GANDER, NL – A life of drugs, alcohol, near-death experiences and recklessness is all in the past for Ralph Benson, now pastor of Evangel Church in Gander.
Growing up, he enjoyed the Christmas celebrations that took place in the house.
“It was a big event,” he said. “We would always have crowds in the house, and celebrations and sing-alongs and lots of drinking and parties.
“I would be in the midst of those parties during Christmas and I just loved the crowds being in, and of course, when everybody was getting drunk, there were lots of laughter and carrying on.”
When Benson grew older, he started to take part in the drinking parties, believing that was what Christmas was about.
“I did not have any real understanding of what it was all about,” he said. “Church was not part of it. We did not have (a church) in our community in Come By Chance when we were growing up.”
Benson’s life turned around on a trip to Clarenville to re-stock liquor.
The Christmas carol “O Come Let Us Adore Him” was playing on the radio.
“I began to cry when I listened to the Christmas carol, and it was an experience for me where I felt that this song was speaking right to my heart, of adoring Christ.
“It was only days after that experience that I found myself going to church for the very first time during Christmas and it was that very night that I accepted Christ as my saviour.”
When Benson looks at Christmas ornaments he has received from his children and grandchildren, he reflects on how his life could have been so different.
“I was in a reckless situation when it came to drugs and alcohol, and accidents and near-death experiences.”
“A lot of people die young, and it is very sad. It could’ve been my story. So, when I look at Christmas and see my family and these kinds of ornaments on the tree, it means everything to me.”