My Friend Richard

by Ralph Tippin

Ralph Shares Some of His Friend, Richard Hawkshaw’s Testimony – (Part 1 of 3)

One of the most emotional times in my life came when I had to prepare a eulogy for Richard Hawkshaw. He had graced our Bible Study for several years along with his wife Darrell. There was about him the sweet fragrance that Paul talked about in 2 Corinthians 2:14-15…

“But thanks be to God who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests (makes evident, spreads) through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

Summing up in a few pages who Richard was and what he meant to me and those who knew him proved to be easy; reading it out loud did not, as I’ll tell you later.

It hadn’t always been easy for Richard.

In an autobiography he wrote to read at church, he said in his own selfless way, “I have had an urging in my heart the last 18 months to write my testimony. My biggest problem was all I wanted to talk about ‘I, I, I, and me, me, me’ and have a real pity party. I wanted to be something I’m not. I wanted to sound like a preacher or a teacher but no, I want to be Richard with no masks on. I can praise and thank God for all His many blessings and the way He has loved me even before I knew Him.”

In the previous paragraph, he had written this poignant beginning, “In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul says, ‘in weakness we are strong through Jesus Christ.’ My Richard paraphrase is, ‘in my shyness I am bold through Jesus Christ.’ As you know I would rather be in my corner listening and being quiet. When we got the first dreaded news that I had lung cancer and that it was also in the nerves of my vocal chords, making it inoperable, and my days were numbered, I was asked how I was taking the news? My answer was, ‘I have God’s grace and I believe He still has some work for me to do before I go Home.’ Anyway, which of us knows how many days they have left?”

As Richard continued, his voice a hoarse whisper because of the illness, he outlined some of his rough lifestyle – beginning smoking at 14, drinking at 16, leaving school in grade nine, and working in a shoe factory from the time he quit school. Then he met Darrell when he was 21. Shortly thereafter, they married and started a family – a large one.

“When we had our first baby,” Richard said, “you can guess what my wife called him. That’s right, Richard John the Second. He was one of those night babies, stayed up late and got up early. He was so busy keeping us up that we got him a baby sister – Laurie Ann. In 1960, we didn’t have any babies so I joined the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade.”

As you can see, he was not short on humour. Eventually, they had seven children, all the while struggling to earn a living, manage a home, and remain healthy. Physically, Richard suffered many setbacks – hepatitis, veins in his legs which had to be stripped more than once, pneumonia, a bad back, various broken bones, arthritis – for many years he was in constant pain. Things just had to get better.

Then came the transformation!

Reluctantly, after much cajoling, Richard went to church with his family. Although he was not convinced he needed “religion,” he went – mostly to avoid the nagging. When a special speaker came not long after that, his heart softened and that was when he accepted the Lord. A few weeks later a visiting evangelist, whose ministry was attested by healing, came to their church. Benny Hinn was his name. Richard decided to go, just to see for himself, doubting that this was “for real.”

During the service, Benny called those with bad backs to come forward. Richard took the bait, went forward, and the evangelist laid hands on him. “Praise God! … I was healed in my back and legs and was pain free for the first time in years. When we went home … I ran up and down the bedroom stairs twice – the same stairs I used to crawl up to go to bed.”

Following his conversion, Richard became very open about his faith in Christ. His first attempt at witnessing was very disappointing; he was too bold and turned the other person off. “I had no answer for this man. I knew Jesus. I knew God’s love and healing power. But, I didn’t know God’s Word. and Iearned a valuable lesson that day. When Jesus said, ‘Follow me,’ you don’t go first.”

When visiting a friend with whom he used to drink, Richard told him about his new-found faith. The fellow replied, “It’s all in your head.” Richard’s answer was, “Thank God for a good head!” However, the same man took Richard to where a Bible study was going on. He introduced him to Jackie Green (now Jackie Wellsman) and he was on his way to learning God’s Word.

“We met many new beautiful friends from 1977 on (and we’re meeting more all the time). They took us to Bible studies, took us home for supper, and to seminars as far away as Niagara Falls, Detroit, Toronto, and elsewhere.” He also learned about the Holy Spirit and the power of God that comes through Him.

“One day while out trucking, I was praising and worshiping God and ran out of words. I just started singing in a different language. I don’t think me or the truck touched the ground all the way to Thorold.”

In the months and years ahead, Richard would desperately need the presence of the Holy Spirit – tragic and trying times were about to fall on him and his family. I will continue the story next time. Stay tuned!

“And do not get drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” (Ephesians 5:18-19)

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