Occasionally in life we are blessed with people who play a significant part in making us the people we are. Alun Davies was one such person for me. Without him, I doubt I would be who I am or do what I do today. Alun lived life to the very maximum and died shortly after Christmas. There is so much that could be said about this amazing man.
But here I want to focus on how Alun, supported by his dear late wife Rose , practised the holy habit of making more disciples. Alun was a natural evangelist. He never did a course on evangelism or read a book on the subject. He was certainly no academic and used to say that the only qualification he had when he left school was his cycling proficiency certificate, and he’d had to take that twice.
This didn’t stop him from becoming a highly successful entrepreneur, however. There was a bit of the Del Boy about him – although unlike the pride of Peckham he was scrupulous in paying his income tax and VAT. Like most self-made successes he had several failures en route. The chip vending machine was not his brightest idea and nor was running a hairdressing salon when you didn’t know one hairstyle from another. His big break came unexpectedly one evening when someone called at the door and asked if he exported furniture to New Zealand. Quick as a flash he recognised a commercial opportunity, said ‘Yes!’ and worked out how to do it before the enquirer returned. The export company he set up proved to be very successful.
But back to the business of making more disciples. There are many, many people who would say that they are a follower of Jesus today because of Alun. So how did he do it? To use two words he would never have used, what was his evangelistic methodology? It centred on three things: hospitality, generosity and encouragement. Way before missiologists (another word he would never have used) started talking of the process of bless, belong, behave, believe, Alun and Rose intuitively practised this.
They were extraordinarily hospitable and generous in sharing their lives and their home. If anyone new appeared at church you could be sure that within two weeks at most, they would have invited them around for a meal and made them feel so very welcome. It did help that Rose was the most wonderful cook and baker. As Alpha and Messy Church were later to prove, the holy habit of eating together is incredibly effective both in forming personal friendships and in making the person of Jesus known.
Alun and Rose’s biggest legacy was the number of young people, myself included, that they encouraged to follow Jesus. They welcomed us to their home every Sunday evening. They fed us. When more of us turned up than would fit in they extended their home. They made us laugh, they inspired our faith and when our hearts got broken by the angst of teenage love, they patched us up again. Their hospitality, love and generosity knew no bounds. After chasing us all out of the home at 10.00 pm, Alun would often pack a flask and a sleeping bag and go and do the night shift with the Samaritans. When I was accredited as a Methodist local preacher back in the 1980s, Alun and Rose drove all the way from Stafford to Basildon and back in an evening to support me. I had no idea they were coming. Well into his 70s Alun was still sharing his life and his faith, serving as the oldest street pastor in Stafford, out on the streets long after most of us would be snuggled under our duvets.
Bless, belong, behave, believe. As these brief memories show, the blessings that Alun and Rose offered made belonging very easy. Their generosity and integrity encouraged and inspired the same behaviour in us. Then at the appropriate time, and again with their active encouragement, there would be the challenge to believe – to say ‘Yes’ to Jesus for ourselves. Once a month Alun would take us to meetings in Stafford at which young people from different churches around the town would gather. There, many of the leading evangelists of the day would share a simple and clear gospel message, culminating in an invitation to commit our lives to Christ. It was at one of those meetings, having listened to a lawyer by the name of Val Grieve speak about the invitation of Jesus in Revelation 3:20, that I committed my life to Christ.
Alun and Rose were truly extraordinary, wonderful people for whom many others, myself included, will always be grateful. I thank God for them and pray the Lord’s blessing upon them, their daughters Deb and Kirstin and all those other family members and friends who will miss them very much.
For those of us who get a bit anxious about the call to make more disciples perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much, but learn from those who through their hospitality, generosity and encouragement blessed others so richly and helped them on the pathway to believing.
 If the names Alun and Rose sound familiar, it might be from a little of their story I told in Holy Habits (Malcolm Down Publishing, 2016), p. 136. And incidentally, Malcolm was also part of the youth fellowship group that met at Alun and Rose’s home.