Dot's Testimony

In 2019 my husband, Roger, and I relocated from Leeds to the Yorkshire Dales to be near family. We had discovered that Alan, one of the university students who had visited our house in the past, was now the pastor of Salem Chapel, Martin Top. Of course, we made the chapel our ‘spiritual’ home and have since become members.

Although I was born in the Midlands, my parents settled for about seven years in Cerne Abbas, a beautiful, old village in Dorset. My Yorkshire-born father was head gardener for Lord and Lady Digby, while my mother did various jobs for them such as being the ‘milk and egg lady’, plus occasional kitchen duties. The best home we lived in was a large three storey Georgian house next to the manor house, which came with the job. However, we were so poor that we could only afford to heat one of the rooms. The Digby’s were related, via their daughter Pamela, to Sir Winston Churchill whose grandson would visit the estate. My dad taught him to drive. Life was very happy and carefree with the freedom of the ‘fifties’ and rural life.

Since being very young, I have believed in God and did read the Bible spasmodically. Although my Welsh mother was brought up in a Christadelphian home, she never embraced that theology. Her father, however, did read the Authorised Version of the Bible to all his children. She loved reading Bible verses all her life until she died at the age of 93. I was encouraged to attend Sunday School both at the parish church and the Congregational chapel. I preferred the latter.

But life changed dramatically when my sister was born with Down’s Syndrome. In those days, parents were encouraged to put them away in institutions and forget about them. But our family thought differently. Despite little help, poverty and distancing of us by others, Barbara became a much-loved and important part of our lives. A few years later after my brother John was born, we moved to Cricket St Thomas, a remote country estate in Somerset. (Later the country house was the manor in the tv series, ‘To the Manor Born.”) It was there that we discovered that John was totally deaf, having Klippel Feil Syndrome.

One day a schoolfriend invited me to a BBQ run by youth groups from various churches. At the end, a missionary to Greenland spoke about Jesus. I loved the whole thing. Two couples befriended me that day, offering me lifts to and from church/chapel services because there were no buses due to my isolated location – but occasionally I had to walk the many miles!  All I wanted was to know more about Jesus. I started to read my Bible regularly, calling out to God in the words of the Psalms. My new friends were telling me about the gospel. But I didn’t understand. I knew they had something that I didn’t have…what was it?

Then, all change again! My parents moved to Teignmouth, Devon so that my brother could attend Exeter School for the Deaf. I really missed my Christian friends in Somerset, but they kept in touch. The growing drug, and ‘swinging sixties’ scene, plus the vibrant seaside social life, was alluring to me and my school friends.

However, in my mid-teens, I was invited to go to London by coach with my former friends to hear the famous American evangelist of that era, Billy Graham. I had never been anywhere that far away! Thousands had gathered in the Earls Court Arena. My seat was at the very top among the pigeons and the preacher looked so minute. That night, for the first time I understood, as Billy preached from the Bible, that I was a sinner; my sins cut me off from knowing and being with God; but Jesus took the punishment for my sins, when He died on the cross, and could redeem and restore me into a right relationship with God. Billy Graham asked everyone to repent of their sins, believe and turn to Christ for salvation, publicly, by going to the front of the stadium where someone would talk and pray with them. I felt that if I died that night and faced God, I would have to hang my head in shame before Him; I felt unworthy as I recognised and acknowledged in my heart and mind who He is, the one true, living, Almighty God and what He had done for me because He loved me.  Although I wanted to, I didn’t go forward because no one near me went! But the next night at chapel I prayed with my youth leader asking the risen, living Christ to forgive me and become my Lord and Saviour.

I knew that God had heard that prayer for He calls us to come to Him. Immediately, I had peace and assurance in my heart that I was in a right relationship with Him; not because I deserved it or earned it but because of the great exchange, my sins for His righteousness. From then on, I had a desire to love and serve my Saviour in whichever way He would lead me. I discovered a church where the Bible was loved, taught and where I began to learn more about growing as a follower of Christ.

That was well over fifty years ago. My dear, patient, loving Saviour has walked with me all these years through many rough times, including cancer and another health issue. Daily He reveals more and more of Himself to me through His word, showing me that the best is yet to come; to be with Him forever. 

I became a nurse, married a Yorkshire evangelist in Leeds, have four children and ten grandchildren. My parents and sister have passed away. After being a carer for them and Roger’s parents for many years, the Lord graciously led me to many writing opportunities, including several books (available online at My brother John, who trusted the Lord as His Saviour aged six, now lives near us and attends Martin Top. God has led several people to our chapel since who can do BSL (British Sign Language for the deaf).

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

 And lean not on your own understanding;

 In all your ways acknowledge Him,

 And He will direct your paths.’  Proverbs 3:5,6

Dot Carswell