The Grace of God and Multiple Sclerosis – The Story of Ann Yates
Review by David Gregson
This book touched me from the beginning. There are moments of humour and moments of real sadness in this story of Les and Ann Yates facing the challenge of living with M.S. To put this into context, the first part of the book is about Les’ s early life until he married Ann in 1967.
We read about his decision to run away from home with a friend at the age of six but the prank only lasted a few hours. Later, at the age of 18 after a pub crawl, he stole’ an old banger with two friends and the police were involved. As Les entered his twenties, he at times experienced a deep conviction of guilt and he knew that he was drifting. Then he had a conversation with Ernie, a keen Christian, at the dye works where he was employed. Eventually, encouraged by Ernie, he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Four years later, Les met Ann in a Christian coffee bar in Manchester. She had become a Christian through being challenged to seek after a holy life. After a nine month courtship, Les and Ann married.
The first thirty years of their marriage were as they would have hoped: they were members of the local evangelical church where Les was an elder, had two sons, Les worked in the printing industry and Ann had a responsible job in the schools meals service. Then out of the blue came Ann’s diagnosis of M.S .. Struggling with this debilitating disease makes enormous demands on both the patient and the carer. Things like Ann’s short-term memory problems or a catheter which was not working properly can bring stress into the atmosphere. According to Les, he has never once heard Ann complain about her affliction. On the other hand, he admits that tense moments sometimes bring impatience and irritability out of him. I am moved by Les’ s honesty throughout the book: he confesses that he still has a long way to go in his sanctification.
I find very helpful the way Les links aspects of their life together with Scripture. Indeed, every chapter is preceded by a Bible quotation. On one occasion, Les was pushing Ann in her wheelchair along the promenade in Llandudno. He let go his grip for a moment and the wheelchair got out of control as it dropped five feet. Amazingly, Ann was unscathed: "for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways"(Psalm 91 v.11 ). Another event which Les uses to illustrate Scripture was when he was granted lasting power of attorney on Ann’s behalf. This is a reminder of the Lord Jesus Christ ever living to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7v .25).
The book is written in a clear, warm style. It is very helpfully structured in brief chapters. No potential reader should be put off. The subject of M.S. is a hard one but here it is M.S. within the context of the grace of God. The book is full of practical spiritual wisdom. It ends with a reference to Les and Ann talking about the hope of glory. It invites us to think about that day when there will be no more M.S. or any other disease and no more death.
About the Author
Leslie Yates was born in 1940, brother to two elder brothers and two younger sisters. In 2005 he retired from fifty years of secular employment, which he spent mostly in the printing industry. He is married to Ann and in December 2017 they celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. They have two sons and two grandchildren. Les became an elder in the local fellowship in 1966, retiring from that role in 2015. Through the grace of God he and Ann continue to worship God on a regular basis with their faithful brothers and sisters of Trinity Grace Church, Ramsbottom, Lancashire..
Endorsement by Oliver Allmand-Smith
I have known Les for 20 years, served with him in church leadership and shared many joys and tears with him. His account of the terrible suffering that Ann has endured with her MS is profoundly helpful as he applies many years of preaching and pastoral care to his own intense affliction. He writes with great honesty about how the trial has exposed his own lack of sanctification, yet in so doing manifests a humility that is compelling. His great sense of humour also shines through as he describes wheelchairs careering along the prom, planned romantic weekends in Cleethorpes and even aluminium bath stools with one leg in the toilet! Such humour conveys the fullness of their experience in a warm and engaging manner, enabling the reader to connect with both Les and Ann.
Seeing how Ann has persevered through all her afflictions without bitterness or grumbling is testimony to the Holy Spirit’s work of contentment in her heart; and seeing how Les has grown in Christlike meekness and compassion is a marvel of grace. They are an inspiration to us all.