Continuing our series where we meet our new Deacons, this week we talk to Ray Whitby - Curate at Gateway, Wigan
I attended St John’s Church Widnes from about four or five years old until about 15yrs of age when I drifted away only returning to marry Sue there when I was 27yrs old. I really came to faith after visiting a free church in Wrexham when I was 33yrs old; Sue and I were living in Runcorn at the time. We returned to Widnes in 1993 as Natalie our daughter came of school age and our association with St John’s resumed.
I served an apprenticeship as a maintenance fitter at what was then ICI and have been employed there ever since, although it’s no longer ICI. I’m employed these days as a maintenance planner/co-ordinator.
My great interests especially through my twenties and thirties were bird watching, mountain walking/scrambling and travel, (during the late eighties and early nineties I travelled in China and the Philippines, and visited a lot of South American countries).
God called me to this ministry whilst Sue and I were on holiday in Fuerteventura, the challenge that came with that call is to retire there and plant a church. My time at St John’s Widnes has been great preparation where I’ve had the privilege of leading mission teams to various projects in Argentina and helped to start a charity to fund various projects. Those projects have included the provision of wells supplying water to the indigenous Wichi people in the far north of Argentina and various building projects including school buildings and a radio station. We have also visited and provided practical and financial support to an orphanage in Buenos Aires, Hogar El Alba, and recently had a visit from the family who run the orphanage. My great passion is evangelism and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to lead and teach the evangelism programme at St John’s, I’m currently a board member (although not active for the last 3 yrs.) of Evangelism Explosion GB Ltd.
My home church is now Gateway in Wigan and for the duration of my curacy I will be serving a number of churches in Wigan where I will experience a variety of ways of ‘doing church’ and I hope to be able to promote and encourage greater connection and relationship with the local communities.
My hopes for the future are to continue to respond to God’s call and allow Him to lead Sue and myself in serving the people in Fuerteventura by overseeing a church that will introduce people into a relationship with God and to all the possibilities that that relationship can bring.