My name is Charles Collins and I have been the Minister at Connsbrook since August 2008. Here is a brief biographical sketch.
I originate from a small village near Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, England. I am the youngest of three brothers. I attended the village school before attending Ashton Middle School and Manshead Upper School in Dunstable, the nearest town to where I lived.
I have many fond memories of growing up in the village, playing all sorts of games with my friends on a bit of wasteland just across the road from where we lived. I’m not sure how many cars were hit by a football or cricket ball as folk made their way up to the Zoo!!!
Bedfordshire is home to the greatest football team on earth and therefore it is no surprise that I came to be a supporter of Luton Town Football Club. Many an enjoyable and sometimes painful Saturday afternoon was spent watching the Hatters with my dad, brothers and friends.
As a child, I grew up attending Sunday School and Bible Class in the local church. I would always have said that I believed in God, but in reality, God didn’t have a big part in my life at that time.
All that was to change when I was 17yrs old. Two friends I use to attend church with moved away from the village and I was left alone to listen to the sermon on the back row of the church. Over a period of about six months, I began to listen more intently to the messages about Jesus coming into this world to save sinners from the punishment their sins deserved. Through the preaching, it seemed that God was saying to me that Jesus died for me and I needed to turn away from my sin and trust Jesus. This went on for some time until I felt there was nothing else I could do but trust Jesus, which I duly did. I knew I wasn’t perfect. I knew I had done things wrong. But God is willing to forgive anyone, everything if they trust in Jesus. What a joy it is to know I have been forgiven and have been reconciled to God.
At the time of my conversion, I was training to be an electrician. Once I had finished my training I embarked on a course of studies at Lebanon Missionary Bible College in Berwick upon Tweed, the most northerly town in England. I began my studies there in September 1984. I loved living up in Berwick upon tweed and made many good friends whilst at the college. One of my fellow students would become my wife by the time I left college. Lydia is from Belfast and we were married at the end of our second year. During my third and final year in college, I was asked to be the student assistant to the Minister of Eyemouth Free Baptist Church, just across the border in Scotland.
Eyemouth is a small fishing village in Berwickshire. After leaving college, Lydia and I moved to a village called Reston where we rented a bungalow on a local farm. This would be our home for the next three enjoyable years. The folk in the church were great to get to know and work alongside. We enjoyed living in the country getting to know folk in the village and wider community. We had a beautiful view from our front window. We could see the sea as well as the English hills. I always joked with Lydia that if any kids came along they could be born in England, but unfortunately when the time came, our first child Emily, was born in Edinburgh and our second child, Ben, was born in Melrose.
Our time in the Scottish Borders came to an end when we moved to Belfast in order for me to study at the Irish Baptist College, which was then on the Sandown Road in Belfast. I was there for two years and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Like at the other college I found the course of study helpful and I am still in contact with friends that were made there. It was good to get around Northern Ireland preaching in various Baptist churches. During my time there our third child, Tom, was born. On leaving the college I was unemployed for a year before getting a job as a Care Assistant at the Belmont Clinic.
Back to England
I received an invitation to become the Minister of Pollard Evangelical Church, Kettering, so after a year at the Belmont Clinic I was on the move again. It was hard leaving Belfast, but Lydia and I believed this was the Lord’s will for us. I had sensed God calling me into the Ministry, but no doors had opened for me in Northern Ireland and then out of the blue the church in Kettering got in contact. Overall, we were in Kettering 14yrs. It was the longest we had stayed in one place as a family. I was the Minister for 9yrs and then I drove busses for Stagecoach for 5yrs. When I first started ‘on the buses’ [lol] Stagecoach had a contract with Weetabix to take their workers into work and home again.
Back to Belfast
Once I had left Belfast to go to Kettering I didn’t think I would be back, except for family holidays. But God’s plans were different for me. Again, out of the blue, Connsbrook got in contact with me and eventually asked if I would consider being their Minister. And here we are now, over 12yrs later.