My Testimony

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2Corinthians 5v17

“Waken up! We’re approaching Euston Station, London!”  The loud banging at the door preceded the shouting, and a steward shook my shoulder. Thinking how strange it was to be wakened in this way, I groaned, rubbed my eyes and drew the curtains of the little railway carriage to see the grey morning fly past. Looking at the ugly high-rise apartments, dismal back yards, and endless rows of houses, I thought of home, our old Georgian house surrounded by green fields and felt relieved that I didn’t live in this sprawling metropolis. I glanced over at my friend who sat up in her little bunk bed looking every bit as ‘bleary-eyed’ as me. All the same I felt refreshed, having slept all the way from Scotland to the gentle rumble of the train through the night. I was young then, the year was 1978 and nothing pleased me more than this latest passion in life – travelling. Of late, though, I had felt a little uncomfortable, so much so that I had even brought my Bible on this trip! My parents, who were Christians, must have felt so encouraged when I requested this Bible as a gift the previous Christmas. Now, safely tucked away in my suitcase, its presence made me feel a little better, but still I had no assurance of being right with God. In the last few months I had been ‘trying to be good,’ or at least ‘better,’ but deep down in my heart I knew that all my strivings were leading nowhere. I had been socialising less in those places that I knew to be displeasing to the Lord, I was honest with my fellowmen, went on charity walks, attended church and even read my Bible but still I had no peace.

Brought up by parents who had become Christians before their marriage, I was the firstborn in a family of four, with two sisters and one brother. I can recall once when I was very young, ‘asking the Lord into my heart,’ but on hindsight there was no change in my life at that point, and I believe that I merely spoke the words to please my mother. In the part of Ulster where we lived there were little mission halls proclaiming the gospel and I had been witnessed to by the Lord’s servants on many occasions, and in many ways. I remember one night working overtime at my Civil Service job in a nearby town, and because the last bus had gone, I thumbed a lift home. This was a foolish thing to do, but the Lord in His mercy used the occasion to speak to me yet again, because those strangers (the driver and his companion) talked to me of things spiritual all the way home! On other occasions I was offered tracts on the streets of towns and cities and although I politely accepted and never threw them away, I had decided that ‘this wasn’t for me’ – at least not for now. When I reflect upon those days, it warms my heart to remember that each individual who spoke to me, or gave me a tract, was used of the Master to draw me to Himself! Paul said “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” (1Cor. 3v6) How marvellous that He has special tasks for each one of us, as Christians on life’s short journey!

Returning to that other journey, which led up to the great change in my life – from London we had travelled on to the south of England from where we sailed to Ostend in Belgium. This was to be the base from which we would make sight-seeing trips to neighbouring France and Holland. During those weeks in August 1978 God spoke to me very strongly, and there are three incidents which especially come to mind.

I am uncertain of the sequence of events, but I believe that the first incident was when I was visiting a very large cathedral. There in the porch I found a leaflet containing some Bible verses, which I believe may have been left by a visiting Christian. For some reason I felt now a warmth within me when I saw God’s Word, and yet I also felt convicted.

The second incident occurred on a Sunday morning when my friend (who was a devout Roman Catholic) told me that she was going to mass, and that we could meet later for lunch. After she left the room, I could hear bells pealing all over the city and at that point I felt a terrible spiritual emptiness – a yearning for something more to my life. I decided to take a stroll down some of the little cobbled streets, and a short time later as I walked in one particular street, I heard joyous singing coming from somewhere on high. Looking up, I supposed that it must have been coming from some room high above the street. Somehow I felt that these people who were singing knew God in a very personal way, and I really wanted to meet them, but no matter how much I tried, there appeared to be no access to them. Every door on that street was tight shut to the public, and I eventually left it to return to our accommodation, feeling even emptier than before. I felt disquieted too, when words from a verse in Genesis 6v3 came to mind… “My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

The third incident was one which brought me under very deep conviction. We had gone to Amsterdam for the day and I was standing in Dam Square, traditionally a venue where students congregate. As I waited for my friend, who was buying gifts in a large department store across the road, I took in my surroundings with interest. The students around me were openly smoking hash, as they laughed and talked. Then a young man offered me something (which I assumed was a drug of some type) and I furiously declined, glaring at him. After this I remember looking up into the blue sky on that lovely August afternoon, and thinking… ‘What if the world were to end right now, as I stand in this place?’ Most of these people around me would not be ready, I thought, but… was I? There and then the Lord showed me that, without a doubt, I was no better than any of the worst of the inhabitants of this promiscuous city. Yes, I may not have seemed so bad by the world’s standards – but God judges us by His standards.

Those uneasy feelings persisted for the remainder of the holiday, on the return journey – and even upon my safe return home. I recall looking through the skylight window of my little bedroom to see a British Army helicopter swoop dangerously low. Those were dangerous days in Northern Ireland, and I started to think about how vulnerable I was, and how I could be plunged into a terrible eternity because I was not right with God. Although I knew that I was not ready to die, I was not willing to pay the price, for when we come to the Saviour He wants all of our lives, not just a part of us. That evening in my little bedroom there raged within me a fierce spiritual battle, of which no one else in my family was aware. Here I must point out that sometimes we look at seemingly unresponsive loved ones and acquaintances and despair – but we shouldn’t. Who knows what thoughts are going through that person’s head, and how the Lord is dealing with that soul? We must continue above all to be an example to that person (or people), and to pray fervently for them. Only God can see into the very hearts of men and women!

In my own heart the battle continued to rage that evening after the return journey. The date was Monday 28th August, 1978 – one which I will never forget. Sitting alone in my bedroom that evening, I felt two powers fighting within me. One (which I knew to be the presence of God) was pleading for me to step into His light. The other, a satanic presence, was reassuring me, telling me to forget about my worries concerning eternity and the awfulness of hell. “You’re still young,” the voice told me, “enjoy yourself!  Anyway, you’re not that bad, are you?” As the battle grew more intense, so too did an awful headache which I had developed. Physically and emotionally worn out, I decided to take a bath. Immersing myself in the warm soothing water, somehow the headache began to ease and I began to think clearly. Somehow also, I felt an urgency, and those words “now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.”  (2Cor. 6v2) were never more pertinent. Tomorrow may be too late! If God in His mercy had sent His Son to die for such an undeserving soul as me, then why was I fighting His offer of salvation? There and then in the midst of all my turmoil and troubled thoughts, I remember praying to the Lord, and although I cannot recall my exact words, I simply asked that ‘He carry me from darkness into His light.’ After this defining moment, I felt an assurance in my heart that all was now well. By faith I had stepped from darkness into His marvellous light, and I believed that He had forgiven me for all those sins that I had committed in past years. As I pulled the plug on that bath full of water, I felt as though every sin had been washed down the drain, and that I was clean in every sense! The first person I told was my mother, who was standing there, just as I emerged from the bathroom. “Mum, I’m saved,” I said simply and she flung her arms around me with tears of joy. That night I slept soundly and peacefully after the turmoil of the evening, in the knowledge that “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121v4) I was now His, ‘a new-born babe in Christ.’  Real life had only just begun!  I thank God that I chose light that evening, and that I chose the “narrow way” (Matthew 7v14) when I was still comparatively young, for who knows where my life would have gone if I had continued to listen to the deceptions of the ‘evil one?’ “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10v10)

Next day I can also remember the cheerful words of my father: “Well, how does it feel to be on your way to heaven today?” The fact that my parents were overjoyed by my new-found faith was encouraging to say the least. There are many in our world today, who suffer tremendously for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that in the years that lay ahead I was to suffer many a sneer of derision from unbelievers and perhaps even ‘backsliders,’ but like most people in our western world, I know little about true persecution. Sometimes we may be surprised by certain reactions to our new-found faith. In those early days I understood that it was natural for ridicule to come from non-believers, but when the source of the ridicule came from those who professed to be Christians – I felt puzzled and hurt. Nevertheless, the Lord has taught me to commit all my hurts to Him for He knows the reasons behind this behaviour and the great needs in the hearts of men and women. The greatest gift that we can ask for (and one which we cannot live without as Christians) is love in our hearts – even for those who have no love in their hearts for us. “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?  Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5v46-48)

It is this gift of perfect love that casts out fear – fear of mankind and their reactions to us when we attempt to tell them of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for them. As a young Christian I was nervous about approaching others with the gospel or telling them of my own experience, but somehow that little seed took root in my heart and the Lord has strengthened and nurtured me through His Word over the years. Above all He has shown me that “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matthew 12v30) Throughout all the troubles in my native country and in all my travels, He has protected me, guided me and enabled me to reach others for Him. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”  (Deut. 33v27)

Soon after coming to know the Lord, I remember being in Manchester on a course connected with my work in the civil service. One evening I sat alone in a sombre, mediocre hotel room, listening to colleagues ‘enjoying themselves’ at a bar downstairs. I felt suddenly very lonely and a little depressed, but as I did so, warmth, so real and tangible spread around my shoulders and hugged me! The Lord, who loved me very much, was showing me this in a very definite way.  I shall never forget what I referred to as the ‘big warm arms feeling,’ and in years to come I was to experience it at other times when I most needed it.  Around this time also, the Lord told me that I would some day meet someone special with whom to share my life.

Three years after I trusted the Lord, in the late spring of 1981, I set out on a month’s overland to Israel with Christians from many parts of the world. That fascinating journey was to bring us through Holland, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia (as it was before the war), the Greek mainland, Rhodes, Cyprus – and eventually Israel where I had the joy of visiting many of the Biblical places that I had read about. On this trip I met a girl (Trish) from Dublin and her friend Geraldine. Upon our return home Trish invited me to her home in Dublin and it was here that I met her husband’s friend Martin for the very first time. At that time he was recovering from a condition known as Bright’s disease and looked very thin! However, I became very fond of this young man, although I knew that I was treading on dangerous ground, as he described himself as a humanist/lapsed Roman catholic/agnostic. Soon after we met I told him the story of how I became a Christian and he was not antagonistic at all. A short time later he came to visit my family, who liked him very much but were naturally concerned about our relationship, since he did not know the Lord. Then, one beautiful sunny day as we were preparing for Sunday lunch after church, I went upstairs to find him in tears. The date was 11th July, 1982 and Martin, too, had trusted the Saviour! “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgements, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11v33)

We have been married now since the summer of 1985 and today we live in County Meath, in a rural area which is close to the Irish Sea. We have three grown-up children and I long to see the Lord’s will accomplished in their lives too. I am inspired by the beauty of the Meath countryside and enjoy writing seasonal tracts, poetry and stories as the Lord directs. Of course life has not been all plain sailing! Yet those tempestuous, weary ways in life have strengthened my faith and increased my love for the Saviour, whose loving arms constantly surround me, even in times when I don’t feel them!

I feel that there is a very strong possibility of His return in my lifetime although I know that even the early Christians had these same thoughts. Nevertheless, I have experienced urgency about reaching others with the simple truths of the gospel. Recently I have felt discouraged about the lack of response from people I have witnessed to but the Lord has comforted me with these verses: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6v9) “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, ummoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1Cor. 15v58) “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55v11)

Very often throughout the changing years of my life, I look up at that same sun that shone on the streets of Amsterdam in 1978 and I think… “It could be today. I thank you Lord that I am ready for your return, because of your cleansing work in my life, but Oh Lord I want my loved ones to be ready, I want my neighbours to be ready, I want the souls of Ireland to be ready – and I want the world to be ready, for you have died that each one might escape the fires of Hell.”  My prayer is that He will use my story and others to awaken precious souls from spiritual death; that they would be ready for that day when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21v4)  Praise His Name!

11 Responses to “My Testimony”

  1. Just as I am – Without One Plea « Elizabeth Burke's Blog Says:

    […] (See also: My Testimony page) […]

  2. steveair Says:

    What a wonderful God we serve!

  3. readywriterpublications Says:

    Thanks Steve. Yes, your words just about sum up how I feel at this very moment. I’ve just returned safely from a trip to London and as I remember all those masses of people walking through the tube stations, I just wish that they could see how great our God is – and the wonderful things He could do for them, if only they could put their trust in Him.

  4. SARA or Sarie SOLMS South Africa Says:

    In 2008 I read the testimony of Peggy O Niell and through the years made copies of the tract and handed to a number of people.
    2013 approximately July I was privileged to have met Ms Peggy O Niell in person. 92 at the time so frail with only one eye (fell and lost eye previous year) I just stood there before her in her lounge tears running down my face. What an honour to have been in the presence of such a woman of faith and courage ! My family was on retreat and free to stay in the next door dwelling for seven days. I was with them and had many prayer walks passing Peggy s bedroom window early evenings. On the eve of our departure I missed her as she had already gone to bed and I left behind a small bundle of wild flowers as my token of love and appreciation. Whether she noticed my last minute note or received the letter of appreciation mailed on behalf of family and myself I will never know.
    The seven days spent on Peggy O Niell s farm at Ballybunion in Ireland will forever remain with me especially the day I met her.
    Peggy pointed to some papers on her desk explaining that she is writing letters to the Pope and Cardinals.
    Behind the house I could read all the verses regarding the Fruit of the Spirit.. ..all painted on planks.
    Praise the Lord!
    Please I would like to know whether she is still alive. Do you perhaps know. As I said she was so frail and also she told us that she suffers from osteo……

    • readywriterpublications Says:

      Hello Sarah,
      I realised only recently that I had replied to you privately in the past by email. However, this lady (Peggy O’Neill, the former nun) is of great interest to many and I now wish to post this on the blog… Saved at age 70, after 50 years as a nun, Peggy is still living in that area of Ireland. At 96 she has an amazing testimony to what the Lord can do in any life that is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation!
      I should very much like to visit her in the near future and will let you know about this, when I do, Lord willing.
      Thank you so very much for keeping in touch.

  5. Ann Says:

    We are blessed beyond measure!
    Ephesians 4,20-21

    • readywriterpublications Says:

      Ann… thank you for your encouraging comment. All who put their trust in Him are truly blessed. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.” (Lamentations 3v22-25)

  6. Hanna Says:

    Thank you for your testimony…I stumbled upon your blog while looking for something ….I will agree that LOVE is the GREATEST…..Love The Lord with all our heart ,mind and soul..and our neighbour as ourselves…thank you

  7. readywriterpublications Says:

    Hanna, thank you for your comment. When we obey this, the greatest of all the commandments, then everything else falls into place. (Deuteronomy 6v5; Matthew 22v37; Mark 12v30 & Luke 10.27)

  8. Linda Lee/Lady Quixote Says:

    Your testimony is beautiful and so encouraging, as I continue to pray for lost loved ones.

    • readywriterpublications Says:

      Thanks Linda… I can never thank the Lord enough for all His love and goodness to me, for leading me into His marvellous light. Never tire of praying for unsaved loved ones… for you are praying for something which is totally within the Lord’s will.

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