Interview by Ian Sleeper
Josh Rowles greets me at the Curious Brewery in Ashford with a warm smile and equally warm hug.
We rush up the stairs eager to sample Ashford’s latest addition, a pub inside a brewery, Great!
Josh came to Christianity relatively late having been brought up by non-believing parents. Even though his mother’s parents were Christian, his grandfather, a respected member of an Anglican church, didn’t give Josh’s Mum a good impression of Christianity and they are now reluctant to talk about religion at all.
Despite this, Josh often felt God was “on his case” in the background, and when he was dropped off at Canterbury University to start his degree in Physics, his Dad suggested they went for a goodbye meal nearby. Little did he know that the student at the next table happened to be taking the same course and not only was to be his lab partner over the next three years of lectures but also be the one to introduce him to God.
As their friendship developed his new friend Andrew Reader, noticing Josh was feeling low, simply told him that he needed Jesus!
This took him aback and as the academic year progressed, they continued to work together. Josh realised that this new friend of his was rather clever, and hoped somehow that some of this cleverness would rub off on him to get him good grades!
Even though Josh had an ulterior motive for bonding with his new pal, they went to Christian Union meetings together. He began to realise that his new mate was somebody he could trust and that there was something different about him.
Over time, as conversations about Christ continued with Andrew, Josh was adamant that he wanted to do his own research. He needed to prove whether God existed and whether Christianity was for real. For him there wasn’t enough scientific evidence, but it dawned on him that a person must simply take a step of faith.
At one Christian meeting, he was burning up inside and went to the front for prayer even though he fought the feeling. He was wary, but knew that something supernatural was going on inside and when another man offered to pray for him a week later, the same feeling came over him. He felt that he needed to decide and could not keep sitting on the fence any longer and so on 9th May 1995, Josh said the words, ‘Jesus I want to follow you’ and became a Christian.
Becoming a Christian must have been quite strange for you because of your anti-religious upbringing. How did you explain everything to your parents?
‘I remember telling my Mum that I had become a Christian and her reaction was “Oh no!” but it was such a wonderful thing that had happened to me, I just wanted to be open about it and didn’t care about the consequences.’
Josh’s parents have watched how he and Michelle are raising their children and this has made a positive impression on them.
Do you feel you have a role in influencing your family?
‘I think so. As a Christian, I find myself in position where I can talk to various groups of the family.’
One such opportunity came when Josh developed cancer of the tongue (which was a particular sore point with his mum whose own mother died from cancer in the same place).
Josh is in no doubt that receiving prayer has helped him beat the cancer. “I had that kind of focus and discipline. My target was to get through it without stopping work. Then when I had only two weeks left of treatment, and was still ok, I wanted to get to the end”.
One of the most challenging times was when Henry was born. The hospital warned him that he would not be able to cope with a new baby, would have to stop working, and would only be able to take liquid protein drinks.
Josh, however, saw this as a challenge of getting through the treatment, with people praying for his recovery.
‘Every day after work I would walk over to the hospital for 33 sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy once a week, then catch a train home and that was hard, but I know God was with me.’
This gave him a positive attitude of almost having an adventure. ‘It is a really strange scenario, that now living normally again and without the drama of the treatment, is almost like an anti-climax. Life feels a bit boring now! The hardest thing to cope with is the emotional stuff and being confronted at one point with the possibility of dying’.
There was a moment earlier this year when he thought the cancer had been rediscovered after a trip to the dentist but following prayer from his community group, the biopsy results turned out to not be anything to worry about.
After 24 years as a Christian, Josh feels his spiritual development is slow but sure, and that he has formed a network of people he can witness to.
He used to pray for opportunities to share his faith with his parents and after experiencing healing prayer for his mouth, there is no longer any excuse to be tongue tied!