Love for promotion set me back, admits
former British Sergeant Paul Cowley
For years Paul Cowley admits he undervalued a strong marriage and closeness
with his children, as he thought promotion and higher pay in the British Army
was the recipe for success.
“As an instructor in mountain climbing, skiing, canoeing and white water
rafting,” Paul begins, “my career ultimately took me all over the
place — Canada, Germany, Gibraltar — adventures abounded.
“However, I threw myself into my work, ruthlessly pursued promotions and
allowed important relationships to deteriorate.”
Marrying his girlfriend so they could live in couple’s quarters at his
first posting in Germany, Paul became a Sergeant within five years, half the
usual time in the British Artillery. However, after he and his wife returned
to England for another promotion, they divorced, and their three-year-old son
Clinton stayed with his mother.
Over the next several years, during which he had another short marriage, Paul
saw his son Clinton only a few days per year.
“It was great every time I saw Clinton, but when I left, he would break
down and cry,” Paul recalls. “He wanted to be with me, but I
couldn’t cope with that.”
After moving to a new posting in Cyprus, Paul met an English art student named
Amanda and they soon returned to England together.
The next big change came when his mother discovered she had cancer and then
lived with Paul and Amanda for a few months before she died.
Feeling very upset about the short time he had with his mother, Paul found a
Bible among her possessions and decided to call a telephone number written
inside. Meeting with an old Christian lady, he was shocked to hear that his
mother had become a Christian two years before her death.
“That blew my socks off,” Paul recalls. “I had known mum as
a hard woman and quite volatile.”
After his mother’s funeral, Paul didn’t see his father again for
six years because of an inheritance disagreement, and his son later stopped
visiting or keeping in touch.
Then one day an old Sergeant Major friend sent Paul a postcard, which simply
said: “Hi, this is Eric, I have become a Christian and I’m praying
Thinking this was surely a joke, Paul went to visit Eric and they talked for
three days about his new life and faith.
Seeing the dramatic change in his formerly unkind friend, Paul says he felt
compelled to find a church that would help him to have a true relationship
After eight months of searching, Paul and Amanda found a church where the
preacher simply prayed for them that God would plant them in a church that
would develop their relationship with Him.
Impressed by the simplicity of this prayer, they began attending an
introductory course on Christianity called Alpha at this church.
As they did another course, Paul remembers that he wanted to put what he was
learning into his heart.
“I read that Jesus said, ‘You have to come to me as a child’
(Matthew chapter 18) and I knew how Clinton had always trusted me. So I
decided to come to the Lord Jesus Christ like that, giving Him my heart and
committing myself to Him. A little later Amanda made the same
“As soon as I allowed God to ‘get me’, my whole concept of
life was completely changed and I wanted to follow God’s
The first new desire was to marry Amanda, but there were many prayers and
conversations before she overcame her “marriage-phobia” from her
The next challenge for Paul was reconciling with his father and son, so he and
Amanda, along with other friends at his church, began to pray. For years, he
had sent them letters, but had never received a response.
About this time, Clinton was privately in great turmoil. Involved in the rave
scene, he used drugs heavily, and was often away from home for days. As a last
resort, his mother kicked him out of the house, so he immediately went to a
party. After taking a heavy dose of drugs, he became filled with thoughts of
Afraid of death, Clinton cried out to God: “If there is anybody out
there, then you had better come and help me.”
The next morning he went home to his mother, who told him, “You need to
speak to your father, because you are just like he was.”
Clinton began living with his dad again, attended church, and then went along
to the Alpha course. Eventually, he humbly committed his life to Jesus Christ
“His life started to change,” Paul says. “He started to pray
for things, and stopped smoking and using drugs.”
A little later, Paul’s father visited and had a tearful reunion with his
grandson he had not seen for ten years.
“It is amazing to see how God has reunited me with my son and my
dad,” Paul concludes. “Only the power of Jesus could do such a
Paul is now a full-time church worker and staff worker for Alpha
International, and director of The William Wilberforce trust, based in
England, which provides practical support for those in vulnerable