My name is Graham Trice, I was born in Herbert Road Rainham at the end of the Second World War. Unbeknown to me at the time, I was given the grand title of the “Victory Baby of Hebert Road”. Having been born on the east side of the River Medway I was able to call myself “A Man of Kent”. As I grew up I eventually came to realise that there was also a far less flattering title for me, a “sinner”.
I did not get off to a good start in life as my mother died when I was four years old. I resented the fact my stepmother was introduced to me as “This is your new Mum!” The tension between us grew worse the older I became. In a defiant act of rebellion against parental discipline I left the family home in a furious rage when I was sixteen. While I was able to live with my elder brother for a short time his circumstances meant I was made homeless. Having resigned from my apprenticeship job I found myself both homeless, without employment and without a single academic qualification.
I managed to get a job as an evening porter at the King’s Head Hotel where the Manager took pity on me and I was able to sleep in the residents lounge most nights. Such was my working environment that I was an underage drinker and gambler who carried a six inch sheath knife for personal protection. When the chance to move away from the Medway Towns came, in the form of a job at the White Horse Inn, near Hertford, I took it. I felt the need to run for my life as a result of my disgraceful life style.
My grossly immoral conduct and rudeness soon got me into more trouble. I was dismissed from my job in the hotel and struggled to find alternative employment. Eventually I was employed as a Store Porter in Hertford County Hospital. In the amazing goodness of God I was working with the Hospital Storekeeper, Mr Gartry, who was a Christian. He told me of his personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and called upon me to repent of my sin and seek God’s forgiveness. I was in no mood to listen to anything remotely religious and would argue with him. I would express my atheistic view to him and he would patiently share elements of the Gospel from the Bible with me.
I had a vicious fist fight with my landlord and expected to be made homeless. I was depending on alcohol to drown my sorrows while sinking into depression and feeling suicidal. I had come to respect Mr Gartry as someone who I could trust, even though I disagreed with his godly values. Taking him into my confidence I told him something of the plight I was in. He kindly offered me accommodation in the small house where he lived with his wife.
As anticipated, I was thrown out of my accommodation and was made to think about my options as to what I did next. Jumping in the local River Lee, in the hope that the water was deep enough for a non-swimmer to drown in, came to mind. The restraining influence upon me at the time was the thought about what I had learnt for the short period spent in a Sunday school class. The teachers, who had faithfully taught what the Bible says, had spoken about the prospects of going either to heaven or hell when we die. I knew I was certainly not worthy of heaven but I could not be certain that my soul would not end up in hell. As I was far too proud to come back to Kent to ask my family members for help I decided to take Mr Gartry up on his offer.
Being welcomed into the humble home of this godly couple like Mr and Mrs Gartry, it was a humbling and eye opening experience for me. I was amazed by the love that was shown to me as a virtual stranger. For the first time in my life I heard and appreciated the fact that someone actually prayed for me. The kindness and consideration of this Christian couple had a massive impact upon me. I saw the Christian life being lived out in front of me and I was both surprised and very impressed.
It needed more than one invitation from Mr and Mrs Gartry before I was willing to go with them for a Sunday service in the little nearby Emmanuel Mission Hall. On the Sunday evening that I did go with them, the visiting preacher failed to arrive and Mr Gartry had to lead the service and preach. He preached from John’s Gospel chapter four and the more he said about the immoral woman of Samaria, who Christ met at a well, the more I sensed my need to trust in Christ. I was deeply convicted about my blasphemous language, immoral conduct and shameful unbelief. However, I also had serious doubts about God’s willingness to forgive me after all that I had said and done.
Addressing the congregation Mr Gartry encouraged anyone who was not yet a Christian to pray and ask God to forgive them. It was that Sunday evening, now over fifty years ago, I did pray. As I recall it, my short but sincere prayer, was something like this, “Lord please forgive me my sin”. Then because I was so full of doubts about the extent of God’s mercy, I added, “And if it is not possible I do understand”. Gradually I came to appreciate that such is the nature of God’s amazing grace that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). I was “born again” (John 3:3), I was made “a new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Holy Spirit’s work of convicting people of sin continues in this world. God’s grace has not been exhausted; Christ still reaches out in mercy to all who repent and believe in Him. I am still a sinner by nature, but now I am a sinner saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8). I am still a “Man of Kent”, but now, by God’s grace I am so thankful I’m also a “Man of God”.
Why not use the words of one of old who prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13) and trust the Saviour yourself, before it is too late?