Economic ruin and restoration
A while after God called me to preach He opened a door in Bude, Cornwall where we had a vision to begin a church. We needed finances to live so I started my own insurance-broking business. Despite the fact that I had little idea of how to run a business, it seemed to go very well. By 1992 we had two offices and a turnover of around £750,000.
I was pastoring a growing church but the recession of the early 90s hit my business with a series of bad debts and cash-control problems. It seemed the harder we worked the more the situation worsened and by November 1992 it became clear that we were on the fringe of bankruptcy. My wife and I had been praying for guidance and within a week the bank decided to call in my overdraft and the Life Assurance side of the business was removed.
I went to see my accountant, who was also on the church leadership team, and asked his advice. He said it was inevitable that we would go bankrupt. This meant losing our income, home and reputation. I sat in his office trying to take in the effects bankruptcy would have on our lives and the church’s reputation. The doctrine of the sovereignty of God, always a much discussed theory, was now the only reality I could cling on to. I left the office aware that I would suffer the shame of going bankrupt and facing the unknown consequences of that, but thinking, ‘Even if it all goes I believe God is in it’.
I remember a tract with a question mark on the front, saying, ‘Jesus is the answer so what’s the question?’ – in our case God worked in an amazing way to answer our question. My daughter suggested that I offered my business to a competitor in the town, and ask him to take on my customers, settle my £60,000 plus debts and give me a job. So, swallowing my pride, I went to ask him for help. It seemed impossible – he was likely to smirk all the way to the bank, not only from gaining most of my clients but also from the fact that his biggest competitor would no longer be a rival. I explained my situation and, to my surprise, he didn’t simply reject it (as any sensible businessman would have) but said he would talk to his wife and ring me back. He rang a few hours later and, to my astonishment, he agreed to take over the problems. Within two days I had a new employer and a secure job.
The main part of the problem was resolved that day. I still had large debts but in the seventeen years since this happened we have been enabled to repay everything back.
One incredible incident, which reminds me of God’s goodness during that time, remains implanted in my mind. I owed around £1,500 to small businesses in the area but had no means to even start repaying them. One day an unknown lady called in my new place of work. She and some friends had been talking and praying about me and the fellowship, and had been led to give me ‘a little gift’. She handed me a crumpled building society cheque for £1,500. No-one, except my accountant, and God, of course, knew how much I owed.
I learned many lessons about myself and my God through this experience. Here are some of them:
- Try not to get into debt. It is too easy to borrow and let debts mount up. Don’t make the mistakes I made.
- Recognise that even when we mess up, the Lord is not surprised. God can change our circumstances and He can change us through our circumstances.
- God never promised us prosperity but He did say, ‘Never will I leave you’ (Heb. 13:5). When things seem dark He is equally able to keep us through it and intervene supernaturally.
During this difficult period of my life I remember going for a walk down on the beach, thinking, praying and wondering ‘Why?’ but looking back, it was during these, the darkest times, I learned that God is always God and we really can trust Him.
Trevor Macey was pastor of Bude Christian Fellowship, Cornwall, where he remains part of the leadership team since they appointed a full time minister in 2004.