“I never had trouble believing in the supernatural”, Colin says, “because my mother was a witch!”
It was quite usual for pictures to slide across the wall or for household objects to fly around the Cooper home. But involvement in the occult cost the family dearly. As a child, Colin did not know the meaning of love. His childhood was filled with tragedy with his parents continually fighting and throwing the children out onto the streets. Being the child of a West Indian father and an English mother meant that Colin was often picked on in the streets by gangs who would be termed ‘racist’ nowadays. Colin had no idea why they accused him of being foreign – he was born in England!
Tragedy first struck the Cooper household when Colin was just five. His father died, suddenly and unexpectedly. But it didn’t end there. Two years later, Colin’s sister disappeared. She was never heard of again. Just a few years after that, Colin’s brother was drowned, leaving only Colin and his mother at home. He was not yet in his teens.
The family lived on the Stoneygate council estate in Newcastle. Colin says,
“My mother would beat me if I went home, and the local bullies would beat me if I went out! So I learned how to fend for myself.”
Colin learned to fight quickly, and soon earned respect as a local boxer. Named after the world heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay (who later changed his name to Mohammed Ali), he was soon nicknamed ‘Cool Cass.’
Meanwhile, Colin’s mother, having lost her husband, her daughter and one son in a short space of time, became increasingly entangled in the Occult and began practicing witchcraft. One day she told him that she didn’t love him, and she attacked him with a carving knife. Colin realised that she was not herself.
“Her eyes were glazed and she didn’t seem to know what she was doing!”
He managed to fight her off on that occasion. A little later she told Colin that his dead brother had visited her in the kitchen and told her that she was soon going to die as well. Later on, after he had become a Christian, Colin realised that the dead cannot return and that his mother had been deceived by a demonic spirit, but as a fourteen year-old boy Colin only realised that he was about to lose the last remaining member of his family. His mother died soon after just as she had predicted. Involvement in the occult had taken four of the five members of his family in nine years.
A life of loneliness, hunger, fighting, petty crime, and a lack of parental guidance landed Colin in prison, and afterwards left him living in a coal shed. He often lay awake shivering, and realised that he would soon die if he did not find proper shelter. Unfortunately, this was the late 1960’s when people were less tolerant than today. As a wild looking hippie with a purple jacket, ‘afro’ hair and earrings, Colin was unable to get a bed-sit even though he now had work. In desperation, he cried out to God,
“God, if you are there, get me a flat!” Colin says it was not a reverent prayer, “But God understands the heart, and He answered me. Then the very next day I was offered a flat!”
It was a miracle. A second miracle was that the flat was right opposite Bethshan church, a very innovative and contemporary Pentecostal church which was considered to be the best in Newcastle. Clearly God had planned this. Colin was soon invited to the church where he became a Christian and found love for the first time in his young life.
Colin became close friends with Raymond, a chemistry student at Newcastle University who lived in one of the flats. Colin and Raymond had a lot in common and had some deep conversations. Raymond was interested in what had happened to Colin, but he was not yet a Christian. Raymond enjoyed experimenting with drugs and he used to sniff chloroform which he stole from the University laboratories. He offered drugs to Colin, but Colin told him he didn’t do that stuff now that he knew Christ. Raymond didn’t understand and said to Colin, “Hey Cass, switch on man – you’re cuckoo sometimes!” Raymond suffered from bouts of depression, and one evening he particularly wanted to talk to Colin. Colin was on his way out to a party and promised to call in and talk when he returned. Sadly, it was too late. Colin arrived home to find the police and an ambulance at the flat. Raymond was dead. He had taken an overdose. Colin was devastated.
“For the first time I could remember”, he said, “I cried. I said to the Lord that I would never again miss an opportunity to tell someone properly about Jesus.”
Colin’s life began to turn around, He met Sue, a committed Christian, at the church and they were soon married. Colin had another miracle when he got a fantastic job. Against stiff competition, he was given the post of pharmaceutical salesman. Although the advert stipulated a science degree and experience (neither of which he had!) Colin was given the job. He knew that God had intervened again. Colin also began to get involved in the church ministry. He says,
“The Pastor, Herbert Harrison, became my mentor. He was a father figure who I was able to look up to until the day he died.”
Herbert recognised Colin’s evangelistic gift and guided him towards church leadership. Colin started out working for Assemblies of God Home Missions in the early 1970’s and planted a number of churches.
For over 20 years Colin was the Senior Pastor of Huddersfield Christian Fellowship, one of the largest churches in the North of England. Still based at the church, he now concentrates full-time on the leadership of MFE (Ministers’ Fellowship Europe) which involves helping and encouraging the leaders of many churches throughout Europe. Although Colin’s childhood was filled with pain and rejection, he has been resolute to make sure his early years did not determine the rest of his life. Colin realised that with Jesus Christ, anyone can become a victor rather than remain a victim.
“When Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed!” (John 8:36)
His philosophy is that we should learn from the past, but once we have become Christians, we should not let the past determine our future.
“Too many people hang onto their baggage, resulting in misery and depression, rather than enjoying the freedom, peace, joy and love that Jesus has prepared for everyone who will accept Him into their lives.”
Story by Ralph Burden