It was one of those balmy, late summer evenings, and several of us had made the trip up by minibus to the final day of the Bromyard Folk Festival. I had made the short journey from the Royal Air Force base at Credenhill (now the SAS headquarters) near Hereford, accompanied by half a dozen RAF apprentices who were all about the same age as me. I had just left school, and had recently celebrated my 16th birthday, and it was early September 1973. I wans't in the RAF myself, but my father was, and we had just arrived back in the UK from a two year posting in Maastricht, Holland. I hadn't had more than a few weeks to acclimatise myself to my new surroundings, and was adjusting to life back in England.
My parents, both strong Christians, had always encouraged me - but never forced me - to attend their church services. I had reluctantly tagged along, as often as I had to, in order to lead a quiet life at home. Church was tedious to me, and I hadn't really thought about God as a friend, or a Father. Instead, I thought of him as 'something to believe in if you need a name to call out to when you get into trouble, or when you face problems you can't handle yourself.'
As I sat on the grass in the corner of the marquee along with dozens of other young people, we watched a small procession of bands and artistes perform on the primitive stage. The final act, a hairy three piece acid-folk rock band, walked onto the stage and I began to take a little more notice. They were different. They were called Parchment, and the song that hit me straight between the eyes was a song that, although I was unaware of it at the time, had already enjoyed some recent British chart success. The song that touched me was Light up the Fire.
As Sue MacLelland, John Pac and Keith Rycroft belted out the anthem, the words caused me to reflect on my life, and the direction I had chosen to take. When the words 'Open the door, let Jesus return', sank in, I began to realise that if Jesus did return at that moment, I would definitely not be ready for Him. Due to my Christian upbringing, I knew what the Bible had to say about Heaven and Hell, sin and forgiveness. But I wasn't sure whether I belonged to God or not. Who was I? What was my purpose in life? In fact, I'd never really examined my life in those terms before. I suddenly wanted to be certain, wanted to know that I belonged, but I didn't really know how or understand why. A wave of quiet panic began to wash over me, and I began to fall under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. For the remaining hour or so of the concert, I can recollect very little, except a distinct feeling of uncertainty and confusion in my life.
Driving back after the event, I sat in the front of the minibus, alongside the driver, a mature Christian man called Hugh Gascoyne, who also happened to be one of the trainers of the group of RAF apprentices who were sat in the back seats. As they larked about, singing noisily and telling off-colour stories and jokes behind me, Hugh started talking to me about the events of the night. At one point he remarked to me that it was good to belong to God. I nodded my sheepish agreement, but began to realise that perhaps I didn't belong to God after all. I had been born into a Christian family, but that didn't make me a Christian, anymore than walking into a garage would make me a car. God doesn't have any grandchildren, I knew.
That very night, I walked up to my room, knelt down by my bedside, and asked God to change my life, and to make sure that I belonged to him. That was the night it all changed for me. From that moment on, I began to embark on a new course in life, and started playing music that was aimed at spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. I became a music evangelist. This blog will document the years that followed.
Touched by a song by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.