A church pastor - who spent some of his happiest days in Hartlepool - has told how he cheated death in a series of health battles.
Rev Charlie McKenzie worked as a young clergyman in town in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But since leaving the North East, he’s overcome bowel cancer, five bouts of malaria, and been attacked by witch doctors.
I have faced death more than once and by the grace of God alone, survived. Often it has been three steps forward and one back… but again, by God’s grace I am here.Charles McKenzie
Despite all the drama in later life, Hartlepool forms two chapters of a book about to be published.
He said: “I loved Hartlepool, I loved its charm, it’s history and the frankness, kindness and sincerity of the people.”
Rev McKenzie, now a pastor in Vietnam, added: “Thank you Hartlepool for being part of this amazingly colourful journey. You are known in South East Asia because I often talk of you with fondness.”
He arrived in Hartlepool in 1989 as “a young pastor full of ideas and enthusiasm and fresh from serving as a City Missionary in Edinburgh. The old Weslyan church in Lowthian Road had a faithful gathering of some amazing people.”
Soon after, his congregation grew and his youth work “began to see fruit” but his relentless efforts took their toll and he moved on “after an immensely rewarding and mostly happy ministry in Hartlepool.”
Eventually, he headed overseas, to places including Tanzania where he suffered five bouts of malaria and said; “I was also attacked by witchdoctors.”
He was in Shanghai in China, when a diagnosis of bowel cancer meant he had to have 90% of his infected colon removed.
He is now the principal of a Vietnamese bilingual school and said: “I have faced death more than once and by the grace of God alone, survived, often it has been three steps forward and one back… but again, by God’s grace I am here.”
Despite some health issues. he was pronounced last October as officially cancer free.
He said: “I am convinced that the best….is indeed yet to come.”
Watch out for more on Rev McKenzie’s story in his book which is expected to be published soon.