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Reluctant Cub becomes a lion-hearted follower of Christ

Reluctant Cub becomes a lion-hearted follower of Christ

Reluctant Cub becomes a lion-hearted follower of Christ

Retired Salvation Army officer Captain John Tatters ... still proudly wearing his uniform.

By Captain John Tatters*

‘God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.’ These are the first two lines of a hymn written by William Cowper in 1773. It is something we do not fully comprehend, lest we have been moved by the Holy Spirit or it has been revealed to us in a personal way.

Our family went through a difficult time during World War Two in Surrey, England. Our county came under attack, and I saw everything burning before my very eyes. The sky was aglow, but, strangely, I did not fear the situation we were in and almost accepted it as a ‘norm’.

One thing I feared most of all, though, was the Christian faith ... and anyone who was religious! As a child, I wanted to live my own life and no one whatsoever was going to change my mind.

One day at school, my teacher asked me if I would like to be a Cub Scout. I was only six years old. Delighted, I said “Yes!”, but then the teacher said it also meant I must be available to go to church. My response was very quick, and I said “No!”

After a period of time, she asked me again. The answer was still no. By the third time, I changed my mind and said “Yes”, but my plan was to make myself unavailable for church.

But my plan failed. Somehow, I found myself in church on the following Sunday. I was not a happy boy on my way to church; it was too close for comfort. I remember entering the church with my hands closed and my head down. I sat four rows from the front on a hard seat, and all I was thinking was, “How can I get out of this situation?”

Something unexpected then happened as I stubbornly looked down at my feet. My head was strangely moving up and turning to the left, and, to my total amazement, I saw with my own eyes a man on a cross. I was transfixed and I could not stop looking at this man. I thought, “What a terrible thing to do to a man. Who was the person that had done this? Who was that wicked person?”

I was saddened by this sight but my head was full of questions: “What was his name? ... Who was this man on the cross? ... Where did he come from? ... What does it all mean?” An even more amazing thing then happened. A sense of ‘warming’, or ‘comfort’ entered my spirit, and I felt that all was well. I was confused.

For many years, I struggled to understand this experience, but that peaceful, warm, calm feeling remained in my heart.

It was not until I was converted later in life that I looked back and realised it was the spirit of God that touched me that day. It struck me that even though the man on the cross was Jesus, the Messiah, the wicked person was none other than myself.

Moving to Australia

In 1947, we left Surrey and travelled to Australia. It was a decision my father had made when he returned from Germany after the war. We were sponsored by an Australian businessman who lived in Melbourne, and we lived in Portland [on Victoria’s south-west coast] for 12 months before moving to Queensland.

My parents purchased their first home at Newmarket in Brisbane’s northern suburbs. Next door lived a Christian family who invited our family to church. It was at this church, some years later, that I made a decision to follow the Lord. It wasn’t a dramatic conversion, rather my life gradually changed as there was still much more to surrender to the Lord. It was a slow but progressive life for Christ.

One evening, I prayed that I would meet a good Christian girl who I would marry and with whom I would go into ministry. I did make another strange request: that she would be a typist so she would be able to type out my Bible messages!

The Holy Spirit remarkably answered my prayer. I met Joan in a way we could never have planned. Another miracle took place when the Holy Spirit clearly spoke to me: “You must leave your place of worship and go to The Salvation Army with Joan. Trust me.” I replied: “If this is your will, I will obey.” 

Two years later, we were married in the Brisbane City Temple and since then we have been blessed with three children and five grandchildren.

Our ministry began with a local officer position, but we continued to pray for a full-time ministry role. For 25 years, we waited on God. All the time he was preparing us for full-time ministry and this was eventually fulfilled by the Holy Spirit.

We owned a jewellery shop in Brisbane’s northern suburbs, and, one day, the corps officer from Zillmere, Captain Keith Cook, came in to have his watch repaired. We got chatting and he mentioned he was on his way to nearby Pine Rivers to look at a church building that the Army had recently purchased. He asked if I would like to go along with him. It was a busy morning and I was a little hesitant, but Joan said: “You go with Keith. I will look after the shop.”

On arrival, we got out of the car. I closed my door and, again, the Spirit of God spoke clearly to me: “This is where you will commence my work.”

I said nothing to Keith as we made our way back to the shop. On arrival, Joan was standing at the front counter, smiling, and her first words were: “I know what has happened to you ... the Holy Spirit has also spoken to me.” I shared my news and that was confirmation for us both; we then rejoiced at the goodness of our almighty God and gave thanks.

Two weeks later, we had a call from Major Wes Kinder, who was our divisional commander in South Queensland, and he asked if he could come to our home and see us both. We all went into the lounge room and Wes said: “We at headquarters have purchased a building at Pine Rivers. Would you both be interested in commencing the work there on a part-time basis?”

Knowing the Holy Spirit had already called us to full-time ministry, our response was that we would be prepared to sell the jewellery business and give our all to Pine Rivers. We were the corps officers at Pine Rivers for the next 18 years, and, in 2001, we were transferred to Redcliffe Corps, where we ministered for almost four years.

This testimony is not about me. The focus is about the working of the Holy Spirit in my life, from the time I glanced at that cross in the church as a child. And I can now say with assurance that I know the answers to my questions: I know his name, and I know him personally as my Lord and Saviour and that continues to this day. Amen.

* Captain John Tatters is retired and lives in Redcliffe, Queensland.



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