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Who am I? - By Martin Sykes

As Elizabeth will tell you, by my bedside are a mixture of joke books (needed for the Long Eaton Talking Newspaper, that I’ve been involved with for the past 6 years), story books and Bible commentaries, both of which I need as a preacher of over 40 years and a host (with Elizabeth) at Christian Guild Holidays for over 30 years.

Collecting stories and jokes has become a way of life that it I’m honest I thoroughly enjoy.

There’s nothing quite like finding joke that makes me giggle (which always get tested with Elizabeth and our family before I go public with it) and a story that moves me.

Long Eaton Talking Newspaper

During the current lockdown, our Talking Newspaper continues with its fortnightly recordings, that take place in our homes (Dilys Oldham is one of our readers) since our “recording studio” in Sawley (a church hall) is closed – ain’t modern technology great.

All of the administration (receiving pouches with memory sticks and duplicating stories and magazines onto memory sticks) take place in the home of one our volunteers, whose company is a leader in Food Science Hygiene, so is well place to take all necessary health precautions to protect our listeners.

As most Talking Newspapers for the Blind & Partially Sighted in the UK are shut down including Talking Books (Calibre Books) due to Covid-19, we are delighted to be able continue to post out our “Newspaper” to our 200 listener once a fortnight.

If you visit our website; you will learn all about us, what we offer and our President, Robert Lindsay.


The activities of OneSound (who visited us back in January) are on hold for the timing, although we have Event Weekends booked at

Ø We will have to a Rehearsal Weekend around 18th to 20th September 2020 @ Sprotbrough Methodist Church to learn the new music for our new season that begins September 2020 with our new Theme; “Walk humbly”.

Ø Heath Methodist Church, Runcorn for their Church Anniversary Celebrations from Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th October 2020.

Ø We will be leading worship at this year’s 3Generate event @ the NEC from 30th October – 1st November 2020.

Ø Sheffield Methodist Circuit & will hold our AGM at Killamarsh Methodist Church in May of 2021

Ø Christchurch Methodist Church, Leicester from 8th – 11th April 2021.

Ø Springdale Methodist Church, Wolverhampton from 22nd – 25th July 2021

Please pray for the work of this remarkable group of talented young musicians.

Church Family Weekend @ Willersley Castle

As many of you will know, we have postponed our Church Family Weekend @ Willersley Castle until 19-21 February of next year.


Anyway, back to the reason for offering this article, I will be offering to the Blog a story from time to time that has both moved and challenged me.

Here’s one.

Who am I?

a story by an unknown author

Who am I?

I was born in 1725 and died in 1807 the only godly influence in my life as far back as I can remember was my mother whom I had for only 7 years.

When she left my life through death, I was virtually an orphan.

My Father remarried, sent me to a strict military school where the severity of discipline almost broke my back. I couldn't stand it any longer and I left in rebellion at the age of ten.

One year later deciding that I would never enter into formal education again, I became a Seaman Apprentice hoping somehow to step into my father's trade and learn at least the ability to skilfully navigate a ship.

By and by through a process of time I slowly gave myself over to the devil. And I determined I would sin my fill without restraint, now that the righteous lamp of my life has gone out.

I did that until my days in the military service, where again discipline worked hard against me, but I further rebelled. My spirit would not break, and I became increasingly more and more a rebel.

Because of the number of things that I disagreed with in the military I finally deserted only to be captured like a common criminal and beaten publicly several times.

After enduring the punishment, I again fled. I entertained thoughts of suicide on my way to Africa, deciding that would be the place I could get furthest away from anyone that knew me. And again, I made a pact with the devil to live for him.

Somehow through the process of events I got in touch with a Portuguese slave trader and I lived in his home. He was married to a black wife, who was brimming with hostility and took a lot of it out on me. She beat me and I ate like a dog on the floor of the home. If I refuse to do that, she would, whip me with a lash.

I fled penniless owning only the clothes on my back, to the shoreline of Africa where I build a fire, hoping to attract a ship that was passing by.

The skipper thought I had gold or slaves or ivory to sell and was surprised because I was a skilled navigator. And it was there that I virtually lived at for a long period of time. It was a slave ship. It wasn't uncommon for as many as six hundred black from Africa to be in the hold of the ship, down below, being taken to America.

I went through all sorts of narrow escapes with death only a hair's breadth away on a number of occasions. One time I open some crates of rum and got everybody on the crew drunk. The skipper incensed with my actions beat me and threw me down below and I lived on stale bread and sour vegetables for an unendurable amount of time. He bought me above to beat me again and I fell overboard. Because I couldn't swim, he harpooned me to get me back to the Ship. And I lived with the scar in my side be enough to put my fist into, until the day of my death.

On board I was inflamed with fever. I was enraged by the humiliation.

A storm broke out, and I wound up again in the hold in the ship, down among the pumps. To keep the ship afloat, I worked along as a servant of the slaves. There, bruised and confused, bleeding, diseased I was the epitome of the degenerate man.

I remember the words of my mother I cried out to God the only way I knew, calling upon His grace His mercy to deliver me, and upon His son to save me. The only Glimmer of light I could find was a crack in the ship in the floor above me, and I looked up to it and screamed for help. God heard me.

Thirty-one years past, I married a childhood sweetheart. I entered the ministry in every place that I served, rooms had to be added to the building to handle the crowds that came to hear the gospel that was presented and the story of God's grace in my life.

My tombstone above my head reads “born 1725, died 1807. A clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he once laboured to destroy.”

I decided before my death to put my life’s story in verse.

And that verse has become a hymn.

My name? John Newton.

The hymn? Amazing Grace

1. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.

2. ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.

3. Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.

4. The Lord has promised good to me, His Word my hope secures; He will my Shield and Portion be, As long as life endures.

5. Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease, I shall possess, within the veil, A life of joy and peace.

6. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, The sun forbear to shine; But God, who called me here below, Will be forever mine.

7. When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we’d first begun.

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What a marvellous story. I had no idea of John Newton’s background but not now will find it even harder to sing that hymn without a lump in my throat!! Thanks again Martin from Dilys

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