Having left school I started my working life in a local mill called P & S Filtration. I had thought of myself as being ‘one of the lads’, and tried to get on with everybody, and worked my way up the promotion ladder as best I could. My local pub was the ‘Hare and Hounds’ at Holcombe Brook, and I spent many weekends going to the night-clubs in surrounding areas, doing all the things people do in night-clubs. Socially, I suppose I was quite likeable, but I was a bit of a show off at times, and I guess many found this to be irritating. I had a keen interest in photography, which developed more in to videography as video cameras became more accessible. It was whilst working at the mill I first heard about ‘real’ Christianity. Up until then my understanding of Christianity was very limited and I guess I thought of it as one of the major religions of our world. Not knowing much of any other religion I suppose Christianity was the one I put myself under the umbrella of. Though I was encouraged to go to Sunday school in my childhood, much of my time was spent messing about in the class and trying to be the one who could come up with the most silly answers to any of the questions the Sunday school teachers might ask. I’d certainly never considered myself to be a religious person. It was one late shift whilst working under a loom, that my work colleague and friend Gary Hilton challenged me with the true message of Christianity for the first time. (Gary was a school friend who had become a Christian some years earlier, and had started work at the mill at the same time as me). Being confronted with the truth about Christianity was an uncomfortable experience at first because I had never been challenged about my personal sin, and the need of a Saviour before. Although I could accept that I was not perfect, to come to terms with my sin being an offence to a Holy God was disconcerting to say the least. That first conversation was rather heated, at least on my part. I went home that night very unsettled. I had always thought, that despite me having many imperfections, God would look down on me and see that I wasn’t that bad. I used to think to myself, “Surely He can see I wasn’t a murderer or a thief, I wasn’t a rapist and certainly didn’t go out of my way to hurt people. Surely He can see that I tried my best to do right by people, and that I’d done many kind and generous things, and that I would go out of my way to help people.” To now be confronted with the concept that God is Holy, and that my imperfections were an offence to Him, left me very troubled. Over the next 18 months Gary explained many things about Christianity including the hopelessness of any goodness we as humans could offer to God, and the claims of Jesus Christ to forgive our sin. Inwardly, I found myself secretly agreeing with him. In every conversation with Gary, I was desperately trying to say that God must be able to accept me because He knew that deep down I was a nice decent person. Gradually, I began to understand that if God was holy, and heaven was perfect, then my imperfections were an offence to Him and that they would certainly defile heaven. This was making so much sense to me: God could never allow heaven to become defiled by my sin, otherwise it wouldn’t be heaven. I began to realise that God saw the hate, the lust, the jealousy, the pride in my heart, just as clear as my outward actions. I could see that God couldn’t just wink at my sin and usher me into heaven as if my sin was of no real consequence. If He were to do that, then heaven would be instantly defiled by my ability to lie, my ability to deceive, my hate, my lust, my jealousy and my pride. If I was being totally honest with myself, God could never allow me into heaven like that. But how could I get rid of such a defiled heart? It wasn’t long before I realised there was nothing I could do to put right the sins in my own heart. There was no way I could outweigh the bad deeds with good ones. I certainly couldn’t prevent these kind of sins coming into my heart again. I did feel the guilt of this, and wondered if it would be possible to ever really get rid of this guilt. I desperately needed a Saviour who could forgive me for ALL my sin. During my conversations with Gary, he’d told me many times that Jesus died on the cross, so that He could forgive me for my sin, and in so doing, would bring peace between God and me. Not only would He take my sin from me and bear it in His own body, but He would give me His perfect righteousness, making me pure and undefiled before God. In other words, God would look at me through Jesus, and He would see the pure righteousness of His dearly loved Son. Though I kept this very much to myself, the realisation of this truth was overwhelming, and I knew I had no alternative but to sincerely ask Jesus to forgive me for my sin. Gary had mentioned more than once, that should I ever want to become a real Christian, there was no ‘magic prayer’ or formula of words that would make me one. What I needed to do was to say a prayer that I really meant, because God could see my heart, and knew whether or not I really meant it. This made so much sense to me, though I kept it completely to myself. As I began to spend more and more social time with Gary and his friend Graham Westwell, I became increasingly aware that I didn’t have the peace and assurance in my life that they had. They were convinced that should anything ever happen to them, they would go to heaven, not because they were good enough, but because they had been forgiven by Jesus. One Sunday evening, at the age of 18 years, I became so convicted by my sin and the need to be forgiven, I quietly went up stairs to my bedroom and finally asked Jesus to forgive me for all my sin, to come into my life, and make to be one of His children. I thanked Him for what He had suffered on the cross, as I realised He’d done it me, and I wanted now to live in a way that would please Him. After I had said “Amen”, I honestly thought something would happen to me. Maybe some kind of sensation would come over me, or a bright light would fill the room. I even went to the window to see if there might be anything in the sky I could see as a sign that God had accepted me. But there was nothing! Although I was very conscious about the fact that God was listening to me, and knew my heart, I had thought He might have indicated to me some how, that He had forgiven me. I went to work the next morning, before the noisy weaving looms were switched on at 06:00am. As Gary was halfway down the weaving shed making a cup of tea, I told Graham what I had done the night before. Without saying a word, he stopped reading his paper, looked at me with a furrowed brow and mouth slightly ajar. The look on his face made me think I’d done something terribly wrong. For a few seconds his face never altered as he came to terms with what I’d said. Then suddenly he turned away from me and shouted to Gary “Gaz. Gaz!! Rob’s become a Christian!!!”. I was instantly trying to keep him quiet saying “Woa, shush, shush. Everyone will hear you!” and “I don’t even know if God has forgiven me yet, nothing happened.” Both Gary and Graham assured me that so long as I meant what I said in my prayer, God would have definitely forgiven me. Asking them not to tell the rest of my work mates fell on deaf ears: they were just to excited that I had been SAVED, and it wasn’t long before the whole factory knew that Rob Stredder had become a Christian. All this came as a massive shock to everybody I knew. My family, my work colleagues, my friends I went to the pubs and night-clubs with, no-one who knew me could believe that I had became a Christian. The strange thing was, there did seem to be an angry reaction from some. My Mum and Dad seemed very angry about it, but I think this was more borne out of a concern, thinking I was involved with some kind of religious sect. My social friends really tried to get me to give up on Christianity immediately, forcibly picking me up in their car and taking me out on the town to try and get me drunk and wash this stupid idea of ‘becoming a Christian’ out of my head. They obviously had no idea of what a wonderful transformation had happened inside my heart. They were bitterly disappointed that my conversion had proven to be the real thing, and not some flash in the pan. In some of the debates I had with them afterwards I could physically see fury in their faces as the hurled insults at me cursing me with their curled lip, shouting things like: “You’ve just jumped on the band-wagon”. “Christianity is nothing but a crutch”. “You’ll be back drinking with us soon, you’ll see!” I can remember calmly replying; “I’ve jumped off the band-wagon, not on it”. The reality was that I had so much more to tell them. The more I tried, the more they stopped their ears, refusing to listen. More than thirty years have passed and I am more in love with my Saviour than ever. He has brought me though some of the most difficult times of my life, and been a source of real strength through them all. He has promised never to leave me nor forsake me, and He will take me to be with Him in heaven when this life is finally over for me. I have full confidence of this because He has died to make this possible, and I don’t believe He would lie or mislead me on such a crucial matter as eternal life.