The work God has done in Andrew’s life will be apparent to all! In response, Andrew was baptised at USBC on 29th Feb 2004:
I didn’t grow up in a Christian family. Although I was aware of the Bible story, I don’t remember the source. Perhaps my sister helped influence me when she came back from the local convent school for holidays. I do however recall receiving some powerful and terrifying literature at school when I was about 11 years old describing the perils of a life in hell in cartoon form. These were eventually banned due to a campaign by parents as some children were being affected. This was not a God of love but a God of fear.
I remember spending my teenage years in the pursuit of whatever happiness I could get out my friends and alcohol. My parents divorced when I was 15 and I recall my happiness that they could now both be happier without each other. My days were either spent in misery at boarding school or in blissful drunkenness with my friends during the holidays. I got involved in a number of things from sex, drugs and petty theft during that time that I am not proud of, and the guilt for which follows me to this day. I became actively anti-Christian and sought to turn any of my friends away from the church should they show any interest, to the extent that I would go with them to church to argue with the elders against their beliefs. I am ashamed to say that I was successful on all occasions. My interests turned to palmistry, fortune telling, science fiction and religious literature purely the purpose of strengthening my argument against God.
At 19 I was working on a farm and sitting at home reading an “Interpretation of Revelations” and a book about alien life, when I had what I can only describe as a revelation. I sat there with a vision of pure crystal clear knowledge based on all my research that there was a God and a very real one at that. I prayed to God there and then, but don’t remember what about, however I imagine it was for forgiveness for my ant-God stance. By the next day I had totally forgotten the thought basis for that “revelation” but I never forgot the fact that God was real and living. I never again questioned anyone’s faith in any religion. I didn’t however change my own lifestyle.
I was indestructible in my 20’s chasing fun wherever I could find it and working all hours at my job. Work and fun became my religion. However through all this time I was also affected periodically by a dark despair caused by loneliness and a total inability to see any meaning in life. Thoughts of suicide crossed my mind regularly. I recall driving back to the farm one evening after a drunken weekend in town full of a dark and inexplicable misery. I passed the local Baptist church and dropped in, in the hope that somehow someone could help me. No one noticed me in the back there, and I left. I was unable to form a relationship as my eyes could never settle long enough on a single woman and my mind remained totally focused on fun. I saw my associates around me maturing and moving forward in life, and I was happy to stay in my blissful state of utter irresponsibility. I should have died 100 times with drunken driving and various other health risks. I believe that God intervened in my life a number of times where something inexplicable stopped me from that next deathly step; into AIDS or a deadly car-crash. I somehow knew someone or something was looking after me. How else do you explain getting severely electrocuted by getting two live wires caught in your hand? Surviving only because I managed to kick the wires out of my hand. Two minutes before this happened I was 30ft up in a tree with those same two wires held securely in my mouth. I should have died a hundred times.
By my 30’s I had become aggressive, seeing everything and everyone as a personal challenge to be conquered both physically and mentally. I married a Jewish girl in a relationship based primarily on a mutual enjoyment of alcohol and fun. When questioned about faith by the Salvation Army priest at our wedding we both declared a belief in God but not Christ. Within a month we had terminated a pregnancy and our marriage began by moving to Ghana West Africa in pursuit of money. By the time I left Zimbabwe I had been robbed 12 times, I carried a knife in my pocket and a .44 Revolver under my arm, sleeping also with a pump action shotgun next to my bed. I had been stabbed once and stabbed someone else in return during an attempted robbery – fortunately God closed the blade. From the day we arrived in Ghana my marriage started to fall apart. There was no peace or love in the house. My attention became totally focused on simply putting my head down and driving on in the hope that the marriage problems would sort themselves out. We became unable to communicate, had no faith to fall back on, and were too proud to seek advice or guidance. Work became an incredibly stressful affair, with long periods of non-payment and dealing with corruption and overwork. I continued to drive on with my marriage and my job, hoping that if I closed my eyes all the problems would disappear. They got worse. My wife turned more and more to alcohol for solace and I started to see the harm it was doing. I started to reduce my own alcohol intake and I gave up smoking overnight from a 30 a day habit, as began to recognise the damage done to our marriage from alcohol abuse.
We finished in Ghana and I undertook an MBA at University; 24 hours a day 7 days a week for another year I buried myself in my work and my wife took another route of socialising. By the time I finished my MBA we were no longer a couple although we shared a bed and house. We were two strangers unable to communicate or relate. I chose to go to counselling in an effort to sort out my marriage but my wife refused. We separated and I went to work for a blue chip company, again burying my head in my work. I had hit the big-time; a small town farmer from the African bush had finally arrived with a Blue Chip company. Work had become my God………I could not see the meaning and purpose in life, however I no longer drank to excess. Instead I started to withdraw into myself and my work, changing roles 4 times in 2 years and too proud to say it was time to quit. In the meantime back in Zimbabwe my brothers life was falling apart as he lost his farm to Mugabe’s efforts. My mother and stepfather were forced to move to South Africa. My sister in South Africa was suicidal making a number of attempts on her own life.
I was unable to relate with my colleagues at work and the stress started to wear me down. My eyes were ravaged and looked 65. I had started to fall apart. On a business trip to Europe I finally collapsed from the stress. Collapsed in tears on the bed at the age of 40 I was unable to leave my hotel bedroom. Paranoid and terrified I had nowhere to turn. My colleagues put me on the first plane back to the UK and I could not return to work. I have never in my life felt so utterly hopeless and broken and I pray to God that I will never feel that way again. I went for psychiatric counselling and was put on powerful medication to help me cope.
I got down on my knees and prayed to God. However, this was not the first time in times of crisis that I had done so. However previously I had forgotten about it, once the crisis was over. This time I entered into a heartfelt covenant with God. I told God that if he would pull me out of this hell I was in, that I would undertake to tell my story to promote his name. In anticipation I started a diary of everything that happened from the time I prayed that prayer. With all my prayers I also prayed to God that he would never let me forget my covenant. This is why I have been so keen on baptism. I knew absolutely that God would do what I asked except for a faint hint of doubt, but his work since has left me both astounded and deeply humbled.
A few weeks after my collapse I was lying in bed motionless and sweating my brain dulled by drugs all day. God made me realise that these drugs were doing me more harm than good and I stopped taking those that were so strong. God introduced me to a wonderful councillor to help me get my mental health back. God then introduced me to D, a wonderful Christian woman who became my best friend and who introduced me to the Baptist church in Salisbury. D was always there when I needed a friend and some Christian guidance and I will remain in her debt forever. As I told her, when she finally goes to heaven, if she is ever asked what she did for God, she can point to me and say, “that ones mine”. I thank God for her.
Knowing that my time in my home town was over, I prayed to God that he would allow me an easy sale of my house, the mortgage of which was costing me a fortune especially now I was unemployed. I put my house on the market and God found me a buyer within 8 days. I prayed that nothing would delay the sale, and nothing did. I prayed that I would find somewhere to store my goods and find a comfortable home. God showed me where to leave my goods and where to stay. In my weak mental state I went to live in a wonderfully relaxed family home where they helped pull me out of my depression. God led me to the Upper Stratton Baptist church where I was to receive my introduction to Christian life. My life and body was shattered on the inside, but on the outside I looked and acted entirely normal.
I prayed to God that he would not put me back into the workplace before I was mentally strong enough, but at the same time I was terrified of ending up with nothing. I had lost every ounce of self-confidence I had and didn’t know which way to turn. I prayed to God that he would find me something to keep me going and to get me off my bed of self-pity. God found me two jobs, both easy going, but they kept me too busy too worry about my own problems and I found rest and resuscitation in that work. As I got tired of each job, it ended on its own accord. I continued to apply for high-powered jobs and attended a number of interviews, but sat there shaking and stuttering, my confidence gone. I put my faith in God completely, telling God that I knew how weak I was and asking only that he would let me find the right position when he felt I was ready. I told God I didn’t mind what I did, no matter how lowly, as I would know that that was what He wanted me to do.
I prayed to God that my sister in South Africa would settle down and find a good job. Caroline found a fantastic job close to my mother. Praise God.
I prayed that my brother would get out of Zimbabwe safely to go and live in Australia. His farm was occupied 2 days before he left Zimbabwe - Praise God.
I prayed that my brother would not be robbed of money he was due to be paid outside the country to start a new life with his family, despite all indicators to the contrary. He was paid – Praise God
I prayed that my brother and his family would settle down well in Australia and find work. They did – Praise God.
I prayed that my mother and stepfather would leave Zimbabwe safely to move to South Africa. They did – Praise God.
On occasions too numerous to mention, I would be worrying about an issue and prayed to God about it, only to be led to the answer. You can’t imagine what its like to ask God for help to make the right decision about something, only to be led to a particular book in a warehouse of thousands, to open the book randomly and to find the page open giving you the answer to your prayer. This is beyond coincidence – Praise God.
During this “working rest” period, I attended the Alpha course. I believe God had me working nights so that I could attend the Alpha at Mary’s house. God arranged my time exactly in order that I could complete the Alpha in January and tell my story in February. Mary bless her, made me feel loved and welcome at all times. At Mary’s house I prayed out loud for the group for the first time ever. For me it was a milestone in my commitment to God, I had gotten over the shame of being a Jesus freak.
That afternoon, I went to sleep to prepare for the night shift. I was happily dreaming away when I was suddenly hauled out of bed and up to the ceiling. I was thrown around and shaken like a rag doll by the most powerful and angry terrifying force you could ever imagine. I am not one for nightmares. This wasn’t a nightmare; it was a life changing experience of terror. I was absolutely helpless and I shouted out “LORD GOD I LOVE YOU, PLEASE HELP ME” Whilst the force shaking me was all powerful and terrifying, it was as if the power of the entire universe had reached down to me and gently placed me back on the bed with my eyes wide open. I knew this was Gods work. I knew that the devil was throwing a tantrum, as he knew he had lost me. When I think of what happened I live in fear for those people who in death must face these forces without knowing to call to God, I am terrified for my family and friends. The God I saw that day; and there was nothing physical to see in either force of good or evil, was so powerful as to be beyond any understanding, no sound of angels harps or horns blowing, just simple in-exhaustive all-powerful God. One force of pure jealous evil, comparatively small but terrifying - and God, who pushed the evil aside with utmost ease like oil to water. I was fearful of God’s power but at the same time astounded that God had taken a small part of that universal immensity just to help me. I am someone to God, I see him like a baby to a father, so big and all powerful, that I cannot begin to understand him or his work, but I know he is there for me should I call. This experience will follow me for the rest of my life. This was the most unpleasant experience I have ever had and I pray none of you will ever have to experience it, but you can help your non-Christian friends prepare for it in death wherever you can and I pray that you can.
By December 2003 I was getting back to my old self. Strong again but humbled. I knew that God would shortly show me what he wanted to do next, and I could only wait. D left to go and live back in South Africa as God’s work for her with me was complete. I was tempted many times to return to my old ways for example lust for a married woman through these months, and its not been easy, but every time I’ve been tempted, I recognised it, prayed to God, and he resolved the issue for me.
One night I was lying in bed at about 2:00am, my mind rolling over and over the terrible times when I had collapsed, making myself more and more depressed. I prayed to God that he would help me to leave these depressing thoughts behind and move forward in life. I opened my eyes in the semi-darkness and there, not 3 inches in front of my face on the pillow, sat a large butterfly or moth. I put my hand out and the moth climbed up my hand, sat for a while and then climbed up my fingers, caught the thermal heat coming off my hand, and took off into the night. This was the message from God that he would keep me safe and warm until I was quite ready, then he would let me leave his shelter to face the world again. I rested peacefully in this knowledge. Where do large moths come from in December in England?
I prayed to God that he would find me a job, but he did more than that, he found me a fantastic job in Ireland. A very well paid job that is based entirely upon my past experience. I went into this interview praying to God that I could just be me, and they would be happy with that, no pretence. I had never dreamed of finding this sort of position in this part of the world. I prayed to God to help me through the interview process and I was offered the job starting 3 days later. And so I leave you all, with a new job and a new life blessed by God. My gratefulness to God is beyond words and can only be expressed with tears. Exactly 10 months ago I was a broken dark creature at the bottom of a deep and slimy pit. Today I stand on top of the glory of God, with a limitless horizon and journey in front of me that stretches as far as the eye can see, hand in hand with my Lord God.
May God bless you all, and may you praise him all the days of your lives. Thank you all for your prayer; you are all a part of this story. May God bless your church and the 40 Days of Purpose.
There only remains one thing to close this covenant circle with God, and that is to tell you this “God’s Story” to date, they are just the opening pages of a large book. Then, to seal that covenant circle with a powerful buckle and lock, that of being baptised in the glorious name of God.
I pray to God that I never forget what he has done for me. I praise him every day with all my heart and mind and in all my human imperfection, and I see his presence everywhere.
I ask all of you to continue to tell people about God, whether you think they hear you or not, because some day what happened to me may happen to them. They need to know where to turn where there is nowhere else. Never give up.