Stories of Faith
Goose and The Preacher journey into light:
A personal faith journey has led an Ex-Paratrooper and biker from Nottingham to help former military prisoners start a new life. Here is part of the story….
Gary (Goose) Cryer came from a Christian family; his mother and father were Christians and his father was an Elder in the Brethren Church and a Lay Preacher who influenced him greatly.
Now 56, he grew up in Nottingham with his family, but was the proverbial ‘black sheep’ getting into confrontations with the police and a criminal record at a young age, and for the next few years he became involved in the darker side of spirituality. This included elements of the biker world …where he was given his nickname, ‘Goose.’ He says: “The dark side (Satan) is very real indeed and is there all the time, but Christ is waiting for an invitation to come in….”
In his 20’s – during an area of darkness and rebellion in his life – things changed through a scripture literally illuminated to him – “a light came on and from that moment I asked for Christ to open the door (but I had the handle.!! )… It was a turning point which began a lifelong journey of faith, which I’m still travelling on.”
Change and direction came and eventually led to him joining the army in 1980, feeling God specifically calling him into the Parachute Regiment. He kept a bible with him at all times; he was still in spiritual conflict with his past and it was a gradual process but God was in control.
He has three children who have helped him develop and have highlighted areas of weakness within him, that are being healed through God.
Goose has completed postings all around the world – some include: N Ireland, South America, and Bosnia – where he was awarded the Military Cross – he became a Personal Protection Officer to General Sir Michael Rose, the British military officer who commanded United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1994–95) during the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
After his time in the Forces (1980-2002) it was a natural step into the commercial security market, looking after the safety of people, families, and lifestyles. Friends from the past like ‘Lemmy’ from rock band Motorhead, and Katharine Jenkins – who went to entertain the troops in Afghanistan (she mentions Goose in her autobiography, ‘Time to say Hello’), and other high profile personnel were and are all part of the journey. He was also involved with preparing Daniel Day Lewis for his role as Hawkeye/Nathaniel Poe in ‘The Last of the Mohicans.’
He was baptised in 2008, having felt convicted by God that the time was right. His security business is ongoing, but in late 2014 comedian Jim Davidson approached him and asked him to be a Trustee involved with Care after Combat, a charity helping ex-military during and after release from prison. See photo below with Jim Davidson and Bishop Tony Porter, whom he says “has been a great help and support.” (http://southwell.anglican.org/bishop-joins-comedian-jim-davidson-to-help-military-veterans-at-hmp-nottingham/
Throughout these later years his faith has become much more important to him and he has focused more on serving God… “I went to church sporadically for 22 years wherever I was and carried a bible knowing that when in some of the darker places in the military and commercial security market a greater power than man’s was needed to overcome some of the situations in which I found myself.”
Goose has a Victory Kingpin motorbike called ‘The Preacher’ which has appeared on the Victory stand at the NEC and is known amongst some of the biker fraternity. He’s met and ridden with members of the God Squad bikers from Stockport and purposely leaves the machine in places where people can read the scriptures on it and see the images of Jesus and different scenes from his life in the military. “The Holy Spirit has put it all together… He has allowed me to move in the purposes of God, guiding me in which scriptures to put on the bike. It’s been a journey from darkness to light through prayer and reflection and it’s still going on…’
He says of his work with Care after Combat: “when I go into a prison cell I’m able to empathise, interact and offer guidance and help because I’ve been in the same situation as these ex-servicemen. I’m seeing prisoners with hope and pursuing with them a reintegration into society and focus on a more positive life – and in God’s grace if they so choose it.”
Scripture: Isaiah 45 v 2 ….
‘I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.’
Photos show: Goose in El Paso and ‘The Preacher’ motorbike.
A Reader’s Story:
Danielle Brown was licensed as a Reader on 10th October 2015 by Bishop Paul Williams.
Here she talks about her journey to this decision.
“I was baptised as a baby but wasn’t a regular church attender. I would always say: ‘I believe in God’ but didn’t think of my faith more deeply than that. I married, and had my daughter baptised in 2007, and the blessing of being a parent kick-started a desire to know God, the creator of all things, better. I was confirmed the following year and became more involved in church activities.”
Despite this Danielle still felt called to do something deeper for God within the Church. She had always seen her work as a Probation Officer as the ‘vocation’ God had given her but began to consider whether she was being called to lay ministry.
“When I attended a service in the Minster during Holy Week in 2012 and saw the lay readers re-confirming their promises I felt an urge to be saying those words too… so I signed up to complete the Diocesan Journey of Faith course, which helped to confirm my sense of vocation.”
During her training Danielle was on placement in the chaplaincy department at HMP Whatton, which has given her a desire for exercising part of her ministry in a prison setting.
“My aims for the future are to live a life inspired by Christ, to continue to build relationships with people within and outside the church building and to help bring out he potential that each of us has, in Christ. I am committed to helping people see that God is always there, always waiting, always wanting us to draw close to Him. Through him we can find a sense of purpose for our lives.”
Of the licensing, Danielle says:
“It was a privilege to be licensed as a reader on 10th October, by Bishop Paul. The service felt very special, particularly as I was invited to share some of the highlights of my training and my hopes for the future with the congregation. To be licensed alongside my colleagues and to have the support of my family, friends and church family, who have all helped me over the last two years, was a wonderful experience. I am very much looking forward to seeing where God leads me as I exercise this public ministry.”
Reader Ministry is a public ministry and described as a ‘preaching and teaching ministry in a pastoral context.’ There is a two year period of training which incorporates academic and practical modules including Worship and Preaching, study of the Old & New Testaments and Local Mission.
A miner’s story:
One of the 33 Chilean miners who was trapped underground for 69 days, Jose Henriquez shares his inspiring story of faith and hope …
“I think God has made this particular accident unite five countries in prayer and fasting and in chains of prayer, amongst adults, children and schools – it’s a kind of call from God sensitising the world to seek him,” explained Jose.
At 2pm on that day part way into the shift there was a tremendous explosion and a shock wave went through the mine. Lights went out, the ventilation pipes were smashed and there was a huge dust cloud which took four hours to clear. Within a few hours the miners found that all 33 of them on the shift were alive and they began to organise themselves. “At first we thought that our air would run out, but there were enough small gaps so that the air could circulate through them. The temperature was a permanent 34-40 degrees centigrade,” he explained. They soon discovered some rations, some water and some tins of tuna and put together a daily allowance of ½ a teaspoon of tuna per miner per day, which they mixed with water into a kind of soup to help fill them up. Some days they did voluntary fasts to make the food last longer. It was when they realised they had no hope of escape, that the miners turned to Jose. “They said, ‘we know you’re a true Christian that you really believe, since there is no way we can get out, will you teach us to pray?’” Jose then told them he would only teach them to pray to his living God and they said, “Ok Jose we’ll go with your living God.” And it was the living God’s very real presence in the coming weeks that began to change lives and situations for the trapped community. “We got down on our faces. We lay down in the dirt and humbled ourselves before the living God who is able to do everything – who could walk through walls and be there in the mine. Jesus was there with us. Every day we felt his presence and his Holy Spirit giving us hope. Sometimes it was like a breeze of his presence flowing through.” It was this very real presence of God that led the miners to claim that there had been a 34th miner down there with them – Jose described as – ‘Jesus the ultimate rescuer’. After a week they heard drilling, but with outdated maps, chances of rescue were miniscule. The worst moment came when they realised the drill had passed them. After that they began to pray even harder and eventually after 17 days the miracle happened. And it really was a miracle as Jose explained: “All the experts said what happened was impossible, as the second drill was going to miss us again, but it hit a rock and went in at an angle and broke through. We all went crazy with joy.” However it was many days before they emerged one by one from the capsule. Jose’s wife Blanca, said: “When I heard it was Jose’s mine and that he was down there, my little granddaughter began to cry. I said, we’re not going to cry, we’re going to pray and fast and go to the night vigils that the church is doing because God hears out prayers.” And He certainly did…her first words to her husband were, “Hello my love, I missed you – that was the longest shift ever!” Jose said: “We know that there are accidents every day all over the world, but God seems to have singled out this one to make the world think – why is this happening, and what is this about? I believe God wants us to know that He exists and whoever you are you can speak to Him. He was down there with us, the 34th miner. He can hear your prayers and He is an all powerful God who loves the whole world and doesn’t want anyone to perish.”
Meet a Christian in Sport with a passion for God who was a champion body-builder – and hear his extraordinary story of faith…. Darran Winfield-Stanesby is a powerhouse. Physically and mentally. A Goliath of a man, but with the character and spirit of King David. And really cool specs. You just don’t notice the wheelchair. Darran was training in the gym one day in 1999 when suddenly … “It felt like someone had hit me on the back of the head,” said Darran. “I came round in hospital several weeks later. I’d had a cerebral aneurism, a bleed to the brain – and the process of healing meant it would get much worse before it began to get better.” He had been power lifting, coaching rugby and working full time as a senior manager for a consortium of companies in Derbyshire when his life changed forever. That life began 43 years ago in Eastwood, where he grew up with his younger brother Gary. Darran married and had a daughter, Freya, who is seven and the apple of his eye, but he and his wife are no longer together. Darran began a course of intensive daily neuro-physiotherapy, but it soon became evident that his movement wasn’t as it should be and so Darran spent the next five years looking for a correct diagnosis – it varied from Parkinson’s to Huntingdon’s Disease and finally, in a depressed state, his body shut down. The problem was finally diagnosed as Cerebral Ataxia, a degenerative disease of the cerebellum – the junction box in the brain that talks to the body regarding movement. He then received specific treatment and learned to speak properly again. Darran remained in a stable state for about five years and started to attend St John’s Church in Mansfield with his family. But then he started to deteriorate rapidly. He couldn’t walk and lost his ability to swallow so that food went into his lungs. After being hospitalised for seven months he was told he would need full time residential care. It was at this low point that Darran turned to prayer. “I had always thought I was a Christian by the way I lived, but the rubber had really hit the road – I was so ill and thought I might never return home to my family – so I cried out ‘If you’re ever going to help me I need it right now!’ I remember what happened next so vividly – I got into my wheelchair and went down to reception and immediately saw someone I knew and liked from St John’s. I was crying, looking down, his hand was on my shoulder and he said: ‘I’ve been meaning to come and see you for months….’ It was my ‘God moment.’ I poured my heart out to him. My prayers were answered and from then on I was going home to my own place, however I could!” Six months later I had no carers and was mentally and physically fit enough to live on my own. I re-took my driving test, bought my own car, and had my bungalow adapted. I can still feel sensations in my legs but my brain doesn’t talk to them so they won’t move.” Ataxia is very rare and Darran’s is one of the rarest forms; supposedly the most aggressive and degenerative and extremely life shortening – yet several years later there is no further degeneration of his cerebellum. “I really believe it’s God who is responsible,” said Darran.”I talk everything through with Him and over a period of time things become clear.”