The Fisherman

Have you ever been in the right place at the right time, as if God had sent you there for a purpose?

Ray sat solemnly on a wooden bench, gazing intently over the crashing waves of the North Atlantic Sea. It was a particularly miserable day, the cold bite of the March wind stung Ray’s face as he blew down into his hands, rubbing them together for warmth. Ray was transfixed on the horizon, his stare focused across the angry whitecaps of the bay, towards the Donegal Peninsula, just visible through the grey mist.

His mood matched that of the disheartening weather, intense and gloomy. Ray was about to embark on another trip behind the Iron Curtain to continue with his humanitarian work, such journeys came with grave danger, and he was beginning to question his life path – doubt and confusion lay heavy on his heart.

Ray had come to his hometown of Portstewart, Ireland, in a rental car, his flight from Belfast to Russia looming the next day. As he sat contemplating his life, here, in the town where it all began, Ray gently shut his eyes in meditation, silently praying his thoughts of doubt, and hopes of guidance, to God.

He suddenly woke from his deep considerations as an unexpected idea dashed into his mind. With a surge of positivity and encouragement he hurried towards his rental car bound for Londonderry, to visit Culmore Point, the place he had been told his birth mother had grown up.

Ray had been adopted as a baby, and was led to believe that his mother had died in the Blitz. As a youngster he had always felt different, as if a part of him was missing. He struggled with speech and he learnt differently to others, making him feel like an outsider.

The impulsive 35 mile drive was hazardous to say the least, the winding coastal roads treacherous in the unpredictable stormy weather, but Ray didn’t question the urge he felt to make the trip, despite the conditions.

As his journey continued the danger of his drive intensified as Ray had to stop to be let through several British Army checkpoints. This was 1974, times where killings and bombings were rife in Northern Ireland, and checkpoints were not a safe place to be. At each one the lone traveller was scrutinised and inspected until they were satisfied that he posed no threat.

Whilst driving Ray remembered that the stretch of road he was travelling on had been known ‘Murder-hole Road’, due to gruesome tales of attacks by masked burglars the route had witnessed some 100 years ago.

With this thought, Ray silently asked God “Please let me get there and back safely, please let me be on the right track.” All of the elements seemed to be against him. What was making him do this with such determination?

Finally, and safely, Ray pulled up to a small stone tower known locally as ‘The Castle’. It lay in front of a large river. Ray got out of the car and surveyed the abandoned property. This was it, just how it had been described.

Ray had been told stories about this building. It had been built in the early 1600’s as a lighthouse guiding sailing vessels up the river. Later in the 1600’s, in a time of great famine, the walled city of Derry was under siege, and a large boom was constructed in its waters to block any entering vessels. It was this very tower that was credited for sending out an urgent signal to a vessel called Mount Joy, which broke through the boom baring desperately needed food and supplies to the beleaguered city.

And now he was here, staring at that very tower, which was later converted into a house, the house his mother grew up in. It was a grand structure, a gatekeeper to the waters beyond.

Rain beat down on Ray as he roamed the grounds of the isolated building, the home was empty, filled with just an eerie silence.

He looked lost into the distance over the choppy river, the storm now in full swing, Ray was shivering from the cold. To his surprise in this quiet abandoned setting a large figure was walking towards him from the river’s edge.

As the shadowy character appeared through the rainfall and murky mist of the waters, Ray could see he was a fisherman. His white bushy beard was curled slightly from the salt of the water. He was a typical looking fisherman in every way, from his attire to his weathered skin, his cheeks reddened by the crisp air.

Who could this stranger be? Find out next week how this man changed Ray’s life forever…

The Story of Choir 2 – Part Two

Read part one of this remarkable story here

As everyone was accounted for on the night bus Ray sat back in his seat and let out a huge sigh of relief. He looked around at the children, they seemed so much younger than the first choir – would they be as successful? They sure seemed to be able to move people with their music.

Hours passed, and as the night bus was vacating Kisumu in Western Kenya, on Lake Victoria, commotion erupted around the driver.

Suddenly everyone was woken from their dreamy sleeps and thrown into a state of panic. Ray looked around, unsure of the situation, and saw children and adults all praying – he soon realized the bus was under attack.

Through the darkness Ray could just make out a smashed car in front of the bus, it had been robbed and vandalized. Fear struck Ray as to what had happened to the people inside, but with that fear grew the realization that their bus had become the criminal’s next target.

Suddenly, the driver put the bus into reverse and retreated backwards into the pitch black of night. Courageously the driver steered the huge vehicle, full of fretted passengers, to safety and headed back towards Kisumu for help.

Accompanied by the police the group returned to the scene, leaving the authorities at the wreckage, the bus went onwards towards Nairobi.

A short distance passed and it was clear that the bus driver was suffering from shock. He pulled over, got out, and was sick. It had been a traumatizing experience and as his courage and adrenaline wavered, shock had set in. Ray got off the bus to help the brave driver with the limited medical supplies he had. After a short spell back in the driver’s seat he succumbed to the shock and was unable to continue, a passenger took over for the rest of their journey to Nairobi.

When the group arrived Suzanne was waiting to receive them. They were six hours late, had been through an awful ordeal and had managed to gain access across a sealed border; it had been one extraordinary night. The children were taken to the fantastic home in Thika, in the middle of the coffee plantation, where they were safe at last. As with other situations in his life Ray knew his faith in God had seen them through.

The team were waiting for paperwork to be completed for the Choir to travel to Canada, which had to be arranged in Nairobi. During this time Ray would often see Sheba playing the drum on the house’s veranda, looking out towards the green plantation land, and he would be reminded of how, in that moment back at the border, their heartfelt prayers had been answered.

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Choir 2

 

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