Howard Stone, our Minister
Although I was born in London, most of my growing up happened in Helmsdale where my Dad was minister. Every Sunday I’d attend Sunday School as well as morning and evening church services. Although I gained a good knowledge of Bible stories, these Christian influences didn’t make a difference to me. I lived an outwardly “good” life, but sometimes resented being known as the minister’s son and the “Holy Howard” nickname that came with it.
Until my early teens I would sit through services without paying attention. I have little memory of anything that was said.
A time came when that began to change. I became increasingly aware that I was being told that I was a sinner – which I knew was true – and that I was bound for hell. I heard that Jesus had died for sinners and that if I believed, I’d be forgiven. I reached a point where I could honestly say that I believed Jesus had died and risen again. Yet, despite my frequent prayers to God to be saved, nothing seemed to change.
One Easter there was a missionary conference in Brora. My family were to be there or away that weekend, so I had no choice but to attend. I didn’t really want to take part, but in the two days there I was asked three times if I was a Christian. I had, for the first time, to admit, “No, I’m not a Christian.” I felt very awkward saying it, but I now know it was God’s way of preparing me for a meeting with a minister who was a family friend. He just started chatting about school, but I blurted out, “I’m not a Christian!” He asked if I’d like to talk. I agreed and he explained simply how Jesus had willingly taken all my sins and been punished in my place. He prayed and everything fell into place. I believed Jesus had died for me and, as I walked back to the place where I was staying, I had an overwhelming sense of peace that my guilt was gone, and of deep joy. I didn’t understand it then, but I know it now – that night I was born again. I went to sleep a transformed person.
However, when I woke the next morning, I began to doubt. “Was what had happened real or just my emotions?” Consequently, I told no-one about my experience. I now see that that was a big mistake. I spent a large part of the next five or six years unsure of whether or not I’d been saved. It is with good reason that God sums up the good news message this way, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
It wasn’t until I was 20 that God gave me the solid assurance that I was truly saved. It came through a very remarkable answer to my prayers. For two years, I’d been pleading that God would rescue me from a miserable life of dreadful loneliness. Christine, my precious wife of over 38 years was the dramatic answer – but that’s a story for another time!
Dear Reader, do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and are you following him as your Lord? If so, have you told someone? Do others know? And if not, then don’t delay! Believe that Jesus took the punishment for your sins, choose to make him Lord of your life – and tell someone what you have done. You will be saved – your life transformed – for ever!
Andrew Shearer, Elder
Born and bred in Scarfskerry, I joined the Royal Navy at 17 years old and learned how to become a hardened drunkard, and other vices common to us all.
When I was around 20 years old, I was throwing up outside the John O' Groats Pub, and heard the words of a preacher there saying how the 'dog returns to its vomit'. Leaning against that wall, I said in prayer, 'I want to give my life to you Jesus. but not all of it, and not today.' In harbour in Rosyth, drunk again, walking along the pier, I found myself being prompted about my guilt, shame and sinfulness through my drunken stupor.
My heavy drinking continued as I worked as a labourer at Dounreay. On one occasion, at the Orkney Show, after another day of drunkenness I found myself cursing myself, for the sinner I was, and looking for ways to speak to Jesus. It passed, and I went back to the pub.
When I went to College at 29, I began to find God at work in me, reviving in me thoughts from my youth of God our Saviour, King Jesus Christ. God did speak graciously to me years later when I finally gave my life to Jesus at 36 years old in a house-church in Tain.
I can see now how He had been speaking to me throughout my young life and into the present. I am not a good man, but now, through His love, His gift of faith in Him to believe, His mercy in me to repent and His grace towards me in forgiveness of my sins and ability to forgive others.