From Salvationist 20 April 2019
With God all things are possible
Mike Black (Leicester South) talks to Colonel Bramwell Booth about the dramatic change God made to his life
MIKE Black is Leicester South’s unofficial ‘meet and greet’ sergeant. He welcomes people with a warm smile and a firm clasp of the hand, making sure everyone feels at home, whatever the event.
Mike’s early years were marked by a year-long course at the land-based HMS Ganges, a three-masted sailing ship, where he became what he calls a Trog (Trainee Rating of Ganges). It involved extremely tough discipline from early morning till ‘lights out’ at night. Everything had to be done ‘at the double’.
Completing the course, Mike joined the Royal Navy where he served for 11 years. Later he became a prison officer for 33 years. No doubt he exercised a more ‘robust’ relationship with those for whom he had responsibility in the prison than he does today with members of the congregation!
At the age of 22 Mike met Frances, who became his wife and mother of their two boys. Married life was wonderful but drinking became progressively more important, until he recognised he had become an alcoholic. Stealing, lying, begging and borrowing became, he says, his daily routine to pay for the next drink. But life was about to change.
Frances was invited by a work colleague to attend the ladies fellowship at Leicester South, which led to attendance at Sunday morning meetings. Mike occasionally accompanied her, but only begrudgingly and usually with a hangover. The singing, the music of the band and the warm fellowship proved attractive, so he began to attend more regularly. Mike had always been keen on music and, over the years, had devoted time and money to his collection of Beatles memorabilia. ‘I am an ardent Beatles fan,’ he says, ‘and have all their recordings. I collect everything and anything – books, videos, CDs – and I have a full set of mint singles that have never been played.
‘When I first went to the Army, I was still drinking. I prayed every day to get rid of this demon on my back but the prayers seemed not to work. I had a fridge magnet, which I looked at every day, with the words “With God all things are possible”. This gave me some encouragement but I was a long way from being free.
‘It was around that time that I suffered a severe bout of depression and I was given some tablets to help me. As I read the guidance leaflet two words leapt out: “No alcohol”. It was truly a message from God.’
Attending meetings regularly, sharing fellowship in the corps, praying and believing led Mike to accept Christ in his life and the longed-for permanent deliverance from his demon. He was first welcomed as an adherent member and later enrolled as a soldier. He then became a songster, much to his delight, and now sings with gusto and enthusiasm.
Mike says: ‘I took an increasing interest in the activities of the corps in gratitude to God for his intervention in my life. This is what gives me the greatest satisfaction.
‘Frances and I have a beautiful home, which is our joy. Whenever I return home, I thank the Lord and think of all those who are homeless, who live in temporary accommodation or high-rise flats in city centres. Frances and I realise how fortunate and blessed we are.
‘In the hallway of our home I have displayed the words of my favourite song, “King Of Kings, Majesty”. The refrain says: “Your majesty, I can but bow;/ I lay my all before you now./ In royal robes I don’t deserve,/ I live to serve your majesty” (SASB 376). When I first came to Christ, I was a struggling alcoholic. Why should Jesus grant me royal robes? “Robes” is an anagram of “sober” and I have now been clean for more than 12 years!’
Since retirement, Mike helps his wife in her cleaning work as often as possible, and he is busy with their two sons and eight grandchildren, not forgetting the Army. Every Thursday Mike and Frances join the cell group that meets in their home. This proves helpful in developing relationships and the spiritual growth of the members as they study and reflect on the biblical message from the preceding Sunday’s meetings.
Recently Mike suffered a serious medical setback that required urgent hospitilisation and surgical intervention. Members of the group arranged for at least one person to visit him every day, witnessing to the deep affection and respect in which he is held.
Check out this week's comment from the Editor here.
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