God’s modeller: Peter Naulls and the story of Inver Models

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peter-naulls6‘You know how above the door of a pub there’s often a sign saying who the Licensee is?’ Peter asked me. He added that the person in question mightn’t actually work behind the bar. ‘The Licensee is the person who owns the business, and to whom the staff are responsible.’

‘It may seem like a strange analogy,’ he continued, ‘but I had this picture when I moved here of God’s name above the door. So this is not my business, this is God’s business, and I’m here are an employee, a workshop manager.’

‘That’s a challenge but also a comfort,’ I suggested, ‘because you have the sense that ultimately the business is in God’s hands.

My friend Peter Naulls, who attends Hilton Church, is showing me round the workshop on the Balmakeith Industrial Estate in Nairn from where he has run Inver Models for the last 17 years.

Peter completed an apprenticeship in model-making with Thorp Modelmakers in London (he was brought up in St Albans), and remained with the company for some years before going freelance. He set up the business in 1999, after moving north to marry Grace – they met at a wedding in Edinburgh where she was the bridesmaid, and he the best man!

peter-naulls2Architectural models are central to Peter’s output – he showed me an example of his work – a detailed model of a block of apartments commissioned by a construction firm to help them market the properties before they were completed. But he also makes engineering models, models of oil platforms and pipelines, models of vintage cars: in fact, if you need a model, Peter can create it for you. He’s half-way through building a child-sized pedal car, commissioned as a present for the customer’s fortunate granddaughter.  (Peter is, his website tells us ‘an active member of the Scottish Austin Seven Club and believes that classic cars should be used, not displayed in museums!)

Peter largely works alone, and the work is intricate and hands-on, though he is increasingly using 3D printing to create the required detail. But he uses free-lancers for specialist pieces of work, and can draw on the resources of ‘a proper engineer’ when machining and turning is required.

peter-naullsI’m impressed by the skill, patience, attention to detail, and creative flair which Peter displays in his work, as evidenced by the portfolio of pictures on his site.

It’s important to Peter to express his Christian faith through his work, believing that ‘everything you do every day is your ministry.’ In the light of this he’s committed to giving excellent service, and providing a quality product in an industry not always noted for good customer care. ‘If someone’s paying a lot for what you’re producing,’ he tells me, ‘it has to be there on time and it has to be what they want.’

Although he frequently has to wait for between 60 and 90 days for his invoices to be paid, he always pays his bills when they come in. ‘I think that’s a matter of Christian witness.’

One of his suppliers has commented that out of her many customers, he is the only person who pays immediately. Peter smiles. ‘She phoned once. “Are you OK?” she asked.  ‘’Yes, fine.”  “It’s just I’m worried about you, because you haven’t paid your bill. I’ve never known you not to pay your bill.”’

‘And I’d lost it,’ Peter confesses.  ‘I’d put it in the wrong pile or something like that, and she thought there was something wrong with me!’ He smiles again.

peter-naulls5He often has a sense of dependence on the One whose name he imagines above the door. ‘Trusting that God will somehow provide, even though there’s no work coming in – that’s been a big test of my faith,’ he admits.

It occurs to me that besides model-making as a livelihood, Peter is modelling in his own life what Christian faith looks like.

I asked if he had always been a believer, and he shares with me his journey to faith:

My mother was an atheist, my father had a passing interest in the Bible but wasn’t a Christian, or wouldn’t call himself a Christian. I suffered from depression from the age of 11, quite badly – there was no obvious cause. I had a nervous breakdown at the age of 20 and during the recovery process from that got a lot of support from a particular friend who was at university in London and  it was a Christian-run university.

I used to spend a lot of time visiting her and her friends. And I was extremely sceptical. I wasn’t in the least bit interested in the Christian faith, but I could see there was a difference in the way they treated me. I had lots of other supportive friends, school friends and colleagues, but there was something particularly warm about the way they treated me, and that just got me rather curious.

I was given a Gideon Bible and stated to read that and probably three years later became a Christian. I came to faith kicking and screaming, because there was a part of me that didn’t really want to, didn’t want to believe it, because of my upbringing, I suppose. I’m quite scientific in my approach to things, and I wanted proof, I wanted absolute proof, and there is no absolute proof.

peter-naulls7What eventually brought him to accept that ‘She [his friend] must be right and I must be wrong’ was seeing her and her friends praying with a sense of absolute certainly that God would hear, and answer, and then watching the results which seemed clearly miraculous.’

Peter’s story reminded me of C. S. Lewis’s description of him at the moment of his conversion as being ‘The most reluctant convert in all England.’

Peter’s life also models the fact that it is often through suffering that we grow as people, and grow. Peter tells ‘I’m very aware that if it wasn’t for my depression, I wouldn’t be a Christian.’ He clearly sees the depression and breakdown as a strange gifts through which he came to wholeness. There was no instantaneous healing, but he tells me the depression is now definitely behind him.

His faith journey also models the fact that faith and doubt co-exist. His faith has been tested over the years. ‘When the depression returned, and over the years when things don’t quite work out as you expect, it is testing.’

‘But you have chosen to keep the faith?’  I ask.

Yes, I think it’s a question, even through the times of unbelief, of  trusting that it’s only temporary. It’s a discipline, going through the motions, trusting that it will sort itself out.  But also, there’s an element of God not letting me go. I’m pretty aware of the fact that faith has an element of doubt, it wouldn’t be faith otherwise, it would be fact. And doubt has an element of faith as well – the two go hand in hand.

And Peter models Christian involvement in the church. When he became a Christian, he attended Christ Church, Cockfosters in London, ‘a big, busy, Evangelical Anglican church with a lot of people my age’ which he found very supportive.  He and Grace, and their daughter Amy currently belong to Hilton Church in Invenress. Currently the family host one of the church’s home groups. ‘I’ve discovered a pattern,’ he tells me: ‘sometimes you’re active in church, at other times not so active. I’ve been very inactive as far as church is concerned over the past few years. But that’s beginning to change. I think I’m beginning to find more of a role. Peter has also served for three years as a board member for local Christian charity Out Of The Box and continues to support their work in schools and communities.

Keep Peter in your thoughts as he works creatively in the Inver Models workshop – often he is on his own, and it can be lonely as the adjacent industrial units are used for storage at present. Remember him as he considers options for the future, and as day-by-day he works conscientiously and creatively as God’s man in God’s workshop.

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Comments

 
Barry Clarke

Dec 29, 2016

This must be one of the most realistic and affirmative testimonies I have had the privilege to read in recent times. It encompasses all that we everyday blokes , who follow and try to live our lives with and for our Lord , whilst being of and in the everyday. Thank you Toddy for sharing you dear Peter, with that which we the " church " ( lower case intended ) should live our lives as "CHURCH " for our dear I AM in the world which we are privileged to be such a small part . As I journey ,such meaningful yet everyday testimonies which others can relate to do not come to the fore, but I am encouraged by such sharing's for that is what I need from such fellow men as I am sure you must.? We everyday men have the most wonderful opportunity when of and together to be that which we should be. ie, Strong in Faith , Family / nearest and Dearest , and of the World and when in Fellowship. ( my intended considered sequence of priorities ).How about a blokes day out in the 2017. Men of all Traditions and none, No fluffy spirituality ,just blokes of like minds being of and enjoying emphatically being together. A walk on the Wild Side or perhaps a day at THE Coach House ? Just thinking outside the box, Warmth Dear Friends, Barry

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