Too many coincidental events convinced Walter that God loved him.
Many people could talk to Walter Evans, and many people could identify with him because he was such a normal, ordinary man with no pretensions.
Originally from the Midlands, Walter loved his job as a joiner. He worked with some famous names, including TV’s Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, and his job took him around the country as he specialised in shop fitting for some major stores. But he was very unassuming and rarely talked about the famous people he had worked with. He saw them all as ordinary people like himself.
Walter moved to the small mining town of South Elmsall in West Yorkshire in the early 1990’s. Among his many hobbies, he enjoyed playing bowls, so it seemed natural to get involved with the town bowls club. Walter would not only play, but also took his part in looking after the green together with the Social Centre, a Council owned building next to the green. The Social Centre was used by many local organisations including a new church which started to meet there in 1993. Walter found the church people friendly, so he would sometimes sit at the back of the meetings or would join them for a bite to eat when invited to their functions. He particularly enjoyed their music, which was led by a band with guitars and drums. It was so different from the hymns he had been used to as a child.
In 1997, the church purchased their own building and stopped using the Social Centre for meetings. Walter was interested in what they did, and kept an eye on the local paper to watch how they progressed. He saw how they had not only grown in numbers, but seemed to grow in other ways as well. There was something quite special about the way the people in the church cared both for each other, and for some people who were not even part of their group. It was intriguing and reminded him of the way people used to look after one another during hard times, as in World War Two. Walter liked a drink at his local club, and he listened with interest and debated with people on what they thought of these Christians. Some people thought that everyone born in the United Kingdom is automatically a Christian. Some thought that those who met regularly for ‘worship’ or ‘prayer’ were very religious and strange, but others admired them and thought they were ok. Walter made up his own mind. He thought they were ok too. He wasn’t ready to join them as yet, but he certainly liked them and identified with what they were about.
Then in 1999, something quite special happened that was to change Walter’s life. A leaflet came through his door advertising some special ‘healing’ events at the new Oasis church centre, and inviting him along. Walter went to see what was happening. He enjoyed the meeting which included the usual singing and dancing to modern Christian music. There were testimonials from people who had been ‘born again’ or had received healing for various conditions. Finally, at the end of the meeting, the visiting speaker asked people who wanted to follow Jesus to stand and say a prayer. Walter did just that, and he felt very different afterwards.
However, it was not so simple when he got home. Walter wondered whether he had done the right thing. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go to church every week! He had never gone to church regularly and none of his friends went. But a few days later, he answered a knock at the door to find Pastor Ralph from the Oasis church smiling at him. Walter was so encouraged by the visit that he decided to go to the church the following Sunday, and he never stopped after that.
A year later, the same visiting speaker came back to the church. This man specialised in praying for sick people and he seemed to get some amazing results. Walter was used to living with arthritis in his knees and he resigned himself to walking with a stick for the rest of his life, but when Reverend Banks asked people who wanted healing to come to the front, he found himself walking out! Walter left his stick by his seat, and limped out to the front of the church with a lot of other people. There were so many that Rev banks asked the pastor to pray for some of them. Walter said,
“The pastor didn’t realise until I told him years later, but it was actually him that prayed for me to be healed, not the visiting speaker.”
As Walter was prayed for, the pain went from his knees. The next day he woke up and found that he didn’t need his stick. A few days later, a puzzled friend from the pub stopped his car in surprise and called out to Walter, “What happened? Where’s your stick? I just saw you running across the road!” Walter replied gleefully, “I was healed at the Oasis church. I don’t need a stick!” The man was dumbstruck and word spread that Walter had been ‘faith healed.’
Shortly after this in 2001, Walter had such a serious breathing problem that he was referred to the hospital in nearby Pontefract. Although he managed to get there by bus, he was concerned to find that the lift was under repair, and he had four flights of stairs to climb! Already out of breath, he stood at the bottom of the empty stairwell and said a prayer. Immediately, a man who Walter imagined to be a hospital worker placed a hand on his back and said, “Come on, I will help you.” Walter found that he was easily able to climb the stairs with the man helping him. As he reached the top, Walter turned to thank the man, but to his great surprise there was nobody there! “It must have been an angel”, he said. There was no way anyone could have disappeared because there was nowhere for them to go.
Walter was challenged by the view his church had that those who come to believe and trust in Jesus should be baptised in water as a symbol of washing away their old selfish life. As he read the Bible, Walter found himself agreeing with them. The only problem he had was that he suffered from severe aquaphobia and was petrified of water! Pastor Ralph tried to persuade Walter to get baptised, but this physically tough carpenter was not yet ready to face that challenge. It was only after some years that Walter finally came to a point where he was able to face going under the water. By that time, a new Pastor, Ian Jackson, had taken over the leadership of Oasis church. Walter described it as miraculous that God had enabled him to overcome his life long problem with aqua-phobia.
Walter went home to heaven in September 2008 following a short illness. He is now free from suffering and is in the presence of his heavenly Father, a Father he learned to trust later in life, but a Father who nonetheless made him happier in his retirement years than he had ever been.
Story by Ralph Burden
Photo Attribution: 1942 photograph of Carpenter at work on Douglas Dam, Tennessee. This photo is in the public domain