Not all calls to ministry are dramatic, such as Paul's on the Damascus Road. My call came when I was very young—only seven years old! I was born into a Seventh-day Adventist family. My father was a literature evangelist and my mother a former Bible instructor.
When I was four years old we moved to the village of Auchtermuchty in Scotland. I started school at five, as is required in Britain, and soon acquired a broad Scottish accent.
Having missionary relatives influenced my thinking, and on my seventh birthday—I can picture the scene now—as I sat in the wooden arm chair in the stone-flagged kitchen by the old fashioned kitchen stove, I said to my mother, "When I grow up, I am going to be a medical missionary."
An event that took place about that time strengthened my belief that God had something special for me to do. To get to school from our humble home in Auchtermuchty, I had to cross a bridge over a stream, then walk through the main road of the village, and up a hill. Coming home one day, I saw my mother standing at our front door talking to our landlady.
I must have had something exciting I wanted to tell her, because I forgot to pause at the foot of the hill and look around a blind corner at the crossroads to see if any traffic was coming. As I ran across the road, I felt someone pull me back just as a truck swept by directly in front of me. Looking around, I could see no one! Who pulled me back? It could have been none other than an angel. Mother, too, was convinced that God had something special in mind for me.
A similar thing occurred many years later. One hot summer evening, I was returning to my lodging after colporteuring all day. A cyclist stopped me and asked for directions. Immediately afterward, a horse and cart passing over a crossroad, was hit by a car that catapulted over the cart and landed upside down, injuring driver and passengers.
If the cyclist hadn't stopped me, I would have been right beside that cart, and could have been killed or seriously injured. Was that cyclist another angel? These two events convinced me that God really had called me to ministry.
Many years went by. We moved to Watford, near London, where my brother, sister, and I were able to go to the Stanborough Primary School. There I deeply appreciated the godly teachers who by their example taught me to value gospel truth.
When I was ten, my family moved to Hastings, Sussex, on the South Coast of England. Here there was no church school, and only a small church group meeting in the "Friends Meeting House." There my Sabbath School teacher—a truly Christian lady—taught us to love the Word of God, and exemplified her teaching by the life she lived.
At 14, I left school (as many did at that age in those days), and started to work with my father in an Adventist building firm. After several months, however, due to financial problems in the firm, father and I were laid off.
From then until I was 16, I sold magazines and small books to raise money to help with family finances. I enjoyed this work, though I must confess I was not always very diligent.
My ambition to be a medical missionary stayed with me. Never had any other career attracted me. I had an evening scholarship in an art school, and was studying commercial art, and it was even suggested I train as an architect. But my sight was set on being a missionary.
As my sixteenth birthday drew near, I sent applications to four Adventist institutions, seeking employment in three of them, and education in the fourth. The family made this a matter of prayer for the Lord's leading. One by one refusals came from the three institutions at Stanborough Park, but to my delight I was invited to Newbold College, which was then near Rugby in the Midlands, and became my home for the next seven years.
I still had dreams of getting some medical training, but God had other plans. So not too long after starting in ministry, I laid that plan aside as some thing that was not for me. After two years assisting in public evangelism, I received a call to Nigeria. This led to hurried plans with my then-fiancee, Ruth Dorland, for our wedding, which took place on August 14,1945, the very day, as it happened, when Japan had asked for surrender terms. What a wonderful wedding present!
We spent 12 happy years, mostly in Nigeria, apart from 15 months in Ghana. Our last tour was spent in Calabar, where we had the joy of establishing a new witness center, which has since blossomed into two missions. The rest of our years of service were spent in Scotland, Ireland, and South England. I do not regret for one moment responding to the call of ministry.