Philip from Suffolk
Hello my name is Phil
My Early Days
My Mother died a few hours after I was born.
When I was younger, I often used to ask ‘Why wasn’t it me?’ Why did my Father have to wake up that morning in 1955 to discover that following the unspeakable joy of seeing his first-born son the previous day, he had now lost his young and tender wife after less than one year of marriage? He was now fully responsible for a motherless, squalling infant who needed regular and significant attention at both ends and who hadn’t grasped the concept that night time was generally for sleeping. Why wasn’t I taken and my Mother left?
I’ve learnt that God’s ways are perfect. They are not always our ways and many times are beyond our understanding but He never makes mistakes and He always has in mind to bless us. It certainly wasn’t chance that led a member of the Brethren Church to push a Gospel tract through my Grandfather’s front door one wartime evening in the early 1940’s. That act of kindness was followed up by visits to Gospel Preachings and baptism of the whole family including my Father and his brother at 11 and 7 years old respectively and ultimately to a committal to the Christian fellowship. Descendants of their families now live in many places around the world; happily within the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.
My Father re-married and I was brought up in a happy Christian household with a new Mother but I was a challenging child, to put it mildly. While flirting with influences and activities my parents did not approve of during my formative years in the 1960’s and 70’s, I often used to question my existence. ‘Why am I here?’ ‘How do I know I am in the right place?’ Why am I not something else? A Catholic, a Jew, a Communist, an Atheist, a Hindu?’ I took nothing for granted but through time, prayer, thought and reading of the Holy Scriptures I got answers; I obtained peace; I found settlement. How do I know there is a God? As a seven year old child I prayed an unusual prayer to the Lord Jesus and He answered it perfectly in an unexpected and unmistakeable way. That is something I have experienced many times since and it brings an assurance into the soul that dispels all doubt.
Our Home & Family
I married young but we have been preserved in faithfulness to each other, having six married children and, as of the time of writing, eight grandchildren plus one more expected. However, life has not always been plain sailing, no way! No mother ever gets over losing a stillborn baby at virtually full term and one of our sons lost his first wife at 28 years old. Sorrows and pressures have come our way along with the challenges of teenage children (chips off the old you-know-what), care of elderly relatives and at times financial difficulties.
A fixed income, mounting bills, growing children and mortgage interest rates of up to 15% were just a few things which helped to keep us dependent on God. But He never let us down, ever. One day, when the future looked very bleak, a church member approached me after one of our meetings and said ‘I expect you are finding things difficult so I would like to give you this.’ He then handed me a cheque for £200. In 1980, that was a lot of money. Other times, we have proved immense kindness from our Christian friends and it is currently our desire to do the same to others where we can.
In 1993, we moved our household from South London to Suffolk where my wife, Ruth was brought up. With six young children, finding a suitable house we could afford proved difficult and we ended up buying the house no one else wanted. This was a run-down two-bedroom cottage that was not even habitable but by the time we had renovated, rebuilt and extended it to a five-bedroomed house; we ended up just inside our budget and with a family house which has provided for us until now.
More recently, my Father was taken to be with the Lord after a very long period of suffering which saw him conscious and fully aware for the last few years of his life but unable to speak or move anything other than his head. Throughout this debilitating illness, one thing impressed everyone who went to visit him – his smile. His facial muscles were the only ones he could control but his eyes sparkled and he smiled until the very end. After these years of devoted care, Mother needed a permanent home and care provision for herself and so she has come to be with us, living in a self-contained annexe built on to the side of our house.
We love travelling, my wife and I, and we have been able to visit a number of countries over the years. In the course of my work, I have stayed with many of our Christian friends in the PBCC while visiting customers around the UK. In fact, on my business trips, I have never had to stay overnight in a hotel or B&B, always having someone I could call on and share an evening and mostly a Christian meeting. In more recent years, having my own business has meant overseas trips to trade shows and visiting suppliers and I have travelled extensively in Europe. Links formed in these trips have often been followed up with invites for the whole family to stay away which we have found very valuable in helping our children appreciate other cultures and languages.
Most of our family have been to stay with friends further afield such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA which has helped us accumulate a vast wealth of friends and memories. This year, Ruth and I have just fulfilled a long term desire to visit Canada where we enjoyed seeing friends, relatives and the Rocky Mountains. How amazing it is to see and consider God’s creatorial wonders, not only in forming hundreds of miles of rugged peaks but also in levelling the fertile plains. We enjoyed Christian meetings over there and visits to Brethren houses, businesses and schools.
There is always a great sense of thankfulness in coming home after travels – the old familiar road and river views as we approach our town – but we are generally thinking of future journeys as well. Where are we going next? Well who knows, but Argentina where my cousin lives and also a very old friend from my teenage years, would be a very good suggestion.
Day to Day Life
Do you know, I cannot remember when I was last bored – if I ever have been. We live a very full and varied life, entertaining most weekends, family constantly visiting and general activity. I have a small business which is mainly run by my eldest son nowadays but I still go there regularly to keep an eye on the pennies.
Education of young people is something I am passionate about and I am a trustee of one of the independent schools run by Focus Learning Trust. It’s marvellous to watch students mature and develop their ability to learn, to become involved in helping them prepare for exams and future careers. This has now become a major part of my life; extending beyond the local school to involvement in the curriculum provision nationally with some international activity as well. I am busier than I have ever been in my entire life – and enjoying it too.
We have proved God’s goodness at every step and whereas we don’t know what is round the next corner, we do know that He cares about us and will provide for us while we remain here.