‘There are moments in history when a door for massive change opens, and great revolutions for good or evil spring up in the vacuum created by these openings. In these divine moments key men and women and even entire generations risk everything to become the hinge of history, the pivotal point that determines which way the door will swing.’ (Lou Engle)
Some have asked, ‘What happened next..?’ after I shared some early experiences in my previous blog, ‘Against the grain’. Having recently become a follower of Jesus and a left-wing social-political activist, my first action back in the workplace was to tear down the explicit pornographic posters that totally covered the workshop walls. (To understand the impact of this, the shop floor of such industry at the time was a heavily male-dominated environment. In fact, there was only 1 female apprentice in my year of around 80. Against this backdrop, I imagined I would get lynched for this act.) When my work mates saw what I had done, however, they just asked in dismay, ‘Why have you done this?’ I replied simply and assertively that the posters were demeaning to women. Nobody spoke a word.
Next, I created a petition to reform the trade union. I used every lunch break to travel to different industrial plant locations to invite colleagues to sign it. Almost everyone said they agreed with what I was doing and advocating. At the same time, however, many explained they felt afraid to sign it in case the union retaliated by dismissing them from membership. They therefore signed with disguised names that were barely legible. On learning of what I was doing, the local shop steward, as official representative for the union, demanded that I give him the petition. I refused and he became angry, warning me sternly that I was ‘playing with fire’. On handing the final petition to the site convenor, the highest trade union representative for that region, he too reacted with predictable outrage.
I didn’t wait to be dismissed or sacked. I sensed God was calling me in a new direction so I handed in my resignation, 3 months before I was due to complete my 5 years of studies there, and moved to London instead to work as a Community Service Volunteer. On just £12 a week, my family and friends thought I had gone crazy or joined a cult. In this role, however, I worked alongside a radical Marxist community development worker as part of an innovative social work team and, in my spare time, as a volunteer with local Central American political and human rights organisations. This was a decisive turning point in my life and I have never looked back for a moment with regret for that decision. When I completed this assignment, I hitch-hiked to the Middle East to work in a hospital for the poor.
But that’s another story…
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