf community in their areas were invited to an afternoon service, in the hope that they would join the church. It was then that congregation of Alfred Place Baptist Church held a meeting to set me apart as a Pastor to the Deaf that has resulted in twenty three years in Aberaeron, until the present day.
I have many memories of that time, for example, one Sunday I had been preaching on the text, ” It is appointed unto man once to die, then the judgement” Hebrews 9:27. In the service was a young girl who had been married nine months. She had come to Christ and baptised a few years previously. Then, on her return home to Lampeter and to find that her husband had been killed with his friend that afternoon, when a car ran out of control and smashed into them. The subsequent sorrow of identifying of the body, and the funeral, -which was my first-, will always be etched on my memory. I felt so incompetent and clumsy, seeking to comfort her in her sad loss. But the sudden death had a striking effect on those who had been present on that Sunday service when I preached on that text.
I had met an old deaf man- Dai Evans from Llangybi- on one my visits to the hospital and this resulted in a long friendship. He faithfully attended, and was in the forefront of any work. I found out that his gentle and caring influence in his village was a byword. He had lost his wife a few years before, and looked after himself because his sister and brother lived in other parts of Wales. One Sunday when I was in Lincoln preaching, he was taken to the hospital with a heart attack. I drove back as quickly as I could, but found him comfortable, and waiting to go home. Then two hours later I had a call that he had a relapse and was asking for me. He appeared a little distressed as he asked for his family, so I took him in my arms to assure him, and shortly he passed away peacefully still clinging to me. I had lost a good friend, but was content in the knowledge that I was there with him at his loneliest and most difficult time. I was able to show the love of Christ to him. The funeral was in the Welsh church, which could not contain the people, and the service which I took, was used of God to convict another man who was not deaf.
One day I met a young lady had been trained as a teacher who was then working in the social service office, when she learned of the deaf ministry. She asked me if she could attend the Sunday Services because she was under the impression that it was the Deaf community organising it. She was already a Sunday school teacher in her church but did not have a saving faith. A few months later when I was preaching on a series of Mark’s gospel she came to faith in Christ as she became convicted of her sin. She eventually left for Deeside, after accepting the work as a field officer for the deaf. She publicly professed faith in Christ as her Lord and Saviour and was and was baptised by Pastor Peter Milsom. I can only look back in amazement at times, at the abundant mercy and patience of God, in saving me from so much sin and guilt. Also I feel that I was not qualified to speak on handicaps or disabilities, but I have done what I could working for the Saviour.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
By 1973, Phyl had become fully involved in the work of MENCAP being vice- chair of the local branch. Their efforts resulted in the establishing of a day school for special needs in Bronaeron (Lampeter). Phyllis was the Volunteer Escort on the Mini-bus taking the children to school. So she no longer cared for Linda during the day, she was free each morning at 7 00. am to collect the young handicap people and take them to school by 9.00 am. This was repeated in the afternoon at 4.00 pm and Phyllis arrived home at six with the last child, our daughter Linda, who had been the first child on the mini-bus.
There was lobbying for the building of the Day Centre and the invitation to the post as its supervisor, but she refused the offer. The reason for this was that for many years she had prayed for Christians to come into the work of the Mentally Handicapped. That the best step would be for Linda to be sent to a Home/ hostel run by Christians and on Christians principles. Phyllis increasingly longed to do something for this group of people who were often side-stepped by society and inadequately provided for by the state.
Through God’s providence that longing became shaped by the foundation of a charity which was called- ‘ACORN’ – A Cause for Concern who were determined to do something to help, even if it could not solve the whole problem. The almost total lack of Christian involvement in this field at that time gave an edge to the burden, knowing that other Christian families with the pressure of this problem made it deeply important that something must be done. A pastor in Carshalton Beeches David Potter, himself a father of a Down Syndrome daughter, admitted that there were many obstacles, but who also believed in the goodness and power of an almighty God to provide. He wrote an article in the Evangelical Times in 1973 which resulted in widespread interest. More letters were written to him than any other article. Phyllis was one of those who corresponded to David Potter and he came to Aberystwyth to outline the vision that he had been given by the Lord to provide Christian Homes for the mentally handicapped. By the time we made our second contact, it seemed a logical step for both of us towards working in a Christian environment.
In 1974 David outlined his intentions to his church of setting up this work for the Lord. He had been praying for their full support, but some were unhappy with a gospel preacher leaving a pulpit ministry for this kind of work. He invited myself and Phyl to speak to meetings in Carshalton and Thorton Heath of the need and legitimacy, and to speak of my experiences among the deaf community. The following year David was given a home in Llandrindod Wells, and we went with him to review the property. But, two things were apparent, one was that there were no visible church support, and the location made it unsuitable. So David wrote to Geoff Thomas the Minister in Aberystwyth asking whether the church would be able to support it, his reply was headed:-‘your letter comes as a bolt from the blue, and the implications of it will have to be considered�’Then after Phyl spoke in the prayer meeting the members of the church were given an enthusiasm for this home in Aberystwyth. There was also some misunderstanding, but we talked and prayed about it with David Potter and it felt right to go under God’s leading.
Eventually in 1975 a home called ‘Plas Lluest’ was found which perfectly suited our needs. It was a large Mansion, with six acres of land, gardens and a large field. There was opposition from the surrounding community with natural fears that a mental home was being established near their homes. A meeting was arranged to which Phyllis took Linda to meet our new neighbours, which helped to win over the objections to the change of Plas Lluest
There were the years of refurbishing and the invitation by David to Phyl and myself to be the House parents. Yet, while Phyl accepted the role as head of Care at the outset, I had only meant to support her. I needed some time and much prayer because of my ministry among the deaf. I finally accepted it to be the will of God that he would give me the necessary grace to combine the two for a while. It was not straightforward for me, because of my doubts whether a sensory handicapped person has the ability to do this work. There were similar reservations among the committee when I was interviewed.
I was deeply disappointed, for while there may be some who may not have the mobility to carry out such practical and strenuous duties, they should be dealt with some understanding, My past experiences had proved it otherwise. It was the weight of David Potter’s opinion that carried the matter. He was unhappy with the antithesis which is made between spiritual and practical skills. I will always be thankful for those people, who seek to instil confidence in a handicapped person, and their ability to perform a task, or take some risk in responsibility.
After many delays, it was in 1977 that the charity took possession of the Plas Lluest and began the subsequent refurbishing of the home through faith to accommodate sixteen adults. There were many delays, so that we wondered would we ever be ready to open the home. Yet within two years it was paid for without having a mortgage or loan, and all the bills were paid. The most common question that we were asked, ‘Where does the money come from?’ And the most common answer was something like this:-‘You may not believe this, but it comes in answer to prayer’. I can remember sitting down with workmen in their lunch hour, at the request of their employer, Mr Lewis Griffiths, to give testimony of this, because there was less than a smile when he was told the situation. Yet he acknowledged that he was always paid on time according to his contract. This was actually and literally true that everything came from God through prayer. It came through people, individuals and groups, churches all over the country, it came unsolicited, without any fundraising or begging- bowl or letters. God had committed himself to stir and answer the prayers of those who believe in him.
Plas Lluest should have been completed by April 1979, but further delays meant that we decided to move in as a family with our furniture in November 1979. Sawdust was still on the floors, the top section of the home and kitchen half completed, while the rooms which we occupied had no carpet, curtains nor furniture, nor central heating. But that did not affect us much as family because the walls of the home were very thick. It was our intention to be there to supervise these things, and motivate the sub-contractors to complete a job before starting another. Through God’s provision and grace, furniture was given to us, and in May 1980, Plas Lluest was ready to receive the second resident, Linda being the first.
It was an awesome responsibility to us both as we prayed for the beginning of the work on that first morning. We were conscious of our weaknesses, but also assured of the God of all Grace to provide the wisdom and strength, in the way that he has done throughout the ages. I marvelled then at the wisdom and providence of God who had inspired me to study social sciences in the early 70’s after studying the journals from the Christian Counselling and Education Foundation (USA). The residents coming to Plas Lluest would need to be integrated into a Christian Home where they would find the love, compassion care and acceptance. We mapped out our aims, goals and rotas. Our first responsibility as houseparents before God was to ensure that the grace of God would be manifested in their young lives. Any real impact would only come if the residents were treated with dignity as people created in the image of God deserving our love and care. Whatever may be our physical or mental handicap, the quality of our lives is precious because it is a divine gift from God. The life he has given us has to be lived in fellowship with God and each other.
Another thing we had to consider at that time, that while some of the young people would come from Christian families, while others would come from various backgrounds. We were not often given the history of their past, nor psychological or anti-social problems. We were not given the medical histories, nor the past histories of those who had been deeply scarred. So in our assessment we had to start from the beginning, from basic biblical foundations with an understanding and gentleness, giving each person a three month interim period, before accepting them into the home.
In May 1980 that we stood outside the imposing front door to received the second resident, a young girl with Down Syndrome, who was accompanied by her parents from Newport. Although we had met her previously we knew that it would be a painful experience for her to part from her Christian parents, but it would offer her the liberty where through the grace of God, she would make a new future for herself in Lluest. She had a high I. Q. and a good grasp of the Scriptures which helped her to settle in. Some of the others who arrived later did not come from Christian homes, and even carried some past tragedy with them. Yet we believed that even with their handicap and personality disorders it was possible for them to be changed, and to find their potential in Jesus Christ on the same foundation that we ourselves had laid.
We began the day with morning prayers, and after reading and commenting on a passage of Scripture, we praised God for every mercy that had brought us together. Then we placed our daily requests before him. This would be our pattern for the future for those would come to live in Lluest. Much of their Christian instruction would be done through the Scriptural readings in the mornings, the memorisation of the Bible, through instruction and counselling done on a personal level. This reinforced the importance of practical challenge and action with an encouragement to devotion that would help them by God’s grace to become a part of God’s people. We were greatly encouraged by the many visits of the Director of Social Services, who approved of the Christian standards set by the Home.
In the Autumn, a staff member left, and with the intention of accepting a young man with behaviour problems a Christian Nurse who had worked with Special Needs adults in Bristol, and two Christian Careforce adults were added to the staff. We were residential at that time, living in a flat that divided the male and female quarters, and the extra staff would give some stability, and also allowed Phyllis to be separated from Linda. I was then persuaded, because of the need for a resident housefather, to come on the staff. The two Careforce volunteer staff were both graduates taking a year out before deciding on their future, and they brought their diverse gifts and skills that proved beneficial to the work. But, they also showed alongside the new nurse, a love, commitment and dedication and we gelled together as Christian family. We strove through God’s grace, to show the compassion and acceptance to those young mentally handicapped young adults. We were convinced that the worth of a person is not found in our ability to perform, but that we are all valued since we were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). It is this which gives the physically or mentally disadvantaged their intrinsic dignity and worth, regardless of handicap, race, colour, sex, age, or social standing, This is what makes each person worthy of being shown the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ.
THE FIRST RESIDENTS
Another two young adults were taken in for the interim period. One of them was a young man who had created fire raising tendencies in his last ‘home’, and although he was not from a Christian family, we saw the need. His parents wanted him to grow up in a Christian environment. At once the new additions began to cause rivalry and some anti-social behaviour. For example, two of the young people had been the centre of attention within their families, and had never learned to share. Another would not mix with anyone. We needed wisdom, because it was not easy to get a dozen men and women to live in a home together .
From our limited resources, there was the need for occupation therapy within care. We established ground rules, and to make them aware, which was even more important. We sought to use the Scripture as our guide and to encourage more positive sides of their behaviour.
Then David Potter wrote to me saying. “Bud, I have a young mentally handicapped and deaf adult here in Reading, who has been neglected by his family and moved from place to place, I think that you can help him”! And so he arrived with a social worker for an assessment for three days, and the first sight of him tore my heart apart. I had to take a firm hold on my emotions to prevent me from breaking down. He looked so thin when he stood before me with a hangdog look, appearing too frightened even to look up to me. He was clutching a small leather case, and the clothes he wore were too threadbare to give to Charity. They looked far too small on his thin frame, and the multi-coloured waistcoat (which was his prized possession) was too tight, and had seen better days. His small case was found to contain a tooth brush, a small grey stained towel and a illustrated paper comic, and a packet of cigarettes.
Again we had no history of his background, and I was told by the social worker that ‘he had improved’. Improved from what? I found that he could not read nor write, and when I asked the social worker to communicate with the young man, I found that the young man had only a basic knowledge of some ‘concrete’ signs, i.e. Toilet, Tea, Cold -etc. It was a great challenge to us, because although there would be many difficulties in the fact that I was the only person who could communicate with him, that it could be overcome through teaching the staff some basic commands. I could see that he was terrified by the thought of another move, to be upended from the sense of the security and stability that he had achieved in the past nine months, with the thought of a new place and new problems.
The picture of the young man then brought home what God had done for me. By the grace of God he too could find self respect and acceptance in the same way, that I had found it, through faith in Jesus Christ, when I had been going through the lowest time in my life. I could relate to him in several ways.
It was frustrating process because I found that he also had an inbred fear of authority and Police. He made a tantrum at the slightest opportunity. There was the time when I had to be called by two members of the staff who found him wrecking his room. Then he began to pummel my body with his fists. Yet, I knew that it was an outlet of his anger and frustration in being unable to communicate his needs. We had to teach him to trust us.
Needless to say, he literally remained by my side for five years as by the grace of God I taught him to communicate to a level of acceptance with others. It was then that he was able to talk to me about his painful past and experiences. He had been educationally deprived of learning to communicate. The death of his paternal grandfather in the West Indies, and his arrival as a teenager to a cold and strange land, then the rejections and frustrations of being moved around with no stability, and not being able to comprehend. We spoke of his hopes and fears, and he began to grow in confidence and body as he accompanied me to the gym. He now resides in a sheltered housing within the grounds, with an independence to purchase and choose his own clothes, his friends and regularly attends a place of worship.
Another young man arrived who was assessed as ‘borderline’. He had been removed from his home for his own protection as a young child, from a family where both his parents were borderline and abuse was commonplace. Over the years he had been passed on from children’s home to another. He had suffered appalling abuse, pain and cruelty from others. This developed into learned behaviour patterns for himself. A Christian social worker felt that he needed a strong father figure, but with our young men was it worth the risk? Yes he was worth the risk. At first he had a very low opinion of himself, and said that he would fail in everything that he attempted. In the morning prayers it was the practice to give certain Bible texts to residents to memorise, then to apply to themselves. I took him to the workshop to carve a shield, with his text on it “Through God we shall do valiantly” and he hung it over his bed. During the evenings he was introduced to counselling. Then just before Christmas time, when some of the residents were going home, his mother came to visit him and dropped 50 pence in his hand. We had seen some positive changes in him, and then witness him nose-dive in despair. Taking him in another room, I held him while he exhausted himself sobbing his heart out, then he turned to me and said, ‘Bud, it can’t be true, that I can be loved, because I am not even wanted by my own mother, so how can I have a future, and where is God’?
With the grace given to me by God, I began to tell him that I felt like that once, but came to find that we do matter to God. I had come to know Jesus Christ who through his grace he had stood by me and had helped me through my time of resentment and anger. God is in the same place, loving and caring for us, as he was at the time his own son cried out that he was forsaken on the cross, for God’s love triumphed over evil to give us his life. I had tasted the depths and bitterness of despair, yet God’s grace had much more abounded, because through my struggles and darkness to understand, I came to find a greater God, a more powerful, faithful and compassionate Saviour than I ever knew existed, and on this truth I cast my hope. Thanks must be given to a gracious God, because in the following years, he was the fourth person to come to faith in Christ, before he went to live with a Christian family in South Wales.
A REAL CHALLENGE
Another young adult came to Lluest, and his continual bouts of aggression and destruction when he could not get his own way, made it very difficult for the staff to help him. His anti-social behaviour occurred at the slightest provocation, such as a change in the rota, or being told that a staff member could not be available, or the moving of a chair. Then at the first sign of aggression someone would humour him, or tell him some joke. But from experience I found that the young man should be treated with dignity and respect, and staff should endeavour to tell him the truth, not deal with him as a spoilt child. I began to draw up cognitive management plans to enable the staff to help him in unison, and it was with God’s grace and wisdom he began to change.
It was not until he had a major blow-out, that I began to find out some of his fears of change. All the residents had been attending Alfred Place Baptist church with the staff. Then in the porch after a service he appeared to speak to a young female student, and tried to touch her hair (which always fascinated him), but she began to move away, and he was gently told by the staff to come away. But he got worked up and ran down the steps and began kicking the doors of cars. When he could not be restrained by some members of the staff and church members, I was sent for and told that he had ran into town, and found him with police officers, who had detained him when he was about to caused serious injury to himself by a shop window. Unknown to myself, the police had been informed, and a plain clothes officer known to myself, and WPC were holding him down as I came on the scene. They wanted to know if he needed sedation by a Doctor to control him, but I spoke to him then asked them to release him, apologising and explaining the situation, explaining that if it was left to me I could get him to settle down, and that we would make contact with the owner of the car.
He caused me no problem as I drove back but was greatly distressed. I was a little puzzled at what he was repeating, ” I am very sorry Bud, but why do they all move away?” During the day and night I stayed writing in the staff room near to his room. Then at intervals until the early hours of the morning he kept putting his head around the door, until finally at 4.30 am, he came in with tears running down his face (something we had not witnessed before) and sat beside me and said, “Bud, I am really sorry, I cannot sleep, but why did Jesus take my mother away?”
First, I was astonished that he used the name of Jesus other than cursing, because he would listen to anything about God, but got agitated when he heard the name of Jesus. Why did he say that” Jesus took her away?” We were aware that his mother had been killed in a riding accident, and that his father had married again and moved away, to shield him from the memory. So I asked him what he meant by saying that Jesus took his mother away. It appears that when his Mam died he was simply told without any explanation, that she had gone to be with Jesus, and “now my father is moving again, what is wrong?” Then I realised that he had been told on the phone two days before the blow-up that his father was moving away again up North because of his work. This had triggered some fears that something had happened to make his father move.
This had to be dealt with the greatest sensitivity, and for four hours, I began to explain to him clearly, what should have been done at the outset, what it meant to be with Jesus which is far better, and the hope to meet again. While this young man has never made a profession of faith, he has continued to attend a place of worship, and he is more at peace with himself and the name of Jesus.
There might be those who may argue whether these young people should have been prevented from attending places or situations that might aggravate their sorrow. But it was our priority as a Christian charity, that staff and residents as we worked together to be one in Jesus Christ. And like our daughter, these young people had been encouraged, not pressurised to attend a place of worship. While we were grouped together in the beginning because of the shortage of escorts, they may have embarrassed one or two at first with their restlessness. Yet, eventually they came to respond to discipline and to sit quietly in their seats, and even to attend churches of their own choosing. Their unexpected interruptions, discordant singing, and ‘amens’ are accepted by the congregation. It would surprise some people if they should pay a visit to a weekly prayer meeting, to find one or two of these young people not only attending, but praying with all simplicity of heart alongside the teachers, professors, and those of us who made up the service.
We also aimed to create strong relationships and independency, that would influence these young people in certain directions, and to make meaningful choices. Many had been denied the pleasures and activities that we take for granted, simply because they were classed as having a ‘special- need’. Or, as one mother put it, ” I have always been afraid to take the risk”. But, in all obedience to faith there is always the risk factor.
Once, when I was offered the loan of a cottage of Mari Jones a friend of the late Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the hills of Llanymawddwy, a Christian student accompanied me, and I took five of these young men for a week. Two of them were loners, and often their selfishness and impulsiveness led to aggression. That week the student led the morning devotions on the Christian Soldier (Eph 6), while he played the organ for the worship and prayers. Then we walked and climbed, when during the time they had the run of the home. They had to cater for themselves, it helped to solve some mutual problems. It also served to break down barriers, and built up a strong friendship, while the two strongest took responsibility without prompting, to ensure that one of the slowest was not left behind. These young men had many of their needs met during time in Llanymawddwy.