Christian Life 

40 years on: Sandy Shaw - one believer's story

by Sandy Shaw
March 2009

Sandy ShawThis is a very personal story. It is part of my spiritual journey and testimony - yes, only part - but as one significant experience took place 40 years ago in March, I thought it expedient to put it down in back and white. What I share with you is real and it lasts!

It brought me amongst leaders from various parts of the world. These were men of God who knew what leadership was all about and what was involved, and it has been a tremendous privilege to have learned from these men, particularly in the 1970's and 80's.

Let me take you back to one Sunday night when I was 8 years of age. I was in bed but playing at ministers, announcing Psalms and Hymns and reading the Bible. My mother came through and told me to "Go to sleep." I asked for "five minutes more" which was granted.

A call of God to a 9-year-old

In that period of five minutes I had a vision of God - a vision of Jesus Christ - when I was called to the Ministry. Yes, these are rather adult words. I knew I was called to be a minister. I told no-one for 9 years.

Let me now jump forward to 15th June 1959 when my examination results at Perth Academy came out and I had failed. My father was lying dangerously ill. On 17th June at 3.10am Perth Police came to our door to inform my mother and me that my father had died. One Friday he was at his work - the next Friday he was in his grave.

When I went back to school on the Monday I discovered that to go into the preaching/pastoral ministry you had to do six years at university. We had no money. I completed sixth year at Perth Academy, but still not have sufficient passes to get into university. My problem subject was French. I failed it three times.

I had to get job and was offered two. One with the Gas Board at £320 a year and another with a leading motor insurance company at £230 a year - yes - a year!  Knowing I had to go to night classes and that the Motor Insurance Company was only 300 metres from our home I chose motor insurance; and that first morning with the General Accident I was informed that there had been a typing error, and the 230 ought to have read 320. I went to night classes and finally gained entrance to Edinburgh University.

Drying up in ministry

On 1st May 1968 I was ordained in Cowdenbeath West Church, but by December I became drier and drier. Christmas and New Year was terrible.

In January 1969 at our local Fraternal Meeting, which was held in Kinross, a colleague who was to become a very close friend, Jim Kincaid, walked into the room and said, "I have just been baptised in the Holy Spirit." Well, five or six of us met with him, at the close of the Fraternal. "This is what we need."

I always knew there was more but I did not know what it was.We met over these next Monday mornings. We were seeking, searching, hungering and thirsting. Jim took us through the Scriptures. Nothing happened.

On 16th March 1969 - 40 years ago - I came out of the pulpit in Cowdenbeath, saying, "That is it!" I was preaching that afternoon in Edinburgh at a Crusader Rally for young people, and God wonderfully upheld. I have never reneged on a meeting.

On our way to Edinburgh I called in at Jim's Manse. "Jim, it either happens to-night or I go to the Forth Road Bridge to-morrow and in the Name of Jesus Christ take off my collar and drop it into the water and return to motor Insurance from whence I came.

Around 7.30pm that night, Jim came in. He prayed - spoke with me - read from the Bible – nothing! "Jim - I've got it all wrong - this call thing - I've got it all so very wrong!" Let me pray with you once more. "There are words in your mind which are not English - in the Name of Jesus speak them out."

Fresh empowering of the Holy Spirit

This I did - two words - and I know what it was like to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

It was like someone putting two cycle pumps on my toes and blowing me up and the Spirit of God came up my legs and body, and I overflowed. I started to 'speak in tongues'. I could not stop speaking in tongues - praising God in that language I had never learned. Jim got up and left - saying - "see you in the morning" - and I went over to my desk and began to write in tongues.

When we met on the Monday morning - Jim said - "Tell them - tell them what happened last night." I complied. Now - we always had a Prayer Time - and Jim Kincaid is a man who is always receiving visions from God. On this occasion, he saw a mountain with a source of water in the centre of it and the water was flowing down - rivulets of blessing - and his word was - wherever you go you will be a blessing.

I saw exactly the same vision - and I remember saying to myself – “Well, if you weren't making up speaking in tongues last night you are certainly making this up - until I heard God speak to me - "Son, look at the water."

In my vision - in my picture - the water was flowing uphill to the summit! It was like holding up a hose and the water was sprinkling all over the place - the same consequences but a different method. Then came the voice again - "From now on your ministry will be uphill."

Expanding ministry

I move forward two years to Guildford University in 1971 and to a superb Fountain Trust Conference. On the Saturday morning at the final meeting we were to meet in denominations. "Oh No!" My wife, Elspeth said, "We have been at everything - let's go along." There were five Presbyterians present - but one was one of the main speakers - Rev Professor Rodman Williams, from Austin, Texas.

In 1972, there was to be the first European Charismatic Leaders Conference in Germany - with five representatives from each nation and denomination. Around three months after Guildford, Rod Williams asked me to choose and lead the Scottish delegation.
There was some money available at that time and I was later informed that following the German Conference, I could travel to any part of the world and tell of what was happening in Europe!

In 1973 while I was preparing for the conference in Germany I was invited to speak at a conference in Holland. Then the British Airways Manager phoned me and asked if I would preach in Frankfurt on the Sunday in a Baptist church in the morning and an American airforce base later that day. I was able to say "Yes".

On the train to Germany I was 'locked' in a compartment with David DuPlessis the Co-Chairman of the Conference and World Pentecostal Leader: people would have paid money for that privilege. Speaking about financial costs of my trip and the income from it he said: "Pay all your expenses, buy a new suit (you have to be neat if you are up front) and whatever money is left over, put it in the offering. Never touch the gold or the glory."

During this period, Jim and Val Kincaid had gone from Crossgates in Fife, as missionaries to South Africa. I chose to go to South Africa and a three week preaching tour was arranged, which later incorporated, as I travelled home, a brief visit to Israel, and a week's teaching in Cyprus. Germany, South Africa, Israel, Cyprus - what was happening in the life of a wee boy brought up, up a close, in Perth? Various international ministry visits followed.

A calling and a parting

In 1984, we moved north to Ardclach and Auldearn churches. I came up north to die. I thought I was finished and that God was putting me out to grass. But I now had another problem, from which I thought I could hide or run away. I could no longer sprinkle babies with water and call it baptism and do so with integrity. This became so clear in the Scriptures. I had been baptised in the Galilee.

Events moved on, until in 1991 on the Isle of Colonsay, where I was preaching for two Sundays, I met a man who had a problem. He came to see me, and then I told him my problem. He said "Tell your church authorities." Subsequent events led to my parting company with the denomination .

Usually, I start with Scripture, but let me close with words from the Word of God as we have it in the Bible, part of which I have read every day since the age of eight.

We have in the book of Acts the record of Paul's life and ministry, and we have his testimony three times. He never changed. He never modified it. He never suggested that he had moved on from that and what happened was too simplistic. In Acts 26 Paul tells us that he was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.

In II Timothy 4:7 and 3:10, Paul has a word for the world and a word for the Church. Paul was faithful to the end. He fought the good fight - finished the race - and kept the faith. If we do not keep the faith it is unlikely that we will be able to fight the good fight or finish the race. With Paul too it was real and it lasted!

On my first morning in Uganda I asked God for a word for the period I was to be preaching and teaching there. My Bible reading that Friday morning 'just happened to be' Romans 9:1 - "I speak the truth in Christ". It is more important that I say what is true than what is new. Uganda? Yes. Five years ago I was preparing to take things ‘easy’ and consider ‘retiring’. A colleague asked me to accompany him to Uganda to teach at pastors and leaders conferences and seminars, and following that there have been three similar visits to Kenya - teaching in the slums and out in the jungles. But that is another story for another time, perhaps?

Sandy Shaw, 10/04/2009

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Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Christian Life > 40 years on