Forty-two years ago this week, I knew that I knew that I knew God was telling me to quit my career in banking and start in full-time ministry, a decision was that painfully hard (in that moment) but that I’ve never regretted. It cost everything – salary (not been paid one since), career, pension (though some years ahead, like now – I don’t have one!), subsequently home, possessions (in total 5 times – still never an easy sacrifice), friends, family security… Two weeks tomorrow (14th) I’m 68 years old, and while ‘Covid19’ year 2020 has been like a ‘preparation time’ for retirement, it’s never my plan to retire unless my body has other plans!
Many people told me that I was crazy (I still am but a little less to give up now!) when I told them I was swapping a good future with one of the big banks to go salary less with Youth for Christ in East Sussex. Still crazy after all these years, though somewhat slower these days as my knees have got a lot older than I have…
But while it’s been a sacrifice in so many ways, it’s been an incredible ‘journey’ seeing God move in miracle power and with countless people healed and saved. And if I’d ever known 43 years ago what God had in store, I’d have said ‘Never! Not me. I’m too shy, don’t like foreign food, and I don’t ever want to travel’…
For a few years, I didn’t have to travel too far, as I was UK based, though I had the privilege of spending time with people I used to love hearing preach – Clive Calver, Tony Campolo, David Pawson, and many others. The massive surprise came in 1986 when God spoke very directly through nine different people that I would travel to the ends of the earth praying for the sick and preaching the gospel. Not me! Not going… God can be very persistent, and when I gave in, I said ‘O.K, Lord, anywhere except Africa or India’. – needless to say, my first invitation came – from Ghana, a nation I fell in love with within 24 hours, and through Ghana, a whole continent. It was the same with India in 1992.
Some funny things have happened, some incredible things – like the big car crash in 1994 when I and Kathryn (driving me to the airport) should have died, another in 1996 in Mozambique with missionary friend Tim, visiting 109 countries (some only once, many multiple times – Colombia 89, Romania 129, Mexico 30, France I’ve lost count…), having the Inland Revenue telling my (then) accountant in 1994 that they were writing me out of the tax system (I never earned enough) because ‘Mr Bennison doesn’t have a job, he has a hobby’!!
A travelling ministry that has stretched from China/South Korea to West Coast USA, Christchurch New Zealand to Buenos Aires Argentina, Northern Minnesota/Montana USA to Melbourne/Sydney Australia, has been demanding in terms of travel, climate changes, food, accommodation, and expense, but I can truly say I’ve never regretted any of what it has cost, and as 2021 beckons, hopefully covid-free, airports will once again become home from home!
What an amazing story you have to tell Paul! I’m sure God will continue to keep you and love you and care for you and be your everything and use you in his service! What a difficult year 2020 has been and such a seeming ‘full stop’ in all these years of working with the Lord. But it’s not a full stop, just a hyphen!
Bless you, Myrtle, you’re such an encouragement. It’s not easy from ‘here’ in the middle of the pandemic and with all that’s happened to see what God will do with me after all the major battles and issues, but – like you – I’ll never lose my total love for South America and whatever happens, I’ll do everything I can – physically and financially – when it’s all over to be there again. This year as you say has been a ‘full stop’ (car crash??!) on everything, but God is God, and to him a full stop is nothing… and he’ll do it for you too, with Peru…
I do hope so Paul!
Bless you, Myrtle. If you want to pray for Ionela, she had oxygen, and can sleep better, but now breathing can relax the stress on her throat has made eating too sore, and she’s now backwards and forwards to the bathroom!