William Raws’ Story

(William Raws was Cherri’s great grandfather)

I was born of good Christian parents. Father made considerable money in Australia where I was born, and my early recollections are of a comfortable, happy home in the country. Later we moved to one of the cities in the North of England. I became a Sunday school teacher, librarian of the school and a member of the church – but was not truly born again.

I spent five years in a Manchester warehouse and studied nights at the Royal Institution of Arts, and subsequently with one of the best portrait painters in that part of the country. At the age of twenty-one I married. Up to that time I did not know the taste of liquor. Unfortunately my wife did, although a woman of splendid qualities in other respects; and this proved to be the rock upon which we made shipwreck of our lives. We owned considerable property, had money in the bank, a well-furnished home, etc., when I first gave way to the curse of strong drink. Oh the misery, the heartaches, the wretched experiences and the ruin of the next ten years! I shudder when I think of it even now…[1]

The truth that hurts and the Truth that Heals…

We lost some money through a bank failure and then went into business. This we neglected for drink and failed. We mortgaged property, spent the money, sold that property, spend that money, mortgaged other property with the same results – until every house we owned (fourteen in all had gone. I was almost always under the influence of drink.

At times I would work a little but for several years did absolutely nothing but drink. For months at a time we would never miss a morning but the servant would bring the silver waiter to the bedroom door, and on it would be the milk and Jamaica rum, coffee, and the brandy decanter. Imagine how a day started in such a fashion would end. One night, coming in from the club, the nurse and my wife were about to take our little three-year-old sick child to bed. I said: “Here, let me take her. Papa will take his darling to bed tonight,” and taking her and the pillow in my arms, I retraced my unsteady steps to the hall, and when about half-way up the stairs I fell full length upon my dying child. A few days later I stood at her graveside, still under the influence of liquor, and saw the beautiful white ermine, silver-mounted casket lowered into the grave.

Some might say, “That man was a brute. He had no affection.” But, my friend, I want to say that I loved my child with all the strength of my heart. The demon of drink was in possession of me…[2]

Time would fail to tell of the black past. There is no poetry in a drunkard’s life; scheming and planning, broken promises, debts, rum, bankruptcy, a broken home, visits to the pawn shops to raise money, two thirds of which went to the rum seller, and one-third for food and family. At last I was induced by my relatives to leave England and come to America thinking that perhaps a complete change of surroundings would enable me to stop drinking.

I was drunk on the Thursday night when I promised. I sailed on the Saturday following. Oh the misery of the farewell to wife and children, to mother, father and other relatives! Any Hell? Ask the drunkard. He can tell you. For two years after my arrival here I lived an up and down life, oftener down than up.

Then news came of mother’s death and later of my wife’s. I was brokenhearted but knew not where to find rest or comfort until one day, fairly dying from the effects of rum, unable even to keep hot rum brandy on my stomach, I staggered penniless to my room and fell against an old armchair. (I still use it on our platform.) Although under the influence of drink, a poor dying drunkard, a swearing, lustful, sinful man, I cried unto God.

He heard my cry and saved me. Jesus Christ “was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” For days and nights thereafter I could neither eat nor sleep. I was on the verge of delirium tremens. I had had them before. But peace came at last and victory through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

That was twenty-one years ago and, praise God, I can now look back and say that during all that time He has kept me, and tonight I can honestly declare that I have no more desire to drink, or for tobacco, or to swear or gamble than when a little child I knelt at mother’s knee. To Him and Him only do I give the glory! He has been my Shepherd and has guided and kept me and supplied my every need. Today I can sing,

“I love Him, I love Him, because He first loved me,
And purchased my salvation on Calvary’s tree.”

I know from experience that His promises are sure, and He will supply our every need for spirit, soul and body.

About two years before I was redeemed, a cousin of mine in Germantown, PA told us at breakfast that she had dreamed of my being in the pulpit of St. Stephen’s M.E. Church preaching, and it was so ridiculous to our minds that we all laughed at it. I was living such a sinful life at the time that shortly afterward my uncle had to turn me out of the house.

But praise be to God, I have appeared since, not only in that church, but in almost every church in Germantown to tell the story of God’s power to save and keep saved. My children were brought over to me. I married my present wife, and after spending some time at my profession God filled me with the Holy Spirit and called us into mission work in which He has wonderfully blessed us.

He gave us the saloon in which I used to drink and carouse so much for a mission hall, and it is now widely known as “The Whosoever Gospel Mission and Rescue Home.”

The Beginning of a Legacy of Faith…

But the crowning effort of our lives was the purchase of 880 acres of land in the Pines near Whiting, NJ, and the founding of Keswick Colony of Mercy. Here, amid healthful and beautiful surroundings, many a drunkard has found Christ and redemption and is now a happy Christian. Praise God for His mercy and love and His power to redeem from all the power of sin.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).

The reality of this verse is demonstrated in the lives of so many who have come to the Colony of Mercy. And it can be the reality of your life too.

• Are you in Christ?
• Do you know Him as personal Lord and Saviour?
• Do you know, without a shred of doubt, that you will one day be in Heaven with Him?

God’s Word tells us

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God … Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 3:16-18;5:24)


William Raws 1857-1910

[1] I would not, even if I had the space, tell all of the dreadful life of sin I lived, only just enough to show some other poor erring brothers or sisters that they may take heart and, trusting solely in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, be saved.

[2] I had as much affection for my dead darling [child] as I did only a few weeks ago when I stood sober, in full possession of all my faculties, at the graveside of our dear little eleven-year old girl, Dottie, as we laid her to rest under the pines at Keswick Colony.

This testimony in a PDF brochure is here. Learn more about the ministry of America’s Keswick, The Colony of Mercy (men’s program) and Barbara’s Place (women’s program) here: americaskeswick.org/addiction-recovery