4 My early Years

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I was born on 11 July 1907. I was a country lad, my father being a farm manager. We were rather close as a family. In our immediate family—father, mother, two sons and one daughter—we were not in the habit of talking about the Lord. We were shy, I might say. But fortunately we had a friend, a Cornishman, who came into our fellowship and friendship. He was always bursting and that was good for it broke the ice in the Flack family. We began to be freer in our conversation about the things of God and that was a real blessing.

My father and mother were country people; they were not city dwellers at all. My father was a farmer in Loughton, Essex, 12 miles North East of London. He did not own a farm, but was managing what proved to be in the end five different farms, all flowing together. The owners were Christians, maybe only nominal, and one of them was my Sunday school teacher. When he began there as a young man it was only one farm, but his farming area increased with an additional one. Then another one was added till at last there were five farms, stretching quite a distance from the railway line which ran from London through to a place called Ongar. The railway line was the London North Eastern Railway. We used to nickname it the ‘Late and Never Early Railway.’ I don’t know if it was literally always late, but we, children, thought it was.

My father and mother were very simple and yet devout people. I don’t know whether they read their Bible every day or not. My father used to leave the house every morning at a quarter to five. There was a retail section connected with the farm and he used to send out all kinds of grains and farming materials to the farmers. There might be four carts with double horses bringing the produce to the farms. They would bring back other things from the country. My father was supervising all the arrangements for these transports and so he had to be at the retail centre at five o’clock.

My mother was usually in and around the house, her sphere being mainly the home and the children. We lived a full mile away from the church building where we used to go three times on Sundays: for Sunday school and Sunday services. I learned to love the Lord Jesus when I was a child and when I learned to read I loved to read the Bible. Our home was in some farm buildings on the farm, but it wasn’t much of a place. Later our house was built on the farm. Each of us three children laid a brick of our new house. It wasn’t very up-to-date, but it was not a farmhouse either in the strictest sense.

From early age, in my early teens I was open to the Lord about my future. One night I went to a church service alone and during the service they had a lovely song which really touched my heart. It was ‘O Jesus, I have promised.’

Oh Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my Guide.

Oh, let me hear Thee speaking in accents clear and still,
I dare not trust my judgment: Thy way shall be my will;
Oh, speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
Oh, speak, and help me listen, Thou Guardian of my soul.

Oh Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee
That where Thou art in glory there shall Thy servant be;
And Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end—
Oh, give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend.

Oh, let me see Thy footprints, and in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly is in Thy strength alone;
Oh, guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end;
And then in Heav’n receive me, my Saviour and my Friend.

I really sang it with commitment; I remember so well: “I will serve thee to the end.” I didn’t tell anybody about the great effect it had on me. It was strange that when I had reached the age of 100, I remembered how that, long ago, I had sung that song with commitment and I realized, Oh, I am doing that right now–serving the Lord to the end.

I worked on the farm when I left school at the age of fourteen. After three and a half years, I became a joinery apprentice at a local building firm and spent seven years there. One morning—I had not been working there very long—when some of us were sitting together for breakfast, one man said, “Oh, these Christians, I worked with six of them on a building and every one of them was a dud.” And this man looked straight at me. He may have thought I was going to be another dud, because I was a Christian. I had come to believe in Jesus as my Saviour and they knew that. So I was expected to be a dud. However, I prayed morning by morning with Exodus chapter thirty-one in my heart, where it says that Bezaleel was cunning in all craftsmanship. He was the man who really did the major decorative work for the tabernacle which was constructed in the wilderness. So I prayed, “Lord, give me skill that I may not be ashamed of my work.” The Lord did answer my prayer. In that workshop, I was entrusted with the best work there was to be done, even before I finished my apprenticeship.

I wanted to be a Christian, but not too good. I thought that to be good would mean I could not do all that I wanted to do, and that I could not go where I wanted to go.

I always had a sweetheart when I was a boy, a girlfriend. Not necessarily chatting or talking or walking together; just saying, “Oh, she is my girlfriend”! Later on in my teens I did have a sweetheart. We went out together for walks and so on. But when I realised my sin and the punishment there would be, I understood my need for Jesus as a Saviour. When He came into my life everything was changed; according to His promise He gave me a “new heart” and put “a new Spirit” in me (Ezek. 36:26).

I started to read my Bible regularly and from the age of twenty—I think it was that age—I read it through from Genesis to Revelation, every year. It became more wonderful and helpful each year. I cannot tell the benefit and blessing it has been. As the Bible itself tells us, “I have more understanding than all my teachers” (Psalm 119:97-100). We didn’t have family prayer, but when my twin-brother and I were getting a little older, perhaps 20, we proposed to my father to have family prayer. And so we did. To do it in the morning was impossible because my father went out so early and we were all going out at different times. So our family prayer was in the evening. We usually read a portion from the Bible, but we never had a long family prayer.

I became a Bible class teacher and secretary and was selected a deacon of the church when I was twenty-two years old.

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