I’ve heard it said that there are no such things as coincidences, but there are God-incidences. Connections where the lives God uses and changes connect in amazing ways.

This week, in the Salvationist magazine is mum’s tribute.

It’s a very fitting tribute to a woman who gave her live for others. It was my sister-in-law who noticed the next tribute though, Raymond Fensom, and reminded me of a connection between out families, without which, I wouldn’t be here.

Raymond’s father, Alge Fensom, was a name I was raised to be thankful for. When dad was unwell last December he told me how he wanted to talk to Raymond and let him know what his father had done for him. Well, I tracked Raymond down, actually it was his corps officer who connected me to Raymond’s daughter and I managed to thank Ray and his family for our family. I also heard more of the story of how my dad became a Christian.

For those who don’t know the story and for those who don’t know this part of the story here it is.

My dad was in prison (Wakefield I believe), in solitary confinement after punching a prison guard.

Dad says that the cell door opened and in walked a Salvation Army officer, Alge Fensom. Alge was expecting to see the previous cell occupant, but found dad instead. Dad, not too pleased with his visitor told him to go away (but not as politely).

Alge wasn’t fazed and spoke to dad, then asked if he could visit him again, and he did.

I’d always understood that dad became a Christian after prison, but when I connected with Alge’s grandaughter earlier this year her dad (Raymond) passed on Alge’s side of the story.

My dad became a Christian whilst in prison, and eventually became a soldier of the Salvation Army in prison, Alge managed to get a flag into the prison and dad was made a soldier from his cell.

Dad said when he left prison, he had nowhere to go, his family had disowned him. But Alge was there at the prison gate.

Raymond told me that his father had brought a coat for dad to wear and had put money in one of the pockets. When dad put the coat on he found the money and tried to give it to Alge, but he denied any knowledge of it.

Alge took dad to the local Salvation Army hostel, and well, he went to the training college, met mum and they spent their lives looking after homeless people.

It’s interesting (to me anyway) that one of the one things dad always wanted to do was to go back into the prisons to talk to men about his life, but because of his criminal record he wasn’t able to. However, my brother is now a prison chaplain and perhaps continuing the legacy of the Fensoms and my dad.

I doubt, when Alge walked into that prison cell all those years ago he thought about the lives that would be changed by this one encounter, or that through the prisoner he was looking at, his work of being a prison chaplain would continue. It just goes to show how small our idea of the world is, how God’s plans are so wonderfully woven throughout time.

Published by bettyvirago

Betty Virago is an award winning textile designer. Based in Yorkshire, England, and known for her Northern Folk dolls and the Quilts of Hope project.

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