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Andover Vineyard

Real Life Stories

Dennis Dennis

The following stories are from members of our church, who wanted to share with you the difference  Jesus has made in their lives and the journey they took to get them where they are today.  We hope you will be able to relate to some of them........

Dennis's Story

First of all, some facts about me and my family. I have lived in the Andover area for just over 22 years, having moved here from Plymouth in Devon, where I was born 61 years ago. I’ve been divorced for about 12 years and have two children, a daughter Kate and a son, Adam. 

Kate, a teacher, is married to Ed(ward), a part-time research biochemist, and together they are the pastors of AbingdonCommunity Church in Oxfordshire. They have a two year old daughter, Florrie, and a new-born son, Reuben. 

Adam, suffers from Cerebral Palsy, as a result of a birth accident. He now lives in a home in Bridgwater, Somerset. He is a wheelchair-confined non-speaking quadriplegic and is totally dependent on others for all of his needs. 

During my earlier years many things happened to me which had a major impact on me.

I was sexually assaulted when I was about 8 years old. I knew something bad had happened, but thought that it was my fault and so I never told anybody about it. For many years I silently suffered the private shame of it, until in adulthood I came to realise that I had never been responsible for it. 

During my grammar school years in an all-boy’s school, I was repeatedly singled out by one teacher who made my life a misery. As and when my classmates, apart from a couple of friends, picked up on this they joined in the ‘fun’ and also made my life unbearable. Again I never told anyone, certainly not my parents, about what was going on.

In my early twenties, a very close friend was killed in a horrific industrial accident. Whilst I did not witness the accident, I do know the precise details of his death. I have always had a very active imagination, and the visual picture in my mind of the way he died has never completely vanished from my mind, although I have learnt to deal with it. 

During my very earliest years, my parents made my two brothers and I go every week to Sunday school, although they never ever went near a church themselves. When I was about eight we were allowed to choose for ourselves whether we continued. We unanimously decided to quit there and then. 

Whilst I was still a schoolchild, about 13 to 14 years old, I felt the need to start going to a local Anglican church inPlymouth. Within a short period, I started attending confirmation classes and was soon confirmed by the Bishop of Plymouth. I remained a regular attendee at this church for about two years until my best friend committed suicide. Within a matter of weeks, the vicar of the church who had also led the confirmation classes committed suicide also. These events so rocked me that I walked away from the church and a belief in God. I had, at that time, no comprehension of free will; I believed that God who controlled every aspect of our lives allowed this to happen, and so I wanted no part of Him. He got the blame for everything.

Moving on about twenty years, by which time I was now married and the father of a little girl. My wife started going to a lively charismatic Anglican church in Plymouth, and used to come home from the services or prayer meetings and tell me how they were all praying for me and other ‘lost’ husbands. My replies, after I had stopped laughing were not very polite or uplifting. However, over a period of 18 months, I came to know most of her fellow church members through attending, albeit grudgingly at first, various church social functions or camping weekends. I came to realise that these bible-bashing weirdoes (well, that’s what I had initially thought they were) were actually some very nice people and that I enjoyed their company. I liked what these people had and wanted some of it for myself. There was something about them I couldn’t quite understand, but they seemed to have a joy and a peace of mind I longed for. Their relationships with others, including people like me, made me wanted to be just like them. If it was the God thing they talked about, then it was for me. Never once, as far as I can remember, did they treat me with anything else but love and kindness. They never ever treated me as an outsider. I didn’t realise then but my hardened heart had begun to soften. 

On January 2nd 1980 I sought a meeting with the vicar of this church and within 30 minutes I found myself saying sorry to God for what I had made of my life and giving it back to Him. You can probably guess at the surprised reaction from the rest of the fellowship and especially my wife of this action, as they were not aware of the turmoil that I had been going through. Life suddenly had a purpose and became most enjoyable. I threw myself into everything the fellowship had to offer. I wouldn’t miss a service if I could help it. I couldn’t get enough of God.

And then my world crashed for the first time.

Three months after my giving my life back to God, my son Adam was born. In a large hospital with several maternity wards full of expectant mothers, my wife was the only one in labour on the evening Adam was born. Because of some problems with the birth of our daughter, extra attention was being given to my wife. However, things started to go wrong, and through negligence on the part of a nurse by deliberately ignoring the warning alarms given off by a monitor that my wife Pat was wired up to. Adam was being strangled by his birth cord. Although he was a dark blue in colour upon his arrival, he was soon resuscitated and we went home happily a few days later with our new pride and joy. The next twelve months can only be described as hell, with his continuous high-pitched screaming and Pat and I averaging about two hours of sleep per day. The various consultants that we had regularly been taking Adam to during this period confirmed that as a result of his strangulation at birth, the part of his brain controlling his motor activities had been severely damaged. A little while later we were advised to take Adam to a centre in Plymouth for a meeting with a consultant. This we duly did, and whilst we were there the consultant left the room for a while, and Adam’s file was left open on his desk. Being somewhat nosy, we sidled around the desk and had a look. To our horror, we noted that Adam had showed signs of Cerebral palsy. This was the first time that we became aware of the cause of his problems. At that time nobody could say how bad it would become; only time would reveal that. My Christian life took a bit of a knock for a while, but I managed to hang on in there. I supposed that I was a bit hurt that God had allowed this to happen to my son.

Five years later, in 1985, the family moved to the Andover area, to enable Adam to go to a specialist school in West Sussex. Although our plans had been to join the Andover Baptist Church, we discovered that just around the corner from our new home was a small church.  The years that I remained as a member of this fellowship were a time of coming to terms with our family situation. The full truth of what I had lost only really struck home one day when I was watching some fathers playing and talking with their sons. I then realised that I would probably never ever experience the same with my own son. I was utterly heartbroken and wept for hours. But in the following months and years I came to realise my loss was no different as to that of many others, and so I had to re-assess my values for Adam’s and my own life. Life began to settle down into a new phase for our family life together, or so I thought.

Then in 1995 my world crashed for the second time.

My wife of then 23 years suddenly and unexpectedly walked out of the marriage, and went off to live with a then close male friend of the family. Our marriage broke up and we were divorced in 1996. Pat, although a Christian and the co-leader of the worship group at a Church, had never really come to terms with Adam. The following years were initially a traumatic period during which I seriously contemplated suicide many times. This was followed by a period of surviving and then being healed by our Lord at a New Frontiers evening meeting at Stoneleigh in 2000. After going forward for prayer, which I knew I desperately needed, I found myself trying to get up off the floor where apparently I had been ‘carpet-hugging’ for a couple of hours (carpet-hugging is my term for being slain in the spirit or whatever else you might term it). As a result of all that time spent in very close relationship with Jesus, I discovered that all most of my deep hurts had been dealt with. From then on my spiritual life took on a whole new dimension. You may have heard of the expression ‘love hurts’. My heart aches with this new love I feel for God and his children. Does that mean that everything is just perfect now? Far from it, I realise that I still have lots to learn and experience on this new walk of mine.

Should anybody ask if I hold anything against God for the events of my life, the answer is definitely NO. Not even being the parent of a severely disabled son has changed that. I may not fully ever understand the reasons why He allowed these things to happen, but I do know that they have changed me, and I have to be honest in saying that it is certainly for the better. My love for Him, and ever person who I come into contact with, has grown to new heights. Although I am now a member of the Andover Vineyard Church, where my walk with God continues, I pray that He will continue the changes in me so that I may reflect Him more in my life. The AVC’s motto is ‘Getting to know God, so that we can show God’. I pray that will be true for me.

As you can see, my change from a non-believer to a committed follower of Christ did not come as the result of any major event, but rather over a period of time through the love and kindness of many who didn’t point the finger, but loved me unconditionally, just like our Lord would.

Looking back at the 61 years that God has given me so far, His blessings to me have been too numerous to count, but the following vividly stick out. First, being drawn away from the old bad life I had and entering into a relationship with God (being saved). Secondly, fathering two wonderful children, both of whom I am so proud of. Thirdly, upon my son’s wish, personally lowering him into his baptismal waters when he was about 14 years old. This apart from being a tremendous privilege to be a part of was something I never thought would ever happen. Fourth, becoming a granddad of two precious grandchildren.

Looking to the future, well only God knows what is in store for me. I just ask that when I finally stand before Him in judgement for what I’ve done with my life, that He will be pleased with me.

Dennis Belringer

February 2008