Colin Ashdown – my God story

CIMG0424[1]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.

13 thoughts on “Colin Ashdown – my God story

  1. Jacqui McLeod says:

    Colin was a truly special individual who left deep footprints on the hearts of many young people including mine. I hadn’t seem much of him recently but he always popped up at significant moments in my life, the most recent being when our father passed away in 2006. To this day Colin remains on the short list of those who have had the most positive effect on my life.

  2. Alan Raishbrook says:

    I hadn’t seen Colin for about 40 years but I have very happy memories of my times at Bonneville Baptist church and the BB and youth club there. We shared a birthday although seven years apart and I will always remember the things we ‘got up to’ with other Church, BB and Girl Guide members eg. midnight hikes, jazzing up the Church Parade on a Sunday with my bass drum and going to other churches to get a sneeky look at the potential next vicar of Bonneville after David Snelling died. They were good times and I’m glad to hear Colin got even more involved with the church after I got married and moved to Dorset. He really was a ‘great bloke’.

    Alan Raishbrook

  3. Joan Sinclair says:

    I first met Colin a few years ago at Raleigh Park. He came smiling at me after church as he introduced himself. I said to him: ‘ You seem to be a happy young man’, He laughed heftily.That was the first of many ocassions I had to talk and laugh with this dear man of God who lived a selfless and godfearing life. I did not know the extent of Colin’s Christian life as written above, but I could attest that it was in his character. I will miss you, Colin. May your soul rest in peace and light perpetually shine upon it.

    Joan Sinclair

    February 17 2013

  4. Trisha says:

    To me I can’t remember Colin not bring around. From a young child were we looked forward to leaving the service and going to Sunday school. Colin would always greet us with a smile. We would all be in the old building and play games in the garden. As I grew older Colin would take us strawberry picking, bible study. On a Friday he would come and pick me and Abbey Ball up and taught us how to play the cornet. His impact on my life was great and I will miss him immensely. He had a heart for youth discipleship and left a great legacy . Trisha Muirhead

  5. Curniffe Family says:

    He was a very special Brother in Christ Jesus. He is now in heaven in the Choir blowing his cornet for Jesus. Just like he use to on Sunday mornings at Raleigh Park . He will be missed by us all.

  6. FRED THOMPSON says:

    Colin was shining light wherever he was I will dearly miss his lovely SMILE. Colin knew everyone by their name and surely GOD knows him. Colin, our brother, is in HEAVEN.

  7. Andrew Snelling says:

    Colin was an unassuming gentle man, but his impact was huge and in ways you would not immediately realise. Often in my thoughts, and always with such respect and admiration. Thank you so much Colin for all your selfless efforts over the years. Although you will be sorely missed – know that your memory will live strong in the hearts of so many grateful people, including me.

  8. Like the Queen,Colin Ashdown has always always part of my life. I cannot recall a time when he wasn’t around. I don’t think he ever truly appreciated, how highly respected and loved he was.His knowledge of the word was inspiring and he was always prepared to find out anything he was unclear about. Recently he would always take the time to chat with my son Michael about their shared love of Arsenal, and they would both complain about another year without a trophy!! Will miss him terrible but earths loss is surely heavens gain.

  9. Patricia Henry says:

    Colin was very much part of our family and we enjoyed his company at different events throughout our lives, from our wedding, dedication of our daughters, Christmas meals, baptisms, social events, holidays, fruit picking, museums, and the very last event was our daughters wedding in September 2012. Colin was VERY special a one off, who will be truely missed by all who knew him. Pat on behalf of ‘The Henry Family’

  10. Joan Barclay says:

    Our Colin loved as Jesus loved,
    No one for him too bad,
    No matter where they came from,
    Or what worldly goods they had,
    Those from dingy flats or houses smart
    All found a place in Colin’s heart.
    Joining something with a structure secure,
    Gave confidence as they developed year by year.

    Our Colin cared as Jesus cared,
    For those who’d lost their way,
    With drugs or drink or lives of crime,
    Or just had nowhere to stay.
    Those who at school had struggled to cope
    Or to fit in at home, just hadn’t a hope,
    Not quick to judge, but quick to care
    Glad they came to him their problem to share.

    Our Colin walked where Jesus walked,
    He met folk where they were.
    From all walks of life, in unlikely places
    He’d meet up with them and remember their faces.
    At the bar with a pint, recalling the past
    The friendships made that would always last.
    “Sure and Steadfast” and “Be Prepared”
    Amongst young people whose lives he’d shared

    So many memories flood into the mind
    As we remember the man both loved and kind.
    There were camps and rambles and mini bus trips
    And with concerts, fun days and pantos we all got to grips.
    Bonfire nights, where it seemed the windows would break,
    The endless hotdogs and celebration cake,
    With Church Parades when we marched with Colours flying
    (Keeping the young ones in step became very trying)
    The Band that played and woke our neighbours,
    Each organisation doing the other big favours.
    BB Suppers and our Annual Displays,
    The football matches they talked of for days.
    In the Old Building we loved and managed to share,
    The russet on the walls painted with such special care.
    The competitions we trained for in PT and swimming,
    Cheering each other and proud to be winning.
    Fund raising was tough and took its toll
    (Jumble Sales were especially loathed by Col)
    But with help from others, we made lots of cash
    So we could buy new equipment and throw out the trash
    Expeditions and achievements, some great and some small,
    Queens Guides and Gold D of E, we had them all.
    We had problems to solve that sometimes seemed vast,
    Remembering things that happened in the far distant past
    In Youth Clubs where each member another could bring,
    And the Bonneville Choir, where he was told not to sing !!
    Well over forty years since we first met
    Precious memories now that we’ll never forget !

    If we should go to Heaven, and we hope and pray we may
    T’is said there’ll be some surprises among those we meet that day
    The Pearly Gates will open and with joy the choirs will sing
    And as we walk the streets of gold, great peace to us t’will bring
    For we’ll have overcome all problems, no more pain and death
    And Colin will play his trumpet and he won’t be out of breath

    Joan & Bob Barclay and countless Guides, BB Boys and members of the pre 80’s Youth Clubs

  11. I first got to know Colin around 1978. He asked me to lead a group of boys in Bible study during the era of Christian Discipleship School. Then in the Summer of 1978, I went to BB camp at Swanage. He and I watched as a few of the lads disconsolately dug a ”wet pit” in the chalk of the cliffs that was to be around 8’ x 4’ and 4’ deep. After a while, they lost interest, and he and I buckled down for the next 2 – 3 hours. I have used this illustration many times since to illustrate the strength of relationships developed working purposefully alongside someone, rather than around the comfort of the coffee table.
    Colin also “Dug Ditches” in people’s lives. He invested in the foundations of discipleship, which he came to embrace wholeheartedly He put into practice the truths of II Timothy 2,2, “and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Colin did not invest in things or holidays. His car was a tool of the trade which he claimed he “placed” but never “parked”.
    He invested in the few and gave himself to the many.
    There are men and women now who are living wholeheartedly for God as a result of Colin (1Thes.2, 19 “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?”
    I would never have thought of Colin as a natural friend. We came from very different backgrounds, and it is only because of co-labouring in the Gospel, that actually we became good friends. He was Godfather to our second daughter, Sarah’.
    There was an integrity and straightforwardness in his dealing with people. On first meeting, he could appear severe, but lying not far behind the appearance was a wonderful sense of infectious fun. He commanded loyalty because he was respected.
    His more recent life work has evolved, but my best memories come from him on BB camp. BB Camp represents something of a lost world, but a good world. It was very well attended. There was discipline and structure in what was done. Boys from largely working class homes responded in a way that you might not have expected. Already, we were in an era when the social atmosphere was permissive and it was thought that the child should just be allowed to express itself. Uniforms, marching and gymnastics were a throwback to the bad old days of National Service. However, it was a structure in which boys blossomed, learned leadership and self-respect, and the many came to know Christ, and subsequently to discipleship. Men and boys who were uncomfortable in church, came alive when they had tents to pitch, wet pits to empty and night hikes to organize.
    I haven’t seen Colin much in the last 23 years, but I shall remember him with respect, warmth and not a little sadness at his going.

    Dave Haley

  12. Keith Bright says:

    I first met Colin when I joined the BB just after he became an officer. I immediately felt an affinity with him because of his sense of humour and the ease with which you could talk to him. He help guide me through some difficult times and was mainly responsible for my acceptance of Christ into my life. He supported me through my time in the BB and was a true friend. I’ll never forget the time spent at BB camps, the time he talked into accepting I’d never be able to play the drums and I should perhaps try the bugle,and the saturday evening Youth Club he helped organised – great times. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for your service but my heart was with you.

    Keith Bright

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