I was brought up a Catholic and attended a church every Sunday, but it all seemed total nonsense to me. Strange words muttered in a chant followed by bells and funny smelling things. I fainted on entering the church one day and was called the devil’s child by a nun of all people! The Primary school connected to the church contacted my mum and told her to take me to a doctor because they thought I was mental! As fast as I could, I developed a reason to get out of attending this church which seemed like an alien planet to me.
I started Secondary school I started to learn the cornet. I joined a brass band and loved played the hymns which seemed wholesome. A couple of years later I joined a marching band and as this met quite often and, on a Sunday as well, this was my excuse to get out of church – I never went back apart from Christmas!
I also had an unwholesome fascination with magic, witchcraft and Druidry. I suppose you could say I was just fulfilling what the church had labelled me as. The more I read and explored these subjects, the darker life seemed to be. It became a secret obsession. Strangely this too was strange words and funny smells, trying to enact various rituals just like the church I had escaped from. One remnant from my church growing up was that I felt I was such a wretched sinner that I deserved any pain or ill fortune that came my way. This guided my thoughts and actions at school and I was in fights and caned often.
A good fascination was maps and exploring caves. Caving became a way of life as I explored with my friends many caves and potholes up and down the UK. I did this sport for many years. Besides playing in bands, this was one of the most wholesome things I did, but I did develop a ‘stare death in the face’ mentality – I was reckless. After some years a series of accidents and near misses started to happen.
There were many times were my life was in danger, usually because I took risks, but it seemed at the time that I was spared by some supernatural force, not only in caves but whilst driving my car and walking in mountains. Once I nearly drowned in a bog in the Lake District only to find some strength when I saw a rainbow. I eventually decided that an angel perhaps was sparing my life. When things like this happen again and again and again then you start to think about why this is happening, like rolling a dice and constantly rolling sixes, either the dice is weighted or there is another force at play. It was like an angel was there with me. One week in the lakes, on my own in a tent surrounded by snow, I felt a presence and wrote many poems about what I was feeling. Always this presence was with nature, not nature itself but this was were the connection was greatest.
One day in “Knotlow Mine” in Derbyshire, I was exploring a section when the roof started to collapse and I felt a force holding the rood just long enough for me to crawl out to safety. Another time I nearly fell headfirst down a two-hundred-foot shaft, but my boot caught a stalagmite on the side of the wall and I was saved, held upside down.
Two really big events were “Yordas Cave” and the “Valley System” in Ingleborough, Yorkshire. “Yordas Cave” was when the riverbed was completely dry and then it started to rain, and the river filled up and flooded very quickly. I recklessly stood in the way of the river as a joke whilst my friend took a picture (I later called this my real baptism) and both myself and my friend were washed into the system and were nearly washed into a sump which would have drowned us straight away, but I managed to get my footing and pulled my friend to safety on a mud bank.
The other time was doing what cavers called a pull through trip, pulling the rope down and journeying from top to bottom of a system coming out at the bottom of the hill. As soon as we entered the system, we felt a flood pulse and from that moment we were fighting for our lives against the water. I went down one pitch which was a solid waterfall, it felt like rocks rather than water. I lost grip on the small figure of eight descender. I remember saying the twenty third psalm out loud. I fell through the air and somehow felt myself pushed to the side and I landed on a ledge, unharmed. I somehow managed to guide the rope for my friends down safely and we managed to escape with our lives. From that moment I sought to discover what had saved me and I read my bible frequently.
Years went by and It was whilst travelling for four hours a day and feeling helpless being away from home and family that eventually I was awoken by God in the middle of the night saying audibly “Pray and repent”. This I did, and it was like a hot shower of oil for a period of time on my knees followed by the world turning from black and white into colour, like I had come out of the cave and Jesus was suddenly standing there asking me to go and bring others out of the darkness to him. All these years I had never really heard who Jesus was or why He had come into the world. For some time the world seemed to be full of colour, and new. Chance meetings and all conversations all seemed to lead to God.
My years of journeying through physical caves, living in darkness led to myself being led out of a spiritual cave and freed from the darkness that had consumed my mind for many years. The grip of my childhood fascinations was destroyed forever, and I had accepted Jesus as Lord and saviour.
Since that moment I have had a change of life, a change of thought. Things I used to do I now see as sinful and are not part of my new self as I seek to learn and journey with my saviour telling as many that will listen about how they can be saved. Ravi was a wonderful teacher, learning only through online videos but many times those words seemed directed for me personally and he dragged me out of many a pit that would have led back into the darkness and hopefully one day I shall thank him in person in heaven.
A short documentary was kindly made by the bible society and that sums up the story in a more concise way.