My first recollection of Edwin was when I started to attend Kingshurst High School at the age of eleven. He was the Religious Education teacher, as they were called in those days, and as with most pupils he taught me the Bible. I used to see him walking to school. Small of stature, but upright and forthright in his step.
It was one day in 1963 that a friend of mine invited me to join him at a club on a Thursday evening, where they played football and other games. In those days there was little to do, so I happily went along. I was a little taken aback, though, when my friend informed me that if I wanted to attend the games night, I would have to attend the Covenanter class. And so, with many other boys, I started to go to Edwin’ s house on a Sunday morning.
By 1966 I had started to attend Kingshurst Evangelical Church and had begun to read the Bible. Billy Graham, the American evangelist, was speaking at Earls Court in London and it was being televised to Bingley Hall in Birmingham. The church had booked a coach and I had promised to go. At the last minute, the school planned a canoeing trip on the same evening. I decided to go on the school trip and forget about going to Birmingham. I can remember Edwin calling me into his classroom and ‘lecturing’ me about keeping my promise. On Thursday 30th June I went to Bingley Hall and that night I became a Christian.
It was people like Edwin, his brother John, David Torpey and Howel Jones, who established the young Christians of the church in their faith and, more importantly, lived out their lives in front of us. During that period, some 20 young people were converted and many went on to serve the Lord abroad and at home. Edwin had an evangelist’s heart and it was not long before we were ‘cutting our teeth’ in evangelism, joining him in the city centre to give out literature and sharing our faith door to door.
Many missionaries visited our church. We were brought up with a world-wide vision. Edwin’s link with Operation Mobilisation led several of us to go on summer outreaches in Europe and, with Edwin’s encouragement, I spent a year in France. In July 1974 I returned home when my mother was ill and in 1975 it was Edwin who conducted her funeral service. Later that year I joined BCM. In 1977 Edwin conducted the wedding service for Jackie and me.
For 22 years I worked for and with Edwin in reaching our city with the gospel. He was tireless. A man of prayer, full of faith and a big heart for the poor. I remember walking into what is now the Eric Holt Centre with him, to view it with the possibility of buying the property. BCM did not have any money. The building was empty, but he could see the possibilities. We prayed in the empty building and it eventually became our HQ. Several years later, Watery Lane was offered to BCM. It was a shell, but Edwin had the gift of ‘seeing what things could become, not what they actually were’. He had that same gift with people.
I had the privilege of travelling with Edwin to several countries and attending many City Mission Conferences in places like Helsinki, Washington, Berlin, Sydney and Dublin. But Edwin was a globe-trotter. People around the world, from as far away as India, Africa and USA, will be mourning his passing.
Edwin’s example to those who knew him was colossal. He taught those around him how to pray through the night, open shops, organise tent campaigns, events, exhibitions in the Bull Ring Centre and the NEC, church outreaches, establish hostels, preach the gospel in the city centre, run conferences and much more. In all that Edwin achieved he was supported by a loving, godly, and prayerful wife in Dorothy.
Of course, to Edwin’s family he was their special, beloved dad and grandad, and words will not be able to express the hole he will leave for them. To me, he was my schoolteacher, my Pastor, my boss, my spiritual mentor, my example and above all else, a great and true friend. There has been no other person who has influenced my life more than Edwin and I will be happy if I have the privilege of impacting people even 10% of the way that Edwin has influenced me.
On the people around us, may we all seek to be an influence for good.
If you would like to read more in Edwin’s own words, two of his books are available from the BCM Bookshop in Kingstanding or call 0121 384 3650.