Archive for May, 2010

“I Have a Friend!” The Testimony of George Cooper

May 22, 2010

The Testimony of George Cooper, Late, of Balbriggan, County Dublin. Born Monday 23rd May, 1910 – Died Monday 9th November, 2009 in his 100th year 

On this, the eve of what would have been my old friend’s 100th birthday, I remember his testimony which he related to me some years ago. I had the privilege of giving the following out in tract form on the day of George’s funeral and later to his neighbours in Balbriggan…

One day many years ago a barefoot little boy in Dublin city was sent down Townsend Street for groceries. Turning a corner, he suddenly stopped in his tracks, terrified at the sight of a line of policemen before him.  In his own words he says: “I turned and ran as fast as I could home.” The year was 1916. Later he can recall his father pushing a mattress against a bedroom window, in case of stray bullets. Such were just some of George Cooper’s many early fascinating memories, during those turbulent and defining moments in our Irish history.

In the late 1980’s my husband and I were living in Balbriggan, in that area of north County Dublin known as “Fingal.” Balbriggan, then a little harbour town has mushroomed in population in recent years, as people migrate further from the city for affordable housing. This is where we bought our very first home, and this is where, too, my own memories of George begin.

One fine day I went from door to door giving out free copies of a Christian magazine, “Lifeline.” As I walked pushing my first baby daughter in the pram, I felt very much a stranger, an outsider in this small town. Then something caught my eye… “Mizpah.” ‘A strange name for a house,’ I thought. ‘Could it be that a Christian lives here?’ I walked up the little garden path between well kept gardens, rang the doorbell – and an elderly man opened the door. Somehow there was a twinkle in George’s eyes that lifted my spirits on that day! His wife also came out to greet me, and I can recall her lovely kind face and hospitality, but I could see that she looked so unwell. Sadly I was never to see her again, for she died with cancer a short time later. Somehow, though, that day shall always stand out in my mind, for in this town of very few believers, I felt as though I had discovered a ‘well in a desert.’

Some time after that brief encounter and after his wife passed away, George appeared at our Christian fellowship one Sunday morning. Although devastated and lonely after the death of his wife, George maintained that ‘he had a Friend!’ Throughout all those years George’s faith never waned through personal illness and all the ups and downs of life. One dark November evening, I called to see my old friend (then in his 97th year) and George told me the story of how he found this “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18v24) 

There are not so many people living in Ireland today who can remember when it was part of the British Empire – but George could! Born in Buckingham Place, (not Palace!) in Dublin on 23rd May 1910, he had vivid memories of the G.P.O. in flames after the 1916 rising, and of the narrow escapes sustained by him and his family in those dangerous days. Prior to this George can recall singing: “We are little Britons…” in National School! It was seven years after the ‘Easter Rising,’ in the year 1923, that George at the tender age of thirteen made a decision which would ensure that his future years of life would be fruitful and healthy ones.

On the evening in question he was attending the Tuesday ‘boys and girls night’ in the Merrion Hall, Dublin. That night Hudson Pope (the renowned preacher and hymn-writer) spoke on the text:  “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) Little George, overcome with conviction, sought the Saviour and came forward in that meeting, and so began his long and faithful walk with the Lord. Although a thirteen-year old has had little opportunity to commit major sins, especially in that era, George had reached that age of understanding where he realised that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3v23) and therefore all need a Saviour. “I clearly remember after the meeting,” he said, “finding a few pence in my pocket. I bought my mother an apple with it on the way home.” George believed that this small gesture in itself spoke to his mother and showed her that some wonderful change had been wrought in her young son’s life.

At a very young age George started work, only retiring at the age of seventy-two! Spiritually, there were to be many testing times over the years. As a young apprentice in the printing trade, George was asked by a foreman to go across the road and ‘put bets on for him.’ He obeyed his boss just once, but after George’s witness to him on such matters, the foreman never ever asked George again! Clearly “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5v29) George worked his way up from being a ‘reader’s boy’ to the post of supervisor in Smurfits, a well known firm in Dublin. Throughout all the changing scenes of time, including those lean times of the Second World War, George’s Friend was always there for him, to protect, guide and comfort. He, his wife, their daughter and two sons regularly attended all the Sunday services in Dublin’s Merrion Hall. In those days Christians always carried Bibles to church, and in later years George’s Bible remained closer to his side than ever, as he sat in his little living room surrounded by family photographs and happy memories.

Until recently, although confined mostly to his own home, he was still very independent. As well as his own personal Bible study, he wrote letters of encouragement, ensured that copies of the “Daily Bread” were distributed in Mountjoy Prison, gave financial support to many worthy causes and last (but not least) he told those with whom he had daily contact, of the Source of his strength and the love of his Saviour who was his “Guide, even unto death” (Psalm 48v14)

Sometimes in my busy daily life, when I got a chance to ‘stop the world and get off for a while,’ I would call with George. As I sat in that little living room, talking to him while some quiet classical music or hymns played in the background, I felt that I had left the loud fast world of the 21st century, and gone back in time to a more elegant, relaxed era. Then, in those later days, surrounded by the memorabilia of more than a century, he sat smiling at me with the same lovely twinkle in his eyes that I remembered when I first met him nearly twenty years ago. Although frail in recent years, and suffering from diabetes, there was a joy in his face which came from walking with the Saviour for well over eighty years. “You know,” he told me, as I was about to leave one day, “I spoke to someone recently, and I believe that she has trusted the Lord.”

“How wonderful!” I exclaimed, and I thought… ‘George Cooper, still reaching souls in his little ‘vineyard’ as he approaches the century mark!’ His body, frail on that day, and his hand shaking, he smiled as he pointed upwards to where Jesus, his Friend throughout his long life’s journey, was preparing a place for him.

Dear friends and loved ones who mourn his loss, George loved these verses from the Bible…

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (1Thess. 4v13&14)

 “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12v40)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3v16&17)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2v8&9). 

George also loved (and often quoted) this verse, because it spoke to his young heart all those years ago… “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37)

To all who read:  George’s faithful Friend throughout his long life wants to be your friend today… and forever! “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10v13)

 My prayer is that you will repent and put your trust in George’s never-failing, lifelong Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and died that each one of us might go to Heaven. May the Lord bless you and guide you, as you ponder these things.

May Ladies Meeting in the Failte Centre Balbriggan – Re. Child Evangelism Fellowship

May 12, 2010

Lord willing, a ladies meeting will be held in the Failte Centre, Balbriggan on Friday 21st May, 2010.

I had been feeling burdened about having this form of outreach in the community for some time and then just last weekend as I was walking alone in the beautiful countryside behind our home, I felt the Lord’s leading on this. Such meetings, I feel, fulfil a need in this and other areas.

First of all, it will be good to renew old acquaintances and for those who already know each other to have fellowship.

Secondly, it will be an outreach to the area in which it is held and perhaps further beyond. Balbriggan has mushroomed in population in the last few years and there are now many new nationalities living there, including immigrants from the continents of Africa and Asia, as well as those from Eastern Europe. Jesus said: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16v15) And so, for those of us who are Irish Christians we have “all the world” on our very doorstep these days!

Thirdly, I would hope that this meeting and others would create awareness of the lives of others in their work for the Lord. This in turn should lead to increased prayer for the individuals concerned and practical giving to the Lord’s work.

I look forward to this first meeting of its kind, when Ms. Attracta Hanna will give her testimony and tell us about her CEF work with children in many areas of Dublin, including Mulhuddart, Finglas, Clondalkin, Ballymun and Crumlin. She is also involved in door to door work in Darndale.

I hope to bring along copies of my children’s book: “God Made You, God Loves You, God Saves You;” all profits from the sale of these on the night will go towards the work of Child Evangelism Fellowship in these areas.

May the Lord bless our meeting together on that evening and above all, may something be achieved for the extension of His Kingdom!

Details of Child Evangelism Fellowship can be viewed at this site:  http://www.cefireland.com/controller.php