Article of the week: The Lord is my shepherd
6 March 2021
Peter Boneham shares how the Lord has been with him through life’s challenges
MY early childhood was unstable due to family problems. My father walked out, leaving my mother to look after me and my five brothers. We were all born, including twins, during the Second World War, and my mother was left unsupported. Unable to cope, she had a breakdown and we were all taken into the care of the local authority in Warwickshire.
After several unsuccessful foster placements my care officer found me a suitable home in Nuneaton. My foster mother was a member of The Salvation Army, although her husband did not go to church. The first Sunday after I went to live with them she took me along to the afternoon meeting. I loved it and was totally hooked. I was only six years old but my new home proved to be a life-changer, and I slowly began to feel safe, secure and loved. I belonged.
I loved Sunday school and hearing the wonderful stories about Jesus. It was a whole new world for me because I could not remember ever attending Sunday school before. After a few months I gave my heart to Jesus. I became a junior soldier and joined the singing company and YP band. When I was 15 I was enrolled as a senior soldier.
The Salvation Army played a big part in my formative years. I was fully involved with the corps and enjoyed the fellowship and friendship. My foster mother was a caring and inspirational person who had a profound influence on my development. She was filled with God’s love, and I consider myself blessed to have been part of her life.
In 1961 two things happened that had a significant impact on me.
Two days before my 18th birthday I was introduced to an older brother I had never met. John was two years older than me and was already away in a wartime nursery when I was born. That meeting was a special and memorable time for us both.
Soon after this I started to feel quite unsettled and found parts of Army worship challenging. I was confused and disillusioned. After a lot of soul-searching, prayer and meditation, I decided to leave. I never shared my feelings and struggles with anyone in the fellowship, which, looking back, is something I regret.
Three years after first meeting John, I received some shattering news from the police that he had tragically died. He was only 23. I was devastated and felt his loss deeply. I was overwhelmed with grief and sadness, and had many unanswered questions.
Through the many challenges and difficulties in my life I have always felt a spiritual presence, which I know is the Holy Spirit. Jesus is my Saviour and I know he loves me because I feel it in my heart and the Bible tells me so. I have many failings but God has endless patience and I know he will never give up on me. My faith remains strong and I believe that whatever problems we face God will not leave us to struggle alone.
Two of my favourite Bible verses are Galatians 5:22 and 23. These beautiful, powerful words are the core of my faith: ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (New Revised Standard Version).
My early life was a little bumpy. I was a lost sheep, but Jesus found me and brought me back into his flock.
When I left the Army l never wanted it to be final. l have moved several times due to work and, with my family, have always linked up with the Army. I have many fond memories of worshipping at Hemel Hempstead, Leicester Central and Dudley. There is no Army corps where I live, so l worship at the parish church and occasionally attend Birmingham Citadel.
My experiences and faith have shaped the person I am today. I feel fortunate because the Lord has opened many personal and professional doors for me. The Lord is my Shepherd! I am truly blessed. My prayer is that my faith and spiritual experience will continue to grow. I thank God for his continuing love and goodness.
This chorus gives me reassurance that I am never alone:
He’s the Christ of the human road
And he offers to carry your load,
He is walking your way,
Every night, every day,
This Christ of the human road.
He is human and yet so divine,
And he knows your heart’s sorrow and mine;
In all times of need
He’s a true friend indeed,
This Christ of the human road.