O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Rom 11:33
I may have won a few medals and broken some National and World records, but know this that I count the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and testifying to His blessings to my wife and me, far greater than all these worldly tributes and honours awards that I have received. So “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Let me tell my story of how now at the age of 81 I come to do what I do now.
I have always been very active, it was a great joy of freedom to run as fast as I possibly could to feel the wind in my face, so running, jumping burns and climbing were a common thing in my childhood life in the 1940s.
You see then we had no TV, no mobile phones and no computers. So all our activities were outdoors and as was fortunate to live in the edge of town where 400yds took one into the country.
I got interested in athletics since I saw a fellow running around a worn track that he made for himself in the ‘Big Moat Field’ (only those who were born in Harryville Ballymena Northern Ireland and are my age will know where I’m talking about.) but to enlighten you all, it’s where houses in Ballykeel 1 and 2 are built now.
Then it was part of our playground as it was joined to the ‘Moat’. Where there was a small wood of beech trees and three hills. One which we climbed often the other smaller two we ran up and down them.
I must have been about ten at the time when one day I along with two or three of my friends were playing in ‘Big Moat Field’ we saw at the far end of the field a man running. Of course, we were wondering what he was doing so we went across to him.
This was the first time I had spoken to him (Billy Johnston). I suppose he must have been about twenty at the time, I had seen him before because he passed by our door in James Street going to the Boy’s Brigade in 1st. Ballymena Church hall.
He asked if any of us could run, and of course, I volunteered and raced against him for about 100yds. When we finished, he turned to me and said ‘boys you can run well why don’t you start training?’ So from then on the ‘big moat field’ became my training ground.
I continued training mostly on my own and in a few years, I became the school’s (Ballymena Intermediate School, 1952) athletic champion in 100,200,400, 800 yds, putting the shot and throwing the discus.
We were fortunate to have a good coach at school he was a Mr S.A. Littlewood also the coach for the Ninth Old Boys club in Belfast. He was a great all-round PE teacher and introduced us to the Shot and Discus (See newspaper cutting above from the (Ballymena Observer’ 4th.July 1951.)
Remember these sprints were run on grass and with no spikes, only in what we called a pair of “gutties”.
When I was seventeen, I entered for the Northern Ireland Youth championships for the shot and discus, and although I was the youngest there I got first in the discus and third in the shot. When my winning discus throw of 133ft. 7ins. (40.71m) was announced over the loudspeakers and that I was unattached (that is I didn’t belong to any club, there was none in Ballymena) I had many invites to join the big clubs around Belfast but they were all too far away from home and I had no way of getting there.The next big athletic event was the All Ireland Championships in Dublin. I couldn’t afford the fare, also my father and mother would never agree to let me go to Dublin on my own. It was to my dismay that the throw with which I won the N. Ireland Championships, was about nine feet further than the winning throw of all Ireland Youth Championships that same year. I was pretty peeved that I was not there.
I had at that time wanted to go further in athletics, but it wasn’t to be. God had other plans for me, but the physical training, which I had done, was a great help in the work of God where ever I went. In West Africa, I found that the good physical fitness stood me in good stead when the African brethren and I went out on track (on foot) covering 20km. in a day, in a temperature of 35-40.
So it became a daily routine wherever we went I would always exercise my body and look after it nutritional wise. Drinks like tea, coffee and Cola never entered my mouth since I was fifteen. Cigarettes and alcohol never, because I knew these to be drugs and harmful to the body and wanting to follow the scriptures and glorify God in my body as well as in my spirit.
Does Scripture not pose us the question and give us the reason for looking after our bodies in 1 Cor 6:19-20? What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
After many years as an evangelist from the age of twenty, missionary and pastor, I retired some years ago, but still preach anywhere when asked.
So after many years the Lord has also opened up this door into athletics, indoor rowing and powerlifting in which I now hold National and World Records. This has given me many opportunities to testify and tell about the abundant life there is in Christ to many who are not touched with the Gospel elsewhere!
One of the problems that I run into, is that some of the bigger competitions are held on the Lord’s Day(Sunday) so I refuse to compete on that day.