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Peter's Story
(in the life of Peter Gutteridge of the UK, France, and Cape Town)
father was a British ship's captain and the boy grew up rough and messing around with boats. Tough and big for his age, he enlisted when World War 2 broke out and was trained to work with the French Resistance in German occupied France. That was where his life suffered damage that would affect the rest of his life –
he fell in love.
She was a French Resistance unit's radio operator, and lovely. Her long dark hair entangled his thoughts. He was in love.
It happened
beyond their village at the edge of the wood. She had waited for him and . . .he was late.
She waited loyally and was noticed. When he arrived she was dying.
They had tortured her young body into a sea of pain and she died as he held her.
anger had no edge. It was endless. . .  When his tears eventually dried, his fury had focus.
Very carefully, he broke into a German artillery ammunition dump and moved enough explosives into the sewer under the Nazi SS hostel to take it into oblivion. He waited until a Saturday night when he knew they would be partying with the local girls.
But itís destruction did not ease his pain.
The rage inside him could not be quieted. It was a German patrol that had noticed her waiting for him and
it was a patrol that he needed to destroy.
lay deep in the hedge along the lane as he heard them coming. As they came in sight, every bullet he fired was a strike for her, for her loving face disfigured by their cruelty. He did not feel their returning fire as it cut his body. Nothing mattered Öbut ending the agony.
Down the road another ambush heard the gun fight and came running, weaving through the trees.
French Resistance unit, from which he had broken in his distress, came running. They had been waiting down the road with an ambush of their own. But Peter's break with their command structure left him oblivious of their strategy.
He lost consciousness, unaware of their rescue. Evacuating him quickly they tended to his worst wounds, stemming the bleeding, and took him into hiding.
smuggled him across the Spanish border and got him back to Britain where he lay three months in hospital. On release, he was examined and declared emotionally unfit for military service.
His fighting days had ended, but his pain went on. . . and on . . .
He took passage to South Africa, to Cape Town, to find a new life. And he tried. . .
He married and raised children, but his hurt had become hardness and his marriage did not last.
I heard
of him from his ex-wife who had begun attending the church where I preached.
She knew only his hardness and none of the above.
It was at a garden wedding-reception that she called to me to come and meet him.
We chatted and he informed me that he had no time for religion. It had not helped him.
dared him to come and see what the church services were like, but he said nothing.
When he came, I was not there. It was a Sunday evening and one of the Deacons (Hamp-Adams) was preaching
and I heard later that he had come forward for prayer in response to the invitation to surrender to God.
From then on Peter never missed a church service, until his hurt resurfaced.
came to see me at my home to tell me that he would not be attending any church services in future. I asked why and he refused to explain. I insisted on knowing and he said it was a girl in the church who reminded him of someone and caused him a problem which he could not handle so it was best that he stay away from the church.
I took him into my study and insisted on knowing why, and the story recounted above slowly emerged.
He made it clear that he could not deal with it and had no choice but to withdraw.
After persistent prompting he eventually agreed to bring it to God in prayer and we knelt down together.
don't remember any words prayed. I only remember the pain in the crying howl that broke out of him.
He clung to the chair shaking and crying as the waves of his pain were poured into God's hands in his surrender to Him.
I next saw Peter he was different. The hard man was gone. He became the most warm, caring, and helpful person I could have imagined. If he heard of anyone in the congregation with a problem or difficulty –
he was there without invitation to do something about it. His friendliness was almost contagious.
later, I sat with the funeral undertaker in the cortège of cars behind Peter's hearse. His coffin was flower-covered, but more significantly, there were so many cars of people following his coffin to the cemetery that several traffic police officers were needed to stop crossing traffic and allow the cortège to reach it destination.
I wished Peter could have sat up in his coffin at that moment and seen the crowd of appreciating supporters in his cortège
for the good and encouragement which he had come to represent in so many lives.
The man who had seemed so hard and had been known in his family as unfeeling, with years of unexplained bitterness,
had climaxed his life with kindness and the joy of loving relationships, fulfilled –
as God has for all who come to Him with their whole heart.