Blessings of a Lifetime - by Pastor K A Elias
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A few days ago I reached the hoary age of 87! I can hardly believe that life has passed so quickly. Still it is time to look backward and rejoice at the amazing blessings the good Lord bas provided for me during those years that have fled by so rapidly.
I was born in the middle of the 1914/I8 war. The blessings began almost immediately. My Mother tells me that in my first few months I suffered both pneumonia and meningitis but survived both! About the same time my Father was called up into the forces as so many others were too. But he had a unique problem. Some years earlier he had joined the Seventh- day Adventist church, and as you will know, the Adventists faithfully keep the fourth commandment of Scripture which bids us remember to keep holy the Sabbath of God and stipulates this to be the seventh day of the week, which, of course, is Saturday rather than the Sunday which most Christians mistakenly observe. Accordingly when Dad was called up he asked for his Saturdays free .To begin with all went well, but this didn't last! Soon a new commander took charge, and he assured Dad that he wasn't going to make exception for him. We were at war and Dad would obey his commands without question! Accordingly he commanded father to report for duty the next Saturday or face the consequences. However Dad was convinced his first duty was to God and accordingly kept the Sabbath as usual the result was inevitable. He was arrested and charged with disobeying his commander's orders. He was found guilty, and sentenced to be shot in three weeks time. During the three weeks he was imprisoned and his companions all came and wished him farewell. On the night before the sentence was to be carried out he wrote his farewell letter to Mum. Next morning he awaited being taken to be shot. But to his amazement no one came. It turned out that the officer had never intended to go that far, but hoped that the threat would be enough to get Dad to give in. Not knowing this, however, he had determined to be true to his God no matter what the cost. The result was wonderful. From that time to the end of the war he was never asked again to work on Sabbath, and he faithfully kept God's command. What a wonderful God we serve.
Following his return to civilian duties after the war Dad was asked to work in Scotland, and accordingly we left York and set up home in Perth. There I started school for the first time. We lived in a side road off the busy Dunkeld Road, and my school was located the other side of that road. One day, just five years old, I was crossing the road on my way home, when, to my horror, I realised that a car was speeding towards me and that I was going to be knocked down! I was terrified, naturally, and was sure that I was about to be killed! The next thing I knew was that I was safely on the pavement, and I never remember running there. Young as I was, as I thought over the horrifying experience, I was absolutely convinced that the God Dad had told me about had saved me miraculously. To this day I am sure that my conviction was justified. What a wonderful God we serve.
My parents were poverty stricken when it came time for me to start college. The fees were only fifty pounds per year at that time, but as Dad was earning only around two pounds fifty per week, and he had six of a family to provide for, funds were very scarce. He managed to provide me with twenty pounds to get me started but the rest was up to me. The College knew the problem and provided various kinds of work to enable students to earn their way through. For the first year I worked forty hours a week in the college garden and earned just sixpence an hour. For the next three years I was moved to the college farm and worked sixty hours a week at the same time as taking a full course of studies - still earning the same sixpence hourly! During my first term I had to manage with two suits of clothing -one for daily use and the other for use on Sabbaths. Towards the end of that first term each Friday I had to darn my Sabbath trousers as they wore into holes! It was embarrassing of course, but there was no other way through. To my relief, when I went home for Xmas, my kind parents managed to provide me with a new Sabbath suit costing two pounds fifty! The Lord does provide.
But He not only provides money and practical necessities He provides other blessings as well. During my first summer holidays I earned a half scholarship by calling from door to door selling religious books. I did this back at home in Scotland. Little did I realise how amazingly the Lord was working for me! The story starts in the little town of Kinross north of Edinburgh. There a fifteen year old girl, who had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists, was made to leave school against her wishes. She wanted to go on to further education but her working parents felt it was time for her to leave school and earn some money to help them through. The result was she was given a job in Edinburgh looking after young children. However her employers took unfair advantage of her. They kept her working from six in the morning until late at night. As time went by she became exhausted and was forced to give up the job and go back home. When she got there she had nothing to do. To pass the time one day she decided to visit her great-aunt who lived near Stirling. When she got there she found that her aunt had a church visitor with her. It turned out that the aunt shortly before, had learned about the true Sabbath and had joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a result. . Thrilled with her new experience she enthusiastically asked Nan "Which is the seventh day?" Puzzled Nan hesitated. Her aunt and her visitor urged her, "Look at the calendar, look at the calendar!" She did so and said, "Surely Saturday is the seventh day". Enthusiastically her Auntie replied, "That is right, that is the true Sabbath day!" That was the only study, if you can call it that, she received before she went to Newbold College the same College at which I was studying. Her aunt knew Nan was keen to have further education, and thought this was a good chance to get her to a college where she would learn the truth as she now understood it. Not knowing what she was getting into Nan eagerly accepted the offer of financial help to attend the college then in Rugby. When he learned of this, Auntie's new minister realised what a shock Nan was going to have when she got to Rugby, for she knew nothing about Seventh-day Adventists, and their way of life, at all. After some thought, he decided to take Nan to church in Glasgow in the hope of introducing her to a senior student who was then on holiday there. He would ask this man to look after her as well as he could when she arrived at College. To his dismay, when he got to Glasgow, Jock was not at the church. Looking round in dismay the minister was relieved to see me there for he knew I had commenced studies at the College the year before. Accordingly he introduced Nan to me and asked me to look after her when she arrived down south. Little did he realise that the result was that not only was I going to look after her at Newbold but that I would be looking after her all the rest of her life and she would be looking after me! We married in 1939, as the Second World War was raging.
We had a busy and happy life together. We were blessed with four children, two of whom are serving ministers, one is a minister's wife and the fourth has the prestigious job of managing McDonald's charity organisation in Los Angeles, California. He manages a large hotel which provides accommodation at very reasonable prices for families of young children being treated for cancer at a nearby hospital. Recently he has been made part time minister of a. LA church which had been without a minister for some time. The church was almost deserted when he took it over, but now it is up and flourishing. He is actively considering taking up full time ministry in the near future. (I wrote this article some time ago. Recently Michael has achieved his ambition and is now a full time minister in California.) I am really proud of the family. A wonderful thing is that my wife and I were together for exactly sixty years. On the Saturday we celebrated our diamond jubilee and then quite peacefully Nan fell asleep next day. What a wonderful reunion it will be when she wakes on the resurrection morning. God haste the day!
We were married in Stoke-on-Trent where I was ministering in the SDA Church there. It was wartime and neither of us had cash to spare. When we came up to the wedding day we, of course, had to furnish our house. Here we had a real problem. Our total reserves amounted to just fifteen pounds! God had blessed us again as we had searched for a house to set up our home. We had seen advertised a house in a pleasant part of near-by Newcastle under Lyme, but when we went to see it we were not very pleased with what it offered. Disappointed, we decided to return to our lodgings by walking up the road in which it was situated but in the opposite direction from which we had entered. To our joy we quite unexpectedly passed a house which was empty. .A man was standing at the gate and we enquired if it was to let. He turned out to be a builder of the property and had built the house for sale. Because of the war he hadn't been able to sell it, and when we asked if we could rent it he readily agreed. It turned out to be a lovely place - just what we had hoped for. How helpful God is when we put our trust in Him.
A few years later it came time for us to move on to Wolverhampton to care for the SDA church there. The war was still on and house hunting was difficult indeed. Houses to rent were very scarce. For almost a week I searched and searched but couldn't find anywhere at all. Feeling discouraged I determined to give up the search and go back home. I had been staying with some good church members whilst I searched and when they heard that I was giving up the search they urged me to stay for just another day and go to look in a part of the town I hadn't visited. They had been so helpful to me that I couldn't ignore their urging, so determined to stay one more day. I was very dubious of going where they had urged me to search for it was an area of council houses and the council wasn't at that time making their houses available to people not living in the town because of the huge demands on them. I took the bus to its terminus on the Birmingham New Road on a winter's day that was wet and cold. I determined I would walk up the main road for half a mile or so, and if I couldn't find anything I would give up and catch the tram back to Stoke.
As I walked along I saw some shops on the other side of the road. Normally it was my practise to call in these shops and ask if the shopkeepers knew of any flats or houses nearby to let. But discouraged I just didn't think it worthwhile to enquire this time - after all, all the flats above the shops seemed to be occupied. Shivering in the frosty weather I walked on for another half mile. Discouraged, I turned back determined to get the train back home. I had just had enough! As I returned up the road I had of course to pass those shops again. This time I thought it was crazy not at least to make enquiry .So, reluctantly I crossed the busy road and chose the newsagent's shop to ask in. As I entered the shop a lady came out. I approached the counter and made my enquiries about flats to let. In astonishment the shopkeeper gasped as I asked and said, "Did you see that lady that just went out? She lives upstairs and has just been in to say that she has had word from her husband who is on war service that he has found a house for them to move into where he is working. Now she will be leaving almost immediately and her flat will be available to rent - why don't you enquire about it?" Now, all weariness forgotten, I searched out the agent. He had a list of over thirty people seeking such a place but as I had found out the place was to let he agreed that I could have it. What a wonderful answer to prayer it was. I quickly realised what an amazing way the Lord had led me. If I had gone into the shops to enquire, as was my custom, as I went along the road the lady wouldn't have had time to go down to cancel her papers and the answer would have been that all the flats were occupied. The good Lord just let me walk discouraged along the road for long enough to let the lady announce she was leaving. And then He sent me back just at the right time. The flat served us well for all the time we remained in Wolverhampton. What an amazing God we serve!
From Wolverhampton I was asked to move to Liverpool just a few weeks after the six day blitz that shattered that busy city. As usual I searched from area to area to try and find a house. After a few days I arrived at Childwell and there I found a lovely semi which had been vacated by its owners due to fear of another German attack. It suited us fine and we were very happy there. Also we were blessed in that no other attack followed and we were able to pursue our work unhindered. From Liverpool we moved to Southport just before the war came to an end. There we shared a large house with its owner in a suburb of the town. There was no SDA church in the town when we got there but there were one or two isolated members nearby. It was my job to conduct a public evangelistic campaign which resulted in some twenty members being baptised and we were able to organise a church there in due course. Again the God we serve blessed us abundantly. During the campaign I noticed that an elderly lady came in to the hall we were using at the last minute, listened intently to all that we presented, and disappeared hurriedly before we could greet her. This continued for several weeks and we made no contact with her for some time. Each evening I offered the congregation a write-up of the address I was presenting, but never once did she fill in the coupon which enabled us to deliver the pamphlet to their homes. So we had no way of contacting her personally until, towards the end of the series I presented the Bible teaching of adult baptism and distributed forms which those interested could fill out requesting baptism. To my surprise this good lady filled out the form and for the first time I had her address! Visiting her I learned her story and what a story it was!
All her life she had been a faithful Roman Catholic and never dreamed that she would ever be anything else. One day in church she had an experience that horrified her! Sitting in Mass she suddenly had the feeling that that the church was nothing but spiritual emptiness - the glory she had always felt suddenly disappeared. Horrified she went home and as the days passed she became convinced that she had been dreaming. She returned to Mass the next Sunday, only to have the experience repeat itself! Mystified she realised that never again could she return to the Catholic Church. Sitting alone in her home one night shortly after, and still horrified about what had happened she felt she should find another place of worship, but as a life long Catholic she felt she could never attend a Protestant church. What could she do? She loved the Lord and earnestly wanted to worship Him. As she was pondering she heard something being pushed through her letterbox. Fetching the handbill in she realised it was announcing the meetings that I was about to hold. She suddenly noticed that these meetings were to be held in a public hall and she felt that as they were not in a church building she could attend them. Accordingly she came in at the last minute, listened carefully to what was being taught, and then disappeared before anyone could talk to her. Each night she felt that God was teaching her His truth, and when I spoke of baptism she was convinced that that was the way for her. She was baptised and continued faithfully to attend the Adventist Church until she eventually died, confident that she would be resurrected as God had promised and live with Him eternally. What a wonderful day it will be when we meet again, and how wonderfully God can, and does, lead us. God grant that we will always follow His leading.
My stay in Southport came to a sorry end. As I mentioned earlier we were living in a very nice house which we shared with the then owner. . After a year or two this good lady decided that she wanted to sell the house. As we were tenants she had to sell the house at a reduced price for it was the law in those war days that anyone purchasing a shared house could not put tenants out. The new owners wanted the house to themselves and decided that the best way to achieve this would be to make the conditions so miserable for us that we would leave of our own accord. Things got so bad that my health got severely affected and I had to stop work for several weeks. But the Lord's hands were in this although we did not realise it at the time. It so happened that a member of the Conference Committee visited us whilst the troubles were at their height. Realising the difficulties we were experiencing this good man reported the situation to the Committee and suggested that we should be moved forthwith. The result was that the brethren decided that we should move to Bolton and conduct an evangelistic campaign there. At that time there was no Adventist Church in that town although two or three isolated members lived there. The result was that a fine church was established and is flourishing at the present time. God certainly knows what He is doing and our temporary suffering led to the conversion of many fine souls. How wonderfully He works.
Another encouraging experience resulting from this campaign only came to my knowledge several years later. By this time I had been appointed President of the North England Conference and was making a routine visit one Sabbath to the Bolton church. As I was shaking hands with the congregation as they left after the sermon a man I did not know came smilingly towards me. "Do you remember me?'', he exclaimed enthusiastically as we shook hands. Then I was embarrassed. I didn't like to say I had no idea who he was, but I had no alternative! "Why", he proclaimed enthusiastically, "don't you remember conducting evangelistic meetings in the Spinners hall." Of course I remembered that! "Well" he continued enthusiastically, "I attended the first four of your meetings." But for some reason he didn't come again. He continued however, "I never forgot what you taught us, and some years later I decided that I must attend the Adventist church I knew you belonged to." The result was he was baptised and by the time I met him he had become a very enthusiastic deacon in that still growing church. . The Lord had led me to influence his conversion but I had no idea of so doing! I say again, what a wonderful God we serve.
My next responsibility was the church in Sheffield. There I conducted a campaign in the Town Hall. There too we had evidence of the Lord's leading. In the congregation was a fine gentleman and his wife. During the war this man had been serving in hull in East Yorkshire. There the late Pastor R.D. Vine had been conducting a similar campaign and this good man had been very interested in Pastor Vine's studies of Bible truth until he came to a presentation of the seventh day Sabbath - Saturday- according to the fourth commandment. He couldn't see any importance in this, and accordingly ceased attending Pastor Vine's meetings. He was transferred to another part of the Midlands and there attended a similar campaign conducted by another minister. Eventually he came face to face once more with the true Sabbath issue. Again he couldn't face it and never returned to the meetings. Back in Sheffield after the war he heard about my meetings and duly attended, convinced that eventually I would bring up the same Sabbath issue. Sure enough, in due time, we presented this contentious topic. This time, however, his response was quite different. This time he decided that he had no option but to observe the true Sabbath, for obviously the God he loved was leading him in that way. His wife was attending the meetings with him and both of them decided to be baptised as the Lord wanted. Both he and his wife fell asleep some time ago, but by that time their beloved son had joined the church and is now serving as a very efficient missionary for the Lord. It really is wonderful how God leads, isn't it?
From Sheffield we were moved on in due course to Leicester. There, again, I conducted another campaign and was getting along fine when suddenly the brethren at headquarters decided that I should move across the Irish Sea to Belfast. This was the last thing I wanted to do. All was going well in Leicester and I had no desire to move elsewhere. For some six months the Conference leaders tolerated my opposition to the move, and then put their foot down firmly and made it known, that like it or not, I had to move to Belfast. Reluctantly I made an investigative journey across to Belfast by steamer from Liverpool. Pastor Dorland, then in charge of the Irish Mission as president met me at the dockside. He greeted me cordially, but immediately warned me that as soon as it was known that I was a Seventh-day Adventist I wouldn't be allowed to hire a hall in Belfast in which I could conduct my meetings. Immediately it occurred to me that this was my way out if I couldn't get a hall I wouldn't have to come, and I still didn't want to leave Leicester. However I decided that I would do my best to negotiate the hire of a hall and if my discussions failed then all the better!
That morning Pastor Dorland had arranged for me to meet the manager of a local cinema chain in the hope of hiring one of their cinemas in which to conduct the campaign. When we arrived at his office, the man we were to see sent word that he was busy and asked us to see his assistant. This we did and talked quite pleasantly for about fifteen minutes. Then the big man himself stormed into the room. Immediately he asked the question I was warned about! "What denomination are you?" he blurted out. Trying to hide my embarrassment I said as calmly as I could "I am a Seventh-day Adventist!". Then to my astonishment he said, "I thought you were - I thought you were." He was so enthusiastic that I was completely taken aback - his response was quite the opposite from what I had been expecting! I stammered out, "You thought I was a SDA - whatever made you think that?" "Well" he said, "you see I haven't been long over here myself. Before I came here I was one of the officials looking after the New Gallery in London where you held your meetings. I was so impressed with what you did there that when I heard you were waiting to hire one of my cinemas in which to hold a campaign I was convinced you must be an Adventist. Now you would be welcome to hire any one of my five cinemas in which to hold your meetings, but I know none of the cinemas would meet your needs. None of them have a platform on which you could work. Whilst you have been talking to my assistant I have been phoning a friend of mine who owns the two leading theatres in Belfast. I have told him all about you and he has said that if you will go and see him tomorrow you can have whichever theatre you would like! This I did and the result was that we were able to hire the finest theatre in town - and all because we were SDA's!
The results of those meetings were amazing - some sixty people were baptised as a result. I had only booked the theatre from October until December but when we came to the end of the booking our attendances were still excellent. Accordingly, I went to see the owner and arranged to have our booking extended until the spring of the following year. The first Sunday of the New Year was tragic! Snow, which is most unusual in Ulster, was everywhere. We held our meeting but only a handful of people were able to attend. The next day it so happened that I arranged to meet the owner for some business or other. When I got there he said, "What a. terrible time you had last night! I couldn't think of charging you for the evening. I suggest you take an extra Sunday to your booking and we will call it all quits." This we did and the results were marvellous.
On the opening night tragedy almost struck. I had arranged for my assistant to open proceedings with a song service led by the choir. At the close of this introduction the lights in the theatre would go out and a specially designed cross at the front would be illuminated. At the same time another assistant would accompany me on to the stage. The assistant would then lead us in prayer as an introduction to our meeting. It was then the unexpected happened. My assistant lost his nerve, (he had never been on a stage before) and instead of praying be announced the offering of all things! Here we were in a place I had never been before and the first thing we asked our congregation for was money! I was completely taken aback. Eventually it came time for the address. I stood on that platform with a spotlight dazzling me, and couldn't see anything of the congregation! I had never spoken to an Irish public before. A few minutes into the sermon I had planned to quote the text of John 14:1-3. Quite without previous intention I was led to do something I would never have thought of before! On the spot I said, "I know that you good Ulster folk know your Bibles, and I feel sure you will know this text - why don't you recite it with me." The result was amazing! Out of the blackness came hundreds of voices reciting "Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God believe also in Me, in my Father's house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again and receive you unto myself�" From that moment the barrier between us was broken and we were friends. The results, as I mentioned earlier, were excellent. What a God we serve!
Another unexpected situation developed about the same time. Pastor Dorland, the Mission President, was taken ill and it became clear that the time for his retirement had come. To my astonishment the committee appointed me as the new President. This meant that I was having to conduct the evangelistic campaign, act as the Belfast church pastor and take charge of the Irish Mission all at the same time! God again was good and enabled me to cope with the three responsibilities simultaneously.
From Ulster I was moved to Cardiff and given the responsibility of the larger Welsh Mission. There we had another example of God's guidance right at the beginning. When we got to Cardiff we found that houses were almost impossible to purchase. The few houses that were advertised had queues of people outside waiting to view them. We discovered a very suitable house near Llandaff Cathedral, but again we were one of many trying to buy it. Two factors helped us. The sellers were intrigued with my wife's Scottish accent and with us was Colin Wilson, the BUC treasurer at the time. He assured the owners that we had no need to try for a mortgage, as we could pay cash down. As a result we were pushed to the head of the queue and the house was ours!
From Wales we eventually were asked to move to Nottingham where I would be given the responsibility of leading the North England Conference. For a while we occupied the house owned by that Conference but eventually we realised that we were getting near retirement and it was advisable for us to own our own house before that important day dawned. Accordingly after some searching we purchased a very nice house in the Nottingham suburbs. Just six months later I was asked to move to Grantham to take charge of the Stanborough Press -our publishing house! When we tried to sell the house we had just purchased we realised that values had dropped and we were faced with the possibility of a loss we certainly couldn't afford! However we went ahead and the amazing thing was we were blessed with a buyer who purchased the house for a price just one hundred pounds ahead of what we had paid for it! God saw us through once more, bless Him.
At the same time we had a problem finding a house in Grantham. Properties for sale were very scarce and were snapped up as soon as they came on the market. For three months my wife searched the district whilst I coped with the problems the Press was facing at that time. Eventually she came across a nice property, which would suit us fine, and at a price we could afford. The snag was it had been promised to another seeker! She was led to leave her name and address with the owners and asked them if the sale fell through to let us know. Sure enough this happened and the fine property was ours! We spent three fine years there coping with and overcoming the Press's difficulties. As a result we were led to link up with the Church' s chief publishing house in the States and the difficulties were solved. Once again we had ample proof of the good Lord's leading, bless Him!
From Grantham we returned to Nottingham looking after the North British Conference which now covered the old North England territory and the former Scottish Mission. After a little while we bought a lovely four-bedroom house. By that time I had reached retirement age and decided to move for the last time to Poole in Dorset. Again we had a problem and again the good Lord solved the problem for us in a wonderful way. Naturally in retirement we didn't want to have to increase our mortgage and so we looked for a property at the same price that we were receiving for our lovely home in Nottingham. Prices, of course, in the South were very much higher than those in the Midlands. We mentioned our highest buying price to the agents and they supplied a list of homes within that range - about thirty altogether. When we went to see them we didn't even bother to look them over - they obviously were not what we wanted. Eventually we saw one of the listed buildings that we thought might be a possibility, but when we knocked at the door there was no one to show us round. My friend, Pastor Foster, who was taking us round in his car suggested we went down the road we were then in so that we get out to see another house. What he didn't realise, was that the road we were travelling down was a dead-end. But amazingly that was the answer to our prayers! For right at the end of the road was a fine bungalow with a "For sale" notice on it. We looked round the outside - there was no one living there at the time - and thought we would like it. However my wife and Pastor Foster said not to bother because it would be much more expensive than we could afford. However I decided to stop at the first phone box and contact the agents. When I did so they asked me what was the number of the property for they had two houses for sale in that road. I hadn't noted the number so they said that one of the houses was �34,000 and the other �39,000. We felt it likely that the one we were interested in was most likely the more expensive and this would have meant that we would have had to increase our mortgage which we were reluctant to do. We went for lunch and then returned to meet the agent as agreed and be shown over the place. The first thing he did was to hand me the brochure describing the house, and the first thing I did was to check the price. To my astonishment it was the cheaper one of the two! The result was that we got it for exactly the same price we received for the Nottingham property. God had answered our prayers once more!
This wasn't the end of the blessings, however. As the years rolled by we became more feeble - my eyes began to fail and no longer could I drive my car. But no problem! Our next door neighbours turned out to be the kindest of people. Twice a week they do my shopping for me and every Sunday provide me with a wonderful lunch! They also keep an eye on me to make sure I am not in difficulties. I lost my wife three years ago and they are a wonderful help to me! Isn't it amazing how God cares for us? God haste the day when this life will be over and we will be able to thank Him face to face for all His wonderful kindness. Old age is not the best of times. But it has the great advantage that we can look back on our lives and realise what great things He has done for us. He really is a wonderful loving God - prove Him for yourself! You'll never regret it, be assured.
K A Elias