Our very first flat was in a ground floor converted flat in a very large victorian house on Raglan Road, in Reigate. Unfortunately two other properties that we had previously made offers on had fallen though which meant that firstly the average price for a ‘starter’ home had jumped from £20,000 which was the limit of our budget to £24,000. We thought that we were going to be priced out of the market and never own our own home. Secondly, the delay in finding a suitable property meant that we had to ask the Matron in charge of the nurses halls of residence, if we could live in Donna’s room for three months, which she rather grudgingly agreed to. The room was only just big enough for one person, let alone two and required some juggling just so that we could get dressed in the morning. On top of that it was next to the communal toilet! The night that we came back from our honeymoon in Wales, there was an all night party on the corridor. Donna and I got back in the car and headed down to my parents in Hove!
The flat as large, but since the walls were nearly two feet thick, it was also damp. We didn’t mind that too much, just grateful and happy to have our own home, but Donna did take around 50 days of sick with chest infections during our time there. The flat was decorated very much in the ‘newly married look’ manner – ie nothing matched or fitted. We had a couple of bedside tables that were office furniture, and a dining room table made by Lawrence’s carpentry students, that wobbled badly.
We acquired two black kittens; ‘Fidget’ (for obvious reasons) and ‘Fumble’, they were from the same litter and adorable. Unfortunately Fidget strayed and was run over which was very sad. Later we had another kitten ‘Freckle’, and she and Fumble had the the delightful habit of joining us when we were having a bath and sitting on the side of the bath. When the bath was emptying they would jump in the bath and play in the water.
Before we got married and whilst Donna was still living at the nurses accommodation we had done a ‘pre marriage course’ at the local catholic church in Redhill. We hadn’t been regular members of a church when in London. I think we felt that no-one would understand our relationship, why the Kenya connection had made us so inseparable and why we had been living together. The pre-marriage course was run by a lovely couple in the church, who took us out for a drink and casually asked us far reaching questions like “when do you think you will have children?” It was at that point we realised that Donna didn’t want children!
After we were married, we continued at the catholic church, out of habit more than anything. Donna was getting restless there and suggested that we did a tour of the churches in the area and maybe found somewhere else. The first church we went to was Redhill Baptist Church and we never went anywhere else. We were greeted on the door by John and Scylla Bridger who in turned out lived opposite us, and subsequently took us under their wings and became our ‘God Parents’. I was immediately taken with the youth band, led by a young bearded man with a beaten up and rather out of tune guitar. He was known as ‘Dave the Rave’ and soon became a very close friend along with the ‘YPF’. (Young people’s fellowship).
From that moment, we experienced a huge and sudden growth in our spiritual lives. We lapped up everything, and became involved leading the little worship group. We spent wonderful evenings over the road at John and Scylla’s house, growing in our faith and growing in our relationship together and were both baptised (full immersion). I had never heard of the ‘Charismatic Revival’ that was sweeping the country and it was extremely exciting.
The M25 orbital motorway around London had not been completed when we lived in Reigate, and when it was finally due to open, the Ministry of Transport organised a carnival on the new road by way of celebration! The church took part and had a little stand on the motorway. How times have changed! Before the motorway existed, the only way to get to Yorkshire was by driving straight through the centre of London. You had to concentrate a bit, but we didn’t think twice about it, taking the cats in the back of the car. They would walk about the car, sometimes sitting on my shoulder as I drove, other times using the litter tray which was in the back!
Before long we were attending faith meetings at Bethany Fellowship in Horsham on a weekday evening. The fellowship there had just opened a Bible College and were at the forefront of the Charismatic Renewal movement in the south of England. The meetings were dynamic and inspiring and we knew we wanted more.
A decision to go to Roffey Place Christian Training Centre
We took a week off and attended a residential week at the Bethany Fellowship, called “Living in Revival”. We stayed with a family who lived nearby and were associated with the fellowship. As soon as we got there, our Hillman Minx Estate “Tin Lizzy” broke down for the last time and we were reliant on a lift everyday. We were astounded when our hosts little daughter announced that God had spoken to her during the school assembly and she felt that He was going to give us a new car. We weren’t used to this type of prophetic statement, but felt we should give thanks and accept that we were going to receive a new car. The week was pretty dynamic and inspiring, and when we got back, Lawrence phoned us and said he was going to buy us a new car, a white ford escort estate, which we called Noah! (The promise).
By this time, Donna had not only qualified as an RGN, but had decided she wanted to go into Midwifery. Both of us wanted to move to Yorkshire to be nearer Chris and Mark who had moved to Leeds, but I just couldn’t find work there.
Donna had been working as an agency nurse in the central treatment suite at the hospital, and had a little yellow moped. I was in the process of teaching her to drive. During a Christian Family Camp in 1985, I had answered an alter call for people who felt that they were wanting to work ‘full time’ for God. (‘Full Time’ being something of a misnomer really, as it was recognised that every Christian is ‘full time’). With this in mind, and a feeling that we were on the cusp of change in our lives, Donna asked me what I would really like to do, and I replied that I would like to go to Roffey Place, which was the Christian Training Centre or Bible College, run by the Bethany Fellowship in Horsham. The Bible College ran a year long discipleship training scheme, and it was highly regarded amongst the charismatic fraternity in the church, although regarded with some suspicion in other church quarters due to it’s unorthodox nature.
We felt that in all likelihood we could spend a year there and then go to All Nations Bible College, where we could prepare for some kind of missionary work, probably involving Africa! It would be easy for Donna to get a position in a missionary setting as a nurse, but I might need to retrain in something more practical, but the year at Roffey would make that more clear. Donna put her midwifery place at St James’s Hospital in Leeds on hold for a year, and we went for the interview.
We were interviewed by Rev Bob Gordon, the Scottish principle who only spoke to us about two things during the interview. The first was had we considered having children, and the second was about his ‘bus’ project. It turned out to be prophetic. We were told there and then that we had a place!
However, the major hurdle was that everything to do with Roffey was about faith. Faith for finance. Students were expected to trust God for their fees, which including what we would need to live on, would amount to about £6,000 for both of us. My salary at the time was £8,000 per annum so this was a LOT of money.
We went home to pray, and we asked God to send us a gift of money by the end of the week, as a way of knowing that this is what we were supposed to do. Obviously we didn’t tell anyone that. Within a couple of days a cheque arrived from Granddad Ennis in Canada, sent to us before we had attended the interview. Rather nervous we knew we were going to give up our jobs and with no idea how we were going to support ourselves, we were off to Bible College.
We went to speak to my parents, who were wonderful. I had no idea how my father would react, especially as I wasn’t brought up a Christian particularly, although my parents had started to attend a local church in Poynings, the other side of the Dyke from Hove. They gave us their blessing, and my father told me that I should follow my dreams, I would only regret it if I didn’t go. I will always remain eternally grateful for his advice and understanding.
The pastor at Redhill Baptist was a little irritated that Roffey Place had not involved the church in the decision, but we immediately gained the support of several couples in the church who pledged to support us.
We decided to let our flat for the year, and set off!