About Our Boy

November 2007

This is the text of the sheet handed out at Jim's funeral service in St Mary Magdalene, Ashton on Mersey, Sale, Cheshire on 26th November 2007, almost three weeks after he died. You can tell how proud we were of Jim, and though it seemed likely he had died from a heroin overdose, we wanted everyone to know we were still proud of him. We still are!

About our Boy

Jim Skinner, 7th January 1986 - 7th November 2007

Before Jim was born his survival was precarious. These were difficult weeks, and at that time a friend came to pray for us and the unborn baby. She gave these words of encouragement; the baby 'will be a soldier and a servant of the Lord and the joy of the Lord will be his strength and song'. We have always prayed over Jim with those words ever since. Jim was always very special; loving, affectionate, mischievous, clever - he loved to make us laugh any way he could with dancing, jigging and silly songs.

In his teenage years Jim found things harder; he had private struggles which were hard for us and those around him to understand. When he was 14 we took him to the Christian youth camp, Soul Survivor, and there for the first time he met Jackie Pullinger. He learnt about the work that St. Stephen's Society did in Hong Kong with drug addicts and the very poor, and was deeply touched and inspired by the stories of hope and salvation that he heard.

Over the next years he maintained a close relationship with Jackie and St Stephen's, writing and receiving letters and earning money from his newspaper round to send gifts to the boys. He was very private about all of this but it seemed to give him strength and hope when life seemed difficult. An invitation to go to Hong Kong when he was seventeen seemed like an answer to our prayers. Jackie knew that he was uncertain about his faith but said 'Just come and do some good'.

In one month Jim grew up at least one year. He saw faith in action in a way that he hadn't experienced before and he discovered a passion for the guitar. He returned to England strengthened and able to complete his education.

He still had his inner struggles however and at times these could seem overwhelming to him. Jim described his experience like this: 'Sometimes I feel so much and it builds up and up and up until I want to burst.' At these times, like many teenagers, he might turn to alcohol or cannabis to cope with his feelings. Despite the problems he grew up a lot in this year, forming deep relationships with many people and doing very well in his studies.

He chose not to go to University because he was afraid that it would be an unhelpful environment for him. Instead he wanted to go back to Hong Kong to live and work with St Stephen's where he spent nearly three years. It is hard to measure his contribution to St Stephen's. He loved greatly and was greatly loved. Although very young he was deeply compassionate and was able to reach out to young and old, Western, Chinese and Nepalese. He loved the poor and didn't judge or criticise those whose behaviour was unlikeable. We were told he saved many lives, working to bring people in off the streets into a loving community and to a faith in Christ. He had great plans for his future; working amongst slum dwellers in the Philippines, teaching, getting married and having a family.

He was a remarkable young man who learnt to speak Cantonese to an unusually high level. He was able to work as a bridge between the helpers and the brothers. His prowess at the guitar and in leading worship was admired and he inspired many people. He was quickly able to learn new things which he then passed on to others.

Tragically in all this time of spiritual growth and achievement he was still dogged by his personal struggles. At the end, for a reason we do not understand, they overwhelmed him and took away his life. We have many unanswered and unanswerable questions but some things we know. Jim did not mean to die- he was actively planning for the future. We also know that Jim believed and trusted in Jesus Christ and was sure of eternal life with him.

Two days after his death a dear friend gave us another word of encouragement. 'Jim is a soldier in the Lord's army and he has fallen in battle, and he is with Jesus'. We believe that this is a fulfilment of the earlier prophecy spoken over Jim while in the womb. We prefer to think that Jim was given to us for 21 years rather than taken from us at 21. We believe he is with Jesus and, although we grieve enormously because we loved him so much and miss him, we believe we will see him again.

Philippa and Graeme Skinner