A year ago I asked Colin to write out his journey with God for me, little knowing how precious what he wrote would become. Digging it out this week, I thought others might find it as inspiring as I have and be an encouragement to keep on keeping on with God.
Colin had very little formal education, but had an inquisitive mind and was hungry to learn and grow as a Christian and help others become disciples of the one He loved so much who died for someone so insignificant (or so he thought!) as him.
Abraham Lincoln said something that I think is perfectly illustrated by Colin: ‘In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years’
Colin packed a lot of life into his years (even more than he modestly recalls here!). I doubt you’ll enjoy Colin’s story – it’s too challenging for those of us left to carry on the good fight! It would be good to post up your response, memory, tribute at the end to this lovely man who really lived for Christ and the people he loved. ‘Although dead , he still speaks’.
My All Nations / Bonneville Story By Colin Ashdown
This began back in June 1963 when I arrived from Clapham Congregational Church, to become an Officer in the 181st London Boys’ Brigade Company. The Captain at the time was John Phillips assisted by Lt John Hills and WO Jim Sparrow.
I had become a Christian in 1961 at a BB Officers training course. Until then I would say that the most influential person I met was a man called Michael Harris, ex- Ramsden. He was a real evangelical who lived the life, and made God seem alive to me from the age of 14. I looked up to him and wanted to be like him.
After attending Baptismal classes at Ramsden and Bonneville, I was Baptised in Oct 64 by the Rev David Snelling who had become Pastor earlier that year. It was during this time that John Phillips introduced me to Psalm 119: 9,11.verses which says that the only way a young man can keep his life pure is by hiding God’s word in his heart, which were to be the mainstay of my work among the young people of both Bonneville and RaleighPark.
1967 saw a Billy Graham London Crusade at Earls Court and a number of our young people made commitments for Christ and were Baptised . However it also turned out to be tragic time with the death of David Snelling later that August. This left a vacancy in the Pastorate, which was to last for four years, a low period for the Church which became a time of tension especially between the leaders and young people.
In 1968 (Nov) JohnHills, who was now Company Captain, suffered a stroke and I was asked to take over the Company. This I agreed to do for three years which was to become twenty. It was during 1969 after I had my first intake of New Members, that I first came to know the Davis Family. Noel and Floyd, then their parents Hugh, Joyce, Bob and Lin. Since then I have enjoyed a good friendship with both families, their children and their children’s children.
Due to the tensions and the general atmosphere I was finding it hard to run the company and whilst meeting with the Moderator, Rev Arthur Robinson, he suggested that I stood for the position in the Diaconate that had become vacant. This I did and became a Deacon in 1970.
In 1971 we were glad to welcome the Rev Trevor Bailey to Bonneville as Pastor, and he was able to ‘Steady the Ship’. He also became a good friend and helper as Chaplain of the BB, dealing with some of the problems and helping with running our club night. In 1972 we held a week of mission in the area. This was the first time that I had been involved in anything like that but it wasn’t going to be the last.
Sadly in 1974 we said goodbye to ‘The Rev Trev’ and wondered how long it would be before a new one arrived. It wasn’t long before we as Deacons were interviewing a young man by the name of Les Ball. My part of the interview consisted of one question. ‘What football team do you support?’ I was not impressed at his answer.
With the arrival of Les and Ann in September, things started to change especially the ‘wallpaper’. The church colour scheme became more ebony and ivory. Strange people started to appear- Heather King, Judy Graydon, Derek Capon, Roger Neal and others. Another coincidence was that they were all involved with ‘The Navigators’ an organisation whose objective was making disciples.
1975 and 1976 Les and Ann ran children’s and teenagers CSSM Beach missions at Seaton in Devon. I was not involved in these but I did notice the positive effect they had on the young people who went to help out. They came back on fire for God. This was also a time when we had two church weekends away at ’Fellowship House’ in Essex and it was here that I asked God for the gift of teaching. It was also a laugh watching Pat, Pam, Barbara and Sandra being chased by a big sheep.
1976 was also eventful in many different ways- BB Bible class gave way to All age Christian Discipleship School (CDS). John and OliveHills took over the BB Junior Section. The Church’s Evangelism Explosion course started but perhaps the biggest change for me came when Leslie Davis made a commitment for Christ at a ‘Dick Saunders way to life crusade’ on Streatham Common. It came as a shock when Les Ball told me to follow Leslie D up and that he would show me how. Thus began my adventure in disciple making which would continue up to the present day. Soon after this, many other Boys ‘came forward’ and it was good to have Derek, Roger and also Paul Spiller around to help out.
In 1977 I attended the European Congress of Disciple Making organised by the Navigators. This was held in Essen in Germany and had such an effect on me that I felt it right to resign from the Diaconate and concentrate solely on discipling BB Boys. I also joined in the Evangelism visiting program as a trainee in a team which included Derek Capon and Ann Ball. This proved to be a really good time especially when the teams had to report back on their escapades.
In 1978 Marc Bassot became our full time youth worker. The idea of a youth club was hard to accept at first but it was fruitful and it did eventually give Steve Henry and Errol Curniffe a job to keep them out of mischief. Other memories of this year – Graham Holliday disappeared for six months as a carpenter on the OM Ship ‘MV Doulos’. ‘Spring Harvest’ began and the ‘Graham Kendrick’ song was ‘There’s a sound on the wind’ and Floyd Davis and myself played our trumpets in Judy’s production called ‘Choose Life’.
1980s approached and with the new decade came changes both expected and completely un-expected. The BB was going all right as Jim Sparrow would say. 1981 saw the music groups production of ‘The Glory of Christmas’ and my version of ‘Not the Glory of Christmas’. I also acted with James Fox (Father of Laurence).
In 1982 I had the privilege of accompanying Joyce and Leslie Davis up to Buckingham Palace to see him presented with his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award by Prince Phillip. He was the first in the 181st to gain this award. This was also the year when Les Ball sent a team over to RaleighPark in Brixton in order to prevent it being closed down. They were – Glen McWatt, Paul and Jane Spiller, Penny Church, Judy Brewer and Irene who was soon to become Mrs McWatt. Floyd Davis followed later.
1983 Was a year of change for me. This began with the ‘Luis Palau’ mission to London on Clapham Common. During the mission many young people became Christians and I was asked to oversee their follow up. This was the first time that I had worked with Girls but I had a good team to work with me. It was at this time that I got to know the McLeod’s well as the CDS class I ran consisted of Billie-Jean McLeod and the Palmer Twins, Carolyn and Jacquelyn and a mid-week study group contained Jacqui McLeod . Marcia was helping with a mid-week group as was Yvonne.
The Eighties continued in this vein and by 1984 (Luis Palau at QPR) we were all looking forward to the new Church which was completed in 1986.
1986 Was the year that was going to shake the whole of Bonneville. In January John Taylor gave a word of prophesy telling us to be careful as Satan had murder on his heart for Bonneville. Soon after this John lost his younger brother in a motorcycle accident this we thought was what his message was about. Then I had the honour of being best man at Graham Holliday’s wedding in March, and Floyd Davis’s in May. Talks were started with the aim of having a single youth group by merging the existing organisations and we were all looking forward to the opening of our new building. Then on August 14th the whole Church was stunned when Graham Holliday was killed whilst putting up the BB Camp at Swanage. Without going into too much detail I can only say that the shock of this incident affected many people physically and mentally but God is good and although we were shaken we were not crushed though some people still bear the scars.
As we entered our new Church changes began to take place. In 1988 it was agreed to amalgamate the BB and the youth club under the name ‘The Kings Club’. To start with Marc Bassot was leader assisted by me. We both gave up in 1990 and Marcia became leader. It was at this time a new work was going to begin in Bedford Hill. By now my youth work was with the CDS on Sundays, but Les then started teaching me how to preach believing that my teaching gift should be developed, and I began to preach at RP once a month…and people seemed to find it helpful and got blessed. I still played with the music group on Sundays and became treasurer of the youth club until 1995.
I took early redundancy from my Job at BT In 1992 and began to work full time in the Church office. My main Job was organising the ‘Bonneville Bible School’ Life course on Thursday evenings. It was also at this time when I attended Spurgeon’s Bible College Tuesday Course.
I finally gave up CDS and with it my work with young people (or so I thought) in 1995 and I felt it was right for me to move over to Raleigh Park but I insisted not as a leader and definitely not youth work.
In 1997 Mandy Baptiste ‘ conned’ me into (helping!!!) with the Sunday School then later in the year we all came back to All Nations where I was involved in helping to run the LAZERS with Rosaleen Fajemesin-Duncan. 1998 we went back to Raleigh Park this time with Frank Brookes. It was then that I became Treasurer, Helped with the worship and yes, the youth work!
The years in Brixton have been challenging. We have a Pregnancy Crisis centre there as we are right next door to one of London’s busiest abortion clinics, and a work among ex-offenders (Transformed) as we are also near H.M. Brixton Prison, but as a Church it is a spiritual battle. Frank was diagnosed with a brain tumour and died leaving his wife and two young daughters for us to look after. It was tragic. The person helping him with the Pregnancy Crisis Centre left, and we saw many good friends at RP and at All Nations, pass away since November 2010. Ronnie’s death had a similar effect on people as Graham’s did in 86. I became very aware that we are contending against the spirit powers of death at Raleigh Park and have had to learn much about spiritual warfare. I thank God for Les Ball coming back over to help us and build us up again. He and Ann took us away for a weekend where we really met with God in a fresh way.
It was at the RP Prayer meeting on the evening after a funeral when I felt that God spoke to us. Errol had played the song ‘You are a chosen people, a Royal Priesthood’ and the words seemed to jump out at me
1 Peter 2: 9
But you are the chosen race, The Kings Priests, The Holy Nation, Gods own people, Chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God Who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light.
Yes, God has chosen each one of us at All Nations, Bedford Hill and Raleigh Park. We have not chosen him. This fact I find comforting because if he has chosen us for a purpose, then it’s not us but Satan’s Dominions that have to try to prevail. What does the Bible tell us about ‘Gates of hell’ and ‘The Church’ and ‘Prevailing’?
With that abortion clinic next door we at Raleigh Park must stay focussed and help bring down those diabolical gates.