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Ian M. Macleod

 

I was brought up in a Christian home with both my parents being members in the church. My earliest memories of being introduced to church life at around five years of age involved morning and evening services as well as Sabbath school in the afternoons. I knew no different until I reached my teenage years, a period that led to quite dramatic changes in my lifestyle from the age of 13. I started to realise I was missing out on quite a lot of the ‘good things’ in life with the restrictive upbringing and started to make this known in the home, slowly but surely.

My sister was converted when I was aged 15 (she was 16) and I took this badly. I was mad with God because all I could see was myself being isolated in the home with both my parents and my sister now ‘teaming up’ on me. I somehow knew they were different to me, but instead of being happy about it I moved right into a rebellious mode that unfortunately lasted into my early twenties. It’s enough to say of these years that alcohol played a major role. I remember when my father died (I was 21) thinking how much I must have disappointed him with all I was getting up to and all the problems I must have brought into the home. It still bears heavy on my thoughts, especially having children of my own now and understanding the importance of a happy family home.

Time moved on and I started going out with Chrisell when I was 24. We got engaged a year later and married in May 1984, the same week as I started my career in the Airport Fire Service. Things were ‘normal’ for two years and then Chrisell was converted. I couldn’t believe it; and it really got to me because here was all this religion now interfering with my married life as well. I don’t think I ever restricted Chrisell in following her faith, but I wanted absolutely nothing to do with God. As far as I was concerned He had done enough damage in my life taking the people who were closest to me to Himself, and this had a big effect on our home life in that we had different interests now. Sunday’s in particular were spent apart with Chrisell attending church and maybe reading in the kitchen while I would be in the living room watching TV till all hours.

We had our first child, DJ, in September 1987 and then during the night before Lewis was born (5th September 1989) the Lord came into my life. I was lying awake about 2am just waiting to take Chrisell to the hospital, when all of a sudden I became aware of the Lords presence filling the room as He made Himself known to me. I remember my immediate thought afterwards was, “so there really is a God after all”. That experience only lasted about 30 seconds but it was life changing! In a moment I was given to realise my desperate need of cleansing from my sins and also that through Christ’s atoning work on the Cross I had that forgiveness because His blood washed away my guilt and sin. Before this I thought I was good enough to get into heaven just because I was no worse than most other persons and also because I did some good things some of the time. But now I knew it was nothing of me and that I couldn’t do anything myself to earn God’s favour in any way. It is all of Christ and having faith in His finished work on the cross at Calvary.

I started going to church regularly because I now wanted to and I started praying and reading the bible. It took a year, though, before I began attending the prayer meeting basically because I still had a foot in both camps. I thought I had the best of both worlds at the time knowing I was saved and yet still going out enjoying myself as well, but when I look back it was, in fact, a troubled year of confusion just sitting on that fence with no commitment either way. Our congregational fellowship was a great help to me in that year and I essentially used it as a stepping-stone to commitment.

Another important factor at that time was that, very shortly after the Lord revealed Himself to me, Rev Kenny I MacLeod came to Stornoway for his first appointment as our assistant minister (to Rev Murdo Alex Macleod). Kenny I was used in quite an amazing way throughout that period. Almost every week I would go home from his services convinced that Chrisell had been in touch with him beforehand to tell him everything I had been up to through the week because his preaching consistently hit home at exactly how I was feeling and what I was going through. It was, of course, the Spirit applying the Word to me and it really was a source of strengthening as time went on. Yet it was through an ordinary conversation with an unconverted friend on a Wednesday afternoon that the Lord finally convinced me to commit to Him; just as He works His own ways through our day-to-day situations so often. There was a communion in our congregation two weeks later, but I sat upstairs. I was sitting in the wrong place and I knew it - and that was a difficult and traumatic spiritual experience at the time. I sat at the Lords table for the first time at the next communions in February 1991, just two days before Kenny I formally accepted the call to Muir of Ord! It meant a lot to me as well that my mother lived to see my conversion as I know she worried and prayed constantly for me.

One of the biggest obstacles I had in making my commitment to the Lord was that I convinced myself I would have to leave the fire service because i didn’t think the rest of the guys there would accept me any longer for becoming a Christian. I spent about four months looking for other suitable employment, but found nothing. The morning after I attended my first midweek meeting I eventually plucked up the courage to tell the rest of my work colleagues. I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction from them because they were all genuinely pleased for me and even two of them commented that “they wished they had what I now had”. After all that soul-searching (and job searching) I now realised that it must have been the devil himself that put all these thoughts of leaving into my head.

Also, I made my first trip out to Romania with a load of aid in April/May 1990, this being the first of four trips – three in total to Romania and one to Bosnia. Meeting all those Christians in their own culture at a time of revival was awe-inspiring and it has left a huge mark in my life and I believe it has helped me time and again in keeping things in perspective in my Christian life. Times were very hard for the people of Eastern Europe in the early 90’s but they were so alive in the Lord.

I settled into my new life in Christ and really enjoyed a time of great fellowship and unity in the congregation for several years. Like many people I worried most about how I would be able to carry on once I started following, yet through all the highs and lows of my Christian life the one thing I can say with total conviction is that the Lord has remained faithful. He has supplied all my needs in Christ Jesus and He has consistently and gently led me to that fountain of Grace to refresh me even in the times when I am just too stubborn to go myself. His compassion and love and concern for us is just amazing!

I was medically retired from my career in the fire service in 2002 and I spent a long time really asking the Lord what I should do now. I couldn’t understand why I had been taken out of the job I loved going to every day, but through time it became clear that God was calling me to some aspect of his work. This was ‘confirmed’ through a service preached by Alex Cowie (CWI) in June 2003 on Isaiah 6:8-9, which was the prayer I had been burdened with for a year and was now answered for me. After exploring different avenues, I did an HNC in Business Studies which gave me access on to the Degree course in Theology at Highland Theological College. I can honestly say that my three years there as a full-time student were the happiest days of my life, being immersed in God’s Word and learning so much on an academic platform. I qualified with a BA in Theological Studies in 2008.

In addition, it was during my time of studying a ‘mission’ module on the course that God convinced me of the necessity of ‘reaching out’ directly to adults throughout our communities. I became persuaded that a work of Evangelism and Outreach ought to be carried out throughout the Western Isles which was properly managed and coordinated. It is with a real sense of anticipation that I now begin this work because it is an awesome privilege to take the Gospel message out into the heart of each community, and I plead with you all to pray for the work that we would see many men and women coming to faith in Christ.

Through all of that time from 2002 until now, I questioned many things that were happening (or not happening) and I leaned on several Christian friends for advice as well, but perhaps none more than Iain who has created this exceptional website in his ministry for the Lord. I thank God for the wisdom he has given Iain which helped me so much in my darkest hours and also for the great encouragement  and guidance he has consistently given me when I pick up the phone to him or drop by his house. I thank God also for people like Iain who I know prayed constantly that this work of outreach and evangelism would become a reality and who also continue to pray that it will bear much fruit.

Chrisell and I enjoy the blessing of life together in Christ in our home and we were gifted two other boys; Andrew who is 19 (also a communicant member now) and Steven who is aged 9. There are many homes in which only one person is converted and that is a burden the Lord has left on me from the time of my conversion. May we all be given to pray that God will work in individual homes to bring both husbands and wives to faith and also that we will see families being united together in Him. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see God making His mark more and more through their lives in our town and throughout all our communities?

I used to live for the weekends and all the fun we had in those couple of days each week. I now live for Christ. Whatever else any of us may have, if we don’t have Christ as our personal Saviour we have nothing and the rest is meaningless. We need to close in with Christ into a true and personal and living relationship That’s a bond which is closer than any other we might have in this world and it’s one that can never be broken. The Lord hauled me out of the pit and set me on the rock of His Atonement. He has totally surrounded me with His love and as time moves on and I see more of my own unworthiness, I truly thank Him that He never leaves me like that but reveals more and more of His glory. Our God truly is a great God, He alone is worthy of our praise. Psalm 139:1-6