This is a story of how I became the person I am today and how it has shaped the creation of this charity.
So let’s take back to where it all began for me. I was born in Islington in London during the Second World War and I am the 7th child out of eight. I used to be quite an angry child perhaps this was due to the situation with the war but then I went to school and loved it and really wanted to learn however early on I was taken out by my mother and placed in another school. I never felt as settled and hated my mother for doing it to me and because of this most days I ran away. So I left school without learning to read or write; looking back now this is something I deeply regret.
As I look back now I realise that joining the boy’s brigade was my saving grace. Admittedly, I was a naughty child which in turn led to the leaders at the brigade to say every time I got to the door ‘”Etheridge door” .
I was fortunate that the captain always had time for me who made me feel such a part of the brigade and the highlight of these years was camping in Bedfordshire. I had never been outside London before it was an amazing experience with umpteen amounts of fields to play in. This is also when I first found Jesus; I thank God for the Boys Brigade and I am still an Old boy brigade member at heart.
However, I soon went back to my angry ways and began to be even more disruptive and felt myself even became a leader in a gang. So much so that one day we decided to go and disrupt and play up in a church meeting. Not knowing that would be the day that would change my life like the apostle Paul had an encounter with Jesus. I found God again and this time I decided to change for good.
I didn’t change immediately but I wanted to be able to read and write but secretly as I didn’t want people to know that I didn’t know how to as I felt embarrassed. So I began to read my bible and it was very difficult but I knew God was with me every step of the way and I did manage to teach myself to read.
In my late 20’s I knew that God was calling to me to work full time for him. This meant going to theological college however with me only just being able to read basic things and still being unable to write I struggled but again God said it was my path and I believed it so burning all my bridges in London and I started on another adventure.
Unbelievably, I had an interview and got accepted into college after I had been told that I would never amount to anything because of my lack of education but again I proved them wrong and spent three years at college and improved my education dramatically. I went on to become a probationary minister and worked for a while doing this however once again God spoke to me. Having afternoon tea and cakes I heard God say clear as day “Give up you salary”. I remember thinking to myself did I hear that right? But yes I did and so I told my boss who could not believe my reasoning but I told him that I did has God asked and due to this all kinds of miracles will happen and they did.
God had given me another vision that I was to be working with suffering hurting people; where and when I did not know but again God said and I believed it, little did I know that I myself would become one of those suffering people.
So after quitting my job, I was losing everything but my love for Jesus and found myself homeless and living on the streets and from this I experience a break down. So when I was invited out to Australia I felt like I had to decline as I was not in the right frame of mind. I instead travelled across America which again did go smoothly as with neither money nor a ticket as the airline had gone bust it did appear to be hopeless at times but this entire time,God still had his hand on me and he had called me to work and it was not over yet.
Over time I landed up in little old Hereford of all the exotic places. Hereford was the last place I thought that I would ever land up in but again God was working a plan out. Here is where I met my wife and in 1996 we were married and she did not know what she had let herself in for!
Two weeks into marriage and I had managed to cut four fingers off my right hand so let’s just it’s a good job I’m left handed. I believed it was God trying to get my attention and believe me he had it! The doctors wondered if I would ever recover emotionally from this but I was fortunate that I had lots of loving care. During my recovery period I received a call asking me to go to Romania. When my wife came home from work, I told her about the call and she said “If God is telling you to then you have to go”. That was that, our lives were about to change again.
A new chapter began, I went to Romania four times with friends from up north and we decided to start our own charity and call it Hope Carriers Trust after a couple who had lived in my old bible book shop and they drew a picture of a lorry and wrote the ‘carriers of hope’ on the picture and it represented what are aim was so that’s how the trust began. We became Hope Carriers Trust taking hope to a forgotten world, a place that had been almost forgotten, and a desperate place.
The only snag that was on our minds was how we were going to do this? We had no money, no vehicle only ourselves, but when you give yourself to God he will take your willingness and use it. Sure enough miracle after miracle began to happen.
I met a missionary from America which I now consider a loyal friend who was staying with up north and this is when everything started to become a little faster paced. We went up north on train and we came back in a van, God had told someone to buy it for us so transportation would now not be an issue. God then continue to provide; people started ringing us up offering us items to go to Romania with. Soon we were filling the truck full with items, £1500 worth each time we loaded one we would question ourselves on where did all that money and goods come from!? God just kept providing for us! We were then offered 35,000 nappies and 1000 pairs of shoes and all that we had to do was pay for the fuel down to where we were situated. However the problem it was going to cost around £300 in fuel to get it transported over to Romania and we did not have that sort of money so we were storing it in a farm local to us until out of the blue a woman called offering us the £300 to be able to transport the goods to Romania.
God our provider was at work again.
Our work has moved on by the bucket load since the beginning. However God has always been forever working ahead of us. An example of this would be One Sunday afternoon, we received a call offering us £6,000 to buy land to which we did and to where now stand a building that has and continues to help the lives of suffering Romanians.
We have been blessed with miracle after miracle. Now a 17 tonne truck comes into England collects all the items we collect and they get transport to Romania where Koloa disrupts it out and keeps the building in Romania running. Not only is Koloa now a friend of mine and benefits the charity also but he himself was in poverty in Romania and now God has put him to work with me and now we liaise from England to Romania.
Finally I would just like to mention that the work is not only being done by generous companies and selfless donators. We are constantly working and liaising with schools and communities in Birmingham, Wales and Herefordshire to collect items and money for the trust to send over to Romania. Our biggest success with this is the shoeboxes as not only are they great to bring our own English communities together but it is more of a personal gift to those suffering in Romania. However just because our main focus area is Romania, we have sent juggernauts to Senegal, Congo and Ghana and we plan to send lots more to other countries in need of aid.
It is beautiful seeing communities come together and help out other counties in other countries and the unbelievable impact that aid and money can help change people’s lives and you to could join me on the trust and help those in need by just donating anything that you are able to spare.