Ralph’s family were typical British nominal Christians. He says,
“We attended church if there was a wedding, a Christening or a funeral. Apart from that, my parents, my sister and I had just a vague concept of what it is to be a Christian, and it was based upon the fact that the country we were born in (England) called itself ‘Christian.’ “
But Ralph’s life was to change dramatically after he was saved from a situation that would have ended in his early death. And this did not just happen once, it happened on three occasions by the time he was eighteen.
At age six Ralph contracted a serious and very rare blood infection. He nearly died from septicaemia and his survival was nothing short of miraculous. The intervention of a junior doctor who instinctively seemed to know what was wrong when very experienced senior practitioners were flummoxed by the symptoms was the first of several incidents that were totally beyond the natural. As he grew up, Ralph began to realise that God was intervening in his life.
“My survival as a child was really quite amazing, a miracle really. Then, as a sixteen-year-old riding my bicycle, I experienced a second miraculous escape. Something, or someone (I later realised it was God) spoke to me and told me to move immediately off the road and onto the pavement. A second later the wheels of a huge articulated lorry ploughed through exactly where I had been. His wheels even mounted the pavement! Had I not moved, I would have been killed instantly.
As if two such events were not enough, something else happened just two years later.
By the time I was eighteen I rode a trials motorcycle both on and off road. It was just two years after the bicycle incident that I skidded in the snow and ice and was sent hurtling right in front of an oncoming bus. It was my own fault for taking a corner too fast in bad road conditions. The bus was very close, heading straight for me. Instinctively I called out ‘Oh God, help!’ And again, he really did! One moment the bus was bearing down on me, the next moment I had hit the kerbside and come to a stop on the opposite side of the road and the bus had passed by. They say that time goes more slowly in these situations, but for me I was moved out of harm’s way in an instant. I knew that God again intervened to save me. Even in dry conditions it would have been difficult to avoid me, but in the snow and ice it was pretty well impossible for the bus to miss me. As I sat there trying to recover from the shock, my heart racing, my mind running through the fact that I was so close to being killed, I finally began to wake up to spiritual things. I realised that there is a God and that it was he who had warned me of the lorry two years before. I realised that God was most certainly interested in little old me!”
Ralph thanked God for saving him. He had been attending the church youth group for five years, but he now began attending church and started to pray and read the bible. But, by his own admission, he was still “… trying to run away from God.” He was still only half-way there. He continued to ‘sit on the fence’ a little longer.
At this time Ralph had some genuine ambition to become a musician. He was a good artist and did some paid art work for local businesses. At school he had excelled at Art and English, but wasn’t paricularly interested in much else, apart from a little sport. Although he loved music, it wasn’t of the kind taught at school.
“Our Music lessons at school were all about the history of classical music, and I hated them. However, my grandmother was both a keen church-going Christian and a very good musician. She taught me some basics on the piano and a guy who lived in her road also showed me some simple beats on the drums. I taught myself to play the guitar and I had a few lessons on the bass guitar. It was when I was playing bass that I was first noticed and asked to join a decent band, so I stuck with that as my main instrument in those early days.”
By his late teens Ralph was a competent and flexible musician able to get into local rock groups. [LINK] He played in a band in the evenings and at weekends, did some artwork for local businesses, and also had an office job. Life was busy. It was good and on the surface everything appeared great. But despite the outward appearance of a cool arty young rocker who had his life together and who seemed to have a great future, all was not well.
“People who had seen me play would stop me in the street, and it felt good to be noticed. I thought I was doing ok, but in those alone times that we all have, I had to admit that despite all of the fun I was actually very empty inside.”
“At school I had some great friends and a few of us have kept in contact ever since. My good friend Dave Chapman was the guy who really led me to Jesus. He originally took me along to his church youth group when I was 13, but my attendance was sporadic, mainly due to my passion for the kind of music which was not, at that time, very acceptable in church circles. However, I knew that there was a God and I knew that I was only alive because he had kept me alive. Also, a number of things happened which shook my confidence in ‘the good life’ and made me think more about eternity.”
When I was sixteen, along with my own dice with death on the road, a guy I knew at school committed suicide. None of his friends had realised he was suffering from deep depression. Then, just a couple of years later, a guy we knew was killed in a motorcycle accident. It was about the same time I had the brush with death with an oncoming bus. It really shook me to the core. A short time later another young guy I knew who went into the military was accidentally killed during training. Suddenly youth no longer meant that you were indestructible with the world at your feet. These events affected me deeply and made me think about God. I began to pray daily.”
Among other requests, he prayed for a couple who were having serious marriage problems. They had looked certain to divorce, but Ralph started to pray for them. Amazingly, they got back together and their marriage survived. So Ralph started to pray for other things. He soon noticed that more prayers were being answered.
“The final straw was when my good friend Mark, a bass player and a close friend from school, also became a Christian. I thought Mark would hold out, but he didn’t. I was being hemmed in from all sides! But I stubbornly held out for a few more months.”
He was in a good band and they were getting pretty well known with plenty of gigs coming in. But deep inside, Ralph could sense God drawing him closer, so he started to attend church every week. He soon found that he was really enjoying it.
“The church had plenty of young people my age, and after a few months I felt God telling me I needed to turn away from my selfish life and give myself to him. So I finally asked God to forgive me and to accept me. I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and set me free. No wonder the Bible talks about being ‘born again’, I felt like a brand new person! It was like somebody had taken a huge weight from my shoulders. My thinking changed and I had a new desire – to live my life to serve and please God.”
Since that time Ralph has been aware of God’s plan for his life and his constant presence each day. He met and married Heather, and they went into full-time Christian ministry shortly after the birth of their first child.
“There have been some big challenges, especially when we first stepped out ‘in faith’ and went into Christian ministry. There certainly is a devil and he has made sure life has been really tough at times, but there is a fantastic promise in the bible that I have found to be so very true. Jesus said:
‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33.
That is such a fabulous promise. We all get challenges, problems and some big disappointments in life. But Jesus promises to help us through them all if we will trust him. I don’t know how I would have survived without Jesus in my life, he is just amazing. I also thank God for four people who had such an influence on me as a teenager. My school friends Dave Chapman, Mark Barnett and Andrew Leakey; and Youth Leader Pete Cuthbert who faithfully prayed for me for many years. My sister met Pete soon after I had become a Christian and he told her that he had consistently prayed for me because I was the most disruptive one in the youth group. I had no idea! I though I was pretty good! Pete said that he prayed, ‘If you can save Ralph then you can save anybody!’ God answered, and from that point on Pete was convinced that God can save literally anyone who is willing to respond to him.”
Alongside his work as a Christian Minister, Ralph continues to write articles and books.
No Coincidence is available from Amazom – see HERE
* above photos: (1) book cover for ‘Eternal Flame’, (ii) 2015 album ‘Get Ready’, (iii) book cover for ‘No Coincidence’
* feature photo: Ralph playing at a charity concert (for Prison work) in Bristol, UK, 2010.