Michael Packer became involved in Youth for Christ in 1959. He shares how the local paper advertised a Youth for Christ event that changed and shaped the direction of his life as it laid the foundation for a life of Christian service.
I was born in May 1941 during World War II in Blackpool, England. Blackpool was Britain’s largest seaside resort and entertainment centre. My father was Protestant, my mother Roman Catholic, so they sent my two younger sisters and me to the local Church of England Sunday (afternoon) School. For most of my school years I was a choir boy at All Saints Church, practicing on Thursday evenings, and singing at both the Sunday morning and evening services. (Like most choir boys I read comic books during the sermons!) Our church youth group was more a Friday evening table tennis night. Thanks particularly to two godly male Sunday School teachers, I grew up knowing that there was a God. Often I would pray at night “God, help me to become a true Christian.” Much of the Anglican service was sung or recited – Psalms, Hymns, Prayers and Creeds — so in time they became fixed in my memory. Even today at age 81, I can spontaneously recall and sing those Bible-based words and hymns.
My father died when I was 10 years old, so my teen years were spent in a house of women, as my maternal grandmother came to live with us. But I was the only church goer. In 1956 our family emigrated to Canada, finally settling in Vancouver, where I attended Holy Trinity Anglican Church. In 1958, after completing Grade 13 at age 17, I started working for The Bank of Nova Scotia (now ScotiaBank). (One of my first jobs was to fill the ink wells in the customer area, and to put refills in the new ball-point pens – which were anchored to the counters to prevent their being taken!)
Mom married again. As family finances improved we moved frequently in the inner city to housing more suitable for our family of six. So, apart from the staff at work, I found it hard with the moves, and no vehicle, to make friends. In 1959 I saw in the Vancouver Sun an advertisement for a movie “Seventeen” being shown at a Youth for Christ Rally at church just a bus ride away from home. I knew nothing about Youth for Christ, or the Metropolitan Tabernacle Church,but I was intrigued on that Saturday night to find a large church packed with teens. I sat next to a young man named Bob. But by the end of the meeting I realized that this type of event was not what I as a devout Anglican was used to, and I told Bob that I would likely not come again.
But God had other plans, and a few weeks later I began attending the rallies regularly. The music, the enthusiasm, the excellent speakers, many of them missionaries, the involvement of young adults, showed me that Christianity was a vibrant, active faith. The emphasis on what the Bible teaches helped me realize that Jesus was more than to be worshipped as the Son of God, but that He also died on the cross to pay the full penalty for my sins, and that He expected from me a life of commitment and service. By the following year, I understood that I needed to publicly indicate my repentance from sin, and trust in Jesus as my personal Saviour and Lord of my life. One 1960 spring night, I joined others at the front of the YFC rally as a public commitment to Christ.
Those of us who came forward that evening were counselled, and given Bible Study material to complete. We were encouraged to meet weekly as a group with Associate Director Ralph Lemke. Ralph was very wise in following me up. He respected my regular attendance in the Anglican Church, and my involvement there as a Sunday School teacher. Ralph knew that as I studied the Scriptures with new born-again eyes I would come to see many things from a different viewpoint. Ralph got me using Our Daily Bread for my Scripture study. In time he had me give a public testimony at a Saturday night rally. I don’t remember what I said, but I know that I ended indicating that I wanted to serve the Lord by quoting Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
In time I became active in an evangelical church, growing spiritually through the Bible teaching, prayer meetings, and College & Career Fellowship. God used the year of Youth for Christ follow-up to lay a good foundation for the Christian service God had planned for my next six decades. This would include 53 years of marriage to my devout wife Elsie; 4 years in Canadian Crusades administration with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 18 years serving the public in banking and municipal finance in British Columbia, and 23 years in denominational administration here in Calgary. Through those decades, I learned much by serving on 4 church boards and the boards of three national Christian charities, and in volunteer office work with 5 charities. Now in our retirement years, our prime physical and spiritual ministry is to our 3 adult children and 9 grandchildren – all living within 30 minutes driving distance from our Calgary home.
I am so grateful that Youth for Christ got me reading my red YFC Bible daily (which I still have), letting the Holy Spirit apply the Scriptures to my life, and listening to our pastor’s sermons for guidance. Thank you, God and YFC.