Denis Sutcliffe Smith
I was born late in December 1964 , in Rochdale, UK. My first memory is being in a children’s home with one of my brothers and crying because they wanted to separate us, I had been selected for a foster home.
I grew up in Spotland, a poor council neighborhood in Rochdale, it was a tough area. The foster home meant that I was separated from my siblings, a sister and 2 brothers but had gained an older foster sister.
I was given an obvious gift from God, the ability to draw, nobody taught me. It was pretty tough growing up, there was little or no love in the house, what there was went to my foster sister.
My foster father was a quiet humble man. My foster mother made up for his quiet demeanor. She was an abuser, a secret selfish drinker with a vein of cruelty that ran through her. I was fond of him, he would shield me from her brutality as much as he could. I found him dead one day , he was 62, I was 12 yrs old.
Things were not good before he died, I knew and feared things were going to get worse. They did , as she moved her man friend in, an alcoholic from the Salvation army hostel. Straightaway beatings, abuse and neglect became the norm that you just tolerate as you don’t know any different. You hope this isn’t IT, that life will get better someday.
I was fascinated by other things, like how does my brain work, learning to draw with my eye’s shut, teaching myself how to tell the time by the sun’s position and memorizing the Guinness book of records.
I went to 3 local schools, Meanwood, Redbrook and Oulder Hill, in between turning down a scholarship at Bury grammar that I had won. After leaving school with good grades in Maths, English and Art, I had no idea what the future held. I knew that I needed to get away from the present, I was bigger and stronger so the abuse had reduced somewhat.
I had been in the Marine cadets for some time, I was a sergeant, and the natural progression would be to enlist. I applied and passed for entry but then I declined. I had made a decision based on my pacifist tendency , concluding that, I could kill someone if my life or someone else’s depended on it, however, I couldn’t see myself killing someone else, because a political assembly had decided that was what they wanted.
Instead of following my ability in Art, (I had offers to become a graphic design apprentice or a draftsman). I followed my mates onto a scheme for the council on the canals. I moved out of the foster home as early as I could, working in an antique wood factory, metal engineering firm and Tescos during those years.
I lived with my best mate Nelly on Ashfield Valley, it was rough, that didn’t bother me though. It was better than my previous home.
I met my other siblings when I was 19. The social services decided it was appropriate but I found it to be a strange and emotional experience. To meet people who look so similar but different, who act and respond similarly but have not grown up together. My older sister came from Newton le Willows, my older brother from Leeds , my younger brother from Rochdale like myself. We had a few meetings and it wasn’t long before it transpired that our natural mother was known and lived in Rochdale.
We met her later, she had remarried and had a pub in Milnrow. There was many questions that I had, very few ever got an answer. My sister and I desperately wanted to know any information that would help us find our natural father. Our mother declined, only giving us the vaguest of answers, as though he was some bloke she may have passed on the street. She had 4 children in consecutive years with him.
To this day, after countless searches, we only ever knew his name. We have never seen even a photograph, nor his handwriting nor heard his voice. What a blessing it would be to find him one day!
At the time I was seeing a psychologist and 2 counselors and was on various medication. None of them could save me. It was not instantaneous, not that I could see , but something which I did not see but was significant happened.
I was drawn, compelled to go to the local church, Hebron Pentecostal. It was strange as I was not a church goer, it was like my body had got a mind of its own, I had no idea what to do apart from sneak in and hide at the back.
My eye’s just peering over the back of the chair in front. Sweating and nervous, I lasted 10 mins and scampered home. The same started to happen each week, I would be sort of dragged their by my inner body and I would stay a bit longer each week.
A lady then started to intercept me as I was making a hasty exit, she would ask me gentle questions, but I was terrified inside . I would make some lame excuse that I had to leave because…..” See you next week “ would be her parting words as I scurried off to the safety of my own home. “See you next week “ I’d mumble. Why did she say that, I would question in my twisted mind. Was it a question or a statement?
How did she know that I would be back, anything could happen , I didn’t know her, I knew that. But it was kind of her to take time to even speak to me. I had no right to be there! I didn’t know what was going on but I was drawn back each week and it became part of the routine that I put on my anti_ suicide plan.
Sunday = Church, I would write. Other people started to talk. I started to make friends and my ears where beginning to listen to their message about the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
In time, I stopped seeing the psychologist, the counselors and taking the medication.
Many things happened that first year, some amazing things. I was able to put down the beer for the last time and pick up the Holy Bible for the first. One I thought I could never do without the other I never needed, how completely wrong I was. I d had them the wrong way around all of my years.
2 weeks before my 50th birthday, an Evangelist was coming, Jonathan Conrathe. During the final evening of his preaching, I found myself standing up ready to make a decision to follow Jesus. I prayed to God silently, only He could hear my prayer, Jonathan came running up to me, put his hand on the side of my stomach and said ”He had a message from God for me, right here, right now!“ and whispered in my ear exactly the response to my earlier inaudible to anyone, plea to God!
God was real and now I had proof. He heard my prayers to Him that had got me here by His grace, by His mercy, and He had just answered another one in Church, in front of other people, through another person.
Praise the Lord for His divine mercy!
I decided to follow Jesus that night, there was no turning back. God has done some amazing things , I am a new creation IN Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5 : 17
That 2 Corinthians 5 : 17 was 14 December 2014, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit 04 January 2015 after a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus and baptized in water on the 20 June 2015.
I had been alive on this earth for approximately 438,000 hours in negativity, ignorance and sin, yet the Lord God, righteous Father heard my cry. He did not forsake me and I am now accepted as a son , I am a child of God.
Since then, I have been blessed with answers to prayers in many areas. Good health, God’s word says in Romans 12:2.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… I smoked for 24 years non stop, I was rid of this addiction overnight by the power of prayer.
I have been blessed with being washed by the blood of Jesus and had the privilege of serving in many ways to strengthen and extend His Kingdom. From leading in the public reading of the Holy Bible twice, to regularly picking up the cross of our Lord Jesus and walking all over the North West, raising money for a Christian charity, to evangelism in the Rochdale and surrounding areas. Completing 3 terms at Creative Word Bible college and serving at Bridges, a Rochdale based charity serving the lost with food and the gospel. Carrying out the maintenance of my local church etc. All to the glory of God.
As I now enter a new season, I pray solemnly for Gods guidance and traveling mercies in all that I do.