A strong Christian upbringing and a mother who remained faithful in prayer; that was the background of a man who cried tears of repentance before God at the age of 8.
John Nolan, along with his wife, Linda, have been committed to showing the same example of Christian love to their own children and as a result, have seen them both make a commitment of faith- aro und the same age as their dad.
"I had that privilege that perhaps many others didn’t have and I thank God, and my mother for her prayers and her commitment," he said.
"Even though my father was an unbeliever, my mother set a good example of being a caring Christian and a true believer. She lived her faith, unlike my father, who seemed a bit self-centred. It was a good way to see the contrast and the difference that Christianity made."
John’s mum took him to church regularly and it was while listening to visiting preacher and evangelist George Jeffries (Elim Church founder), that the young John gave his life to the Lord.
"There were some mighty miracles taking place at that time- the blind receiving their sight, the lame walking. It received a lot of interest from the press, who couldn’t believe what was happening. They were looking for the wires when people went down in the spirit!" he said.
"Seeing the miracles helped to convince me that it was real, but what really hit home was hearing a simple gospel message preached. I became aware that I was a sinner and had a tearful repentance. I felt a great load of sin being lifted from me. I felt the true value of the gospel being real, that Christ really did die for me, to save me personally."
Even as a young Christian, John remembers having a strong desire for Bible study and evangelism.
"I got laughed at and mocked and called holier than thou- maybe I was," he said.
"But you learn from your mistakes and God is always teaching you and guiding you."
However, despite his strong faith, John drifted away from God in his late teens.
"I still stood up for what I believed in, but I started drinking and trying things like smoking," he said.
"That went on for a couple of years. I felt guilty all the time, knowing that I shouldn’t be doing what I was doing, but serving the Lord instead. Things didn’t go right for me, especially financially because I was spending money and struggling. But it was a deep conviction that I was doing wrong.
"It was the lure of things in the world that drew me and in a way, I’m glad I tasted of them and now I know there’s something far, far better in the Lord."
Once John had re-committed himself to God, it was one particular event that brought about a powerful and lasting change
"I really wanted to have a baptism in the Holy Spirit and I prayed for it for about two weeks," he said.
"At the end of that time I just said: ‘Lord, if you will just baptise me in the Holy Spirit, I will be a vessel for you to be used by you.’ On that Sunday morning, the power just went through me and it was just like a hot hand being placed on my head and the surging through me going from the top of my head to the tip of my toes and back again and it kept doing that. I spoke in tongues and it was a message that was interpreted.
"It had a marvellous effect on me and drew me closer to the Lord. It’s a marvellous experience and you just know the Lord is walking with you."
The experience gave John the confidence to stand up and talk at the church’s summer open air witness, in front of a large crowd. Eventually, he led the weekly event.
John later became deacon and secretary at the local Bible Patten church. Eventually, he joined the Elim Church on Fredora Avenue, which later became Clifton Christian Centre.
"We felt God tell us that this was our spiritual home and I felt very much at peace here," he said.
"We took some time to settle before getting involved in serving God, because we felt we’d done so much at our previous church- we were too busy and took too much on. However, the Lord spoke to me very clearly, saying: ‘I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.’ I was soon asked to be involved in door duty and eventually became deacon and secretary and Linda became involved in the Sunday school. Everything that I had lost at my previous church, the Lord gave me back again."
But John’s life hasn’t always been easy. His first marriage broke down after his wife, who professed to be a Christian, fell away and eventually left him.
He also suffered stress-related illness through his job as a community hospital maintenance supervisor.
"It was a very pressurised job and the workers under me and my boss weren’t easy to work with. I trusted the Lord through it all and prayed for the people that gave me a hard time- I still do.
"But I ended up quite ill, stressed out, to the point where I couldn’t even pick up the phone at home, I was so bad. Eventually the doctor signed me on sick and the hospital retired me on sickness grounds."
Since his illness, John can look back and see God’s purpose at work.
"I used to cry out to God to bring this awful experience to an end, but now I realise that the Lord took me through it so that I could comfort and pray for those that are ill," he said.
"I have a deeper understanding of how they must feel and can pray more sincerely.
"I also think that God didn’t heal me sooner to remind me not to go ahead of him in my own strength, which was hard for someone like me who was very strong. I’ve learned to allow the Lord to take me one step at a time."
But the upside of early retirement has meant that John now has more time to devote to prayer, Bible study and serving God through being a deacon, a Gideon, and being on hand to welcome everyone at church services.
Another blessing that came out of his stressful work situation was meeting wife Linda, who worked as a nurse at one of the hospitals he helped to maintain.
"I used to chat to the nurses and Linda showed interest in what I was saying about church," he said.
"I invited her to the church and a while later, she gave her heart to the Lord. We became closer and eventually married.
We’ve been married for 16 years and I now realise that marriage can be so lovely and so precious. We pray together, read the Bible together and we bring the children up to know the Lord."
And in summing up his life and faith so far, he said:
"I wouldn’t have been without God. I dread to think that I could be in the world, because all the world has to offer is filthy rags. In the Lord, I’ve found the pearl of greatest price."