Testimonies from USBC:

Who, where, how, why?

Who are you?
Paul Graham, 34 years old, husband to Vicky for 11 years, dad to 2 boys, living in Upper Stratton

Where are you from?
I was born in Birmingham, where my father was vicar at a church in Edgbaston, right on the doorstep of the cricket ground.  Some of my early memories are of riding my trike up and down the aisles in church (not during the services, I hasten to add!), collecting money from people using the churchyard as a temporary car park during Test Matches and my older brother discovering at a Caribbean food-tasting evening that the glass that he drained after trying some Jerk Chicken didn’t contain water, but Jamaican rum!  A varied childhood to say the least…

Following this time in multi-cultural Birmingham came 4 years in Nigeria, with my parents working for the Church Missionary Society.  Many life-shaping experiences later and we arrived in Highworth, where I settled down to almost fail my GCSEs and scrape a single A Level pass.  While drifting in limbo for a few months as my paltry A Level closed every University door to me (Crewe and Alsager College of Higher Education will never know what it missed out on!), I fell into youth work.  When I say ‘fell’ that’s what it felt like at the time; hindsight has shown me that as one door closed, God opened another one for me.  I worked as a volunteer youth worker for 2 and a half years until God’s provision and my landlady’s patience ran out.

During this time, my parents high-tailed it to pastures new, leaving me to fashion an identity and life in Swindon because...

I met Vicky and, deciding that I’d better keep hold of her before anyone else got a look in, I realised that I needed to get a job that would enable us to get married.  A career in the NHS beckoned and I’m still there.

How did you come to be at USBC?
God has a superb sense of humour.  I started going to USBC while attending New College because it seemed that all the pretty girls from the Christian Union went there!  And, as any 17 year old lad will tell you, you tend to follow the pretty girls… 

Some years later, after Vicky and I got married, we needed to settle in a church somewhere.  It made sense to come to USBC as we were married here and it made more sense from the year 2000 when we moved into a house just around the corner! 

We’ve seen plenty of changes in our time here, with lots of people coming and going.  But, the one thing that never changes is God and His love, not just for the church, or even the people who come to the church, but for everyone in Upper Stratton.

My prayer is that over the coming years we have the chance to show God’s love to the community of Upper Stratton more, through the lives we live and the things we do. 

Why are you a Christian?
A good question.  For years I’ve gone to events where people give amazing reasons: ‘I was on death row, but God saved me!’, ‘I was a drug addict, but God saved me!’.  All absolutely fantastic stories and breath-taking examples, but not really my experience nor (I hope) part of my future.  However, I need God just as much as any of those. 

I know that He sent His Son to be born on that first Christmas Day, to ask His Son to die for me and that He loved me from before I was born.  Knowing this, what else can I do but love Him back and want to live as best as I can for Him.  It doesn’t mean that I’m perfect, or have a handy well-polished halo, but it does mean that I know that I belong to the Creator of the Universe, which isn’t a bad place to be! 

And the best news is, this isn’t an exclusive club.  Jesus was born not just for me, not just for those who attend USBC, not just for those few shepherds and wise men who met him as a baby, but for everyone.  Now that’s really Good News!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margaret Damiral pictured on the occasion of her baptism Sun 4th November 2007

Phil’s Testimony - Nov 2007

I would like to say a few words about how I have come to Christ and why I have chosen to be baptized today.

When I was first baptized as a baby I couldn’t speak at all. Then, when I was confirmed at the age of fourteen there was too much living yet to be done for me to have had the chance to arrive fully at the person I was to become. Both of these events still matter hugely to me, but today completes what was begun at my birth, and this moment has been made possible thanks to the support of so many kind people ever since. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my parents, especially my Mum for living a Christian life of such straight honesty and dedicated duty before our Lord that there, in front of me from the earliest moments of my memory, has been a clear example of how best to lead my life.

Sally and Sammy, two dear friends in Northern Ireland – who have been like Grandparents to me – have similarly inspired me with the goodness, generosity and purity
of their lives.

If I could address God directly, as perhaps today I can, this is what I would say:
Dear Father Lord
I thank you for giving me life in a beautiful world of your creation. Its wonders have amazed me. Your blessings have rained down on me from the beginning, and
continue to be the root of my life. As my baptism approaches I yearn to affirm the faith that I have in you and your eternal friendship with me. Your grace and might have reached out to me in the darkest moments of my
life when all certainties were extinguished. When nothing seemed to be working, you found me and showed me what life could be. Your love sustains and nourishes me.
Only in your presence can true peace be found.
Each day of my life since my first baptism in Ireland in 1976 you have walked beside me. In the great times and in the turmoil your rock-like solidness is what held me steady. In your gaze and only in the honesty of your greatness can I find peace. That you can hear us is a miracle, that we are able to relate to you and receive your love is beyond a miracle. The personal relationship that you offer us is a treasure richer than any that we can buy here.

Lord God we live in a world of such injustice. We see around us a multitude of people needing help. Every day presents an active challenge to us. Thank you Lord that you never leave our side.

I would like to thank God for this church and the family that grow together in it. Dave and Ali and all of our leaders have created here a beacon of hope in what might be a cynical and otherwise separate community. USBC is a wonderful church which supports a huge range of people in this area and beyond. As soon as Rachel and I arrived at USBC we were thrilled to find a church that has just the right balance between fun songs and tradition to be ideal for us. We were welcomed from the outset and made to feel part of the family right away. The number of trips and outings that USBC organise is brilliant, and we have loved being in Tim's house-group. Meeting every Wednesday with friends who are willing to share their faith and speak
candidly about God is a real treat and R and I look forward to visiting each others houses for a time of peaceful reflection in the otherwise busy week.

I have been brought up in the Church of Ireland (where I was baptised first time) and have enjoyed Churches at school and at University in Dublin. It is an honour to be accepted into the family of USBC. I pray that I can find a way to contribute to the shared effort and help wherever possible.

It is further an honour to be able to give voice to God in front of you my friends. His is a mighty presence amongst us. We are constantly diverted and distracted from what really matters on this earth. Our time here is short. We are blessed with freedom to explore this earthly wonderland in our own way for only so much time. Learning more of what the Bible has to teach us is time well spent. The Jewish tradition predicted a messiah - we believe he came; astounded us with a deep power and simplicity of message that has resonated down the ages. His legacy today is a world of many peoples who have been blessed with a guiding philosophy; ethos; creed that can unite them, and that is utterly good and of God. Alas the enemy works amongst us to sow discontent and temptation. My understanding of baptism is that in the moment of immersion those sins are washed away despite the nature of the world and of ourselves.

In many ways then this is the most important day of my life. It is my one chance to say to God in front of my fellow Christians that we believe in what you can do for us. We are willing to affirm that through the flesh that you sacrificed for us a covenant exists that you will guard, protect and stay with us regardless of what happens in our lives. I am eternally grateful to the people who have helped me to grow to a place in my faith where I am not ashamed to live a Christian life and to say that I rely on Jesus alone to be with me on my dying day. His truth and open hand is all that can take me along the journey. This, our church, our commitment to Christ really matters. Despite a world of i-pods, and cars and material possessions, we are simply souls with a loving father who has reached out to us (about 2000 years ago) by sending someone utterly close and true to him. God knew we would be like this. The lessons he sent a teacher to drum into us; love your neighbour; honour God – these are the express desires of one who knew what it is we need to fix ourselves.

The key thing for me in Christianity is that we are totally utterly unworthy and fallen folk, only the fact that we have an advocate, someone willing to stand up for us who’s judgment God trusts, only because of that are we able to stand tall in his presence. There is nothing that we can do to make God love us any more or any less.

Today is a special day for me. My Mum has come over from Ireland, my cousins are here and my Godmother Myrth has come down from Scotland. Rachel's Mum and Dad and Grandmother are here too.

Thank you for listening. I am sorry to have gone on but had a lot to get off my chest. My prayer is that we can all know our Lord more deeply daily and reach out to each other in mutual understanding of how great the Good News that we are sharing really is.

 

Ann's baptism - 9 April 2007 Luke's baptism - 9 April 2007

My earliest memory of being a Christian was going to Sunday school.  My mum was a committed Christian and encouraged me to build a relationship with god through prayer.

I was very close to my mum and sadly when I was just eleven she past away due to illness. I was totally shocked. I couldn’t understand why he would take away such a good Christian person. Yet he was always there at night listening to my thoughts and sharing my grief.  He comforted me and gave me several close friends whom supported me through school. 

I met my boyfriend at seventeen, fell in love and got married at 20.  Seven years later we decided not to be together but remained friends.

God gave me lots of independence and determination. A real time in my life that I felt god’s presence was whilst travelling in Australia. When I think of my favourite spot on the islands of the Great Barrier Reef I can feel always God’s presence.

At the age of twenty one I had been told it would be difficult to have a baby for medical reasons.  In my thirties, I met Jon and fell in love… again.  Fell pregnant.  I had a healthy pregnancy and a perfect baby.

I felt Jeni was a real gift from God and needed to return to a church community to give thanks to the Lord. So I joined Croft Christian Fellowship.

When Jeni started at Ridgeway she met Lydia and started coming along to POGS.  I joined Ali’s small group to do the purpose driven life, went on the church weekend and then came to church.

God is truly awesome and all of you have been wonderful in making me feel that here at USBC, I have found God’s family.

On many occasions throughout my life God has blessed me with Christians willing to help and support. Thank you to you all.

There are times when I felt so alone and yet I know I was not alone, God was always there with me as a friend. 

God is constant, never failing but at times in my life it has been me that has failed to see it.  I can see that over the years he has always been alongside me, there for when I need him the most.  He has shown me so much patience, tolerance, love and kindness.

I have learned to trust in Him.  He never forsakes me.

Thanks be to God.

 

Can you tell us when you first prayed to become a Christian?

I first became a Christian when I was about 6…Dawn Clancy was at church taking a summer holiday club...I spoke to her after one of the days and we prayed for me to become a Christian.

You have been to Soul Survivor the last 2 summers
– what is Soul Survivor?

Soul Survivor is basically a massive Christian camp…. with big worship events in the evenings and lots of seminars in the day...  it is for youths only…(sorry dad)!!

Going to Soul Survivor has obviously been important
to you can you tell us something of your experience
when you first went to Soul Survivor?

In the first year I went to Soul Survivor, I was amazed at what God can actually do…(people going down in the spirit …left, right and centre was a totally new experience for me.) after the first couple of days, I was a bit upset because I wanted some of the holy spirit. (Inside me I knew that I only wanted for the experience at that time) but I was trying to convince myself I wanted it to make me a better person.

On the last night, to my amazement, I received the holy spirit  (and the gift of tongues) God really filled me up with the spirit and put me back on track.                                                                                        

How did God lead you on when you went again the
second time?

The second time I went to Soul Survivor (summer 2006),
I wanted more of that experience (the Holy Spirit)
Both Ali and Vicky prayed for me on the first night and
told me that god was going to do something wonderful in my life soon.

I was prayed for on the last night to be refilled with the Holy Spirit. When I asked Tom and Vicky to pray for me, I was optimistic that anything would happen (can God really work through 2 young people that well). However I saw all around me people being prayed for by young people and affected massively by HIM   !!!! 

When tom and Vicky prayed for me, I cried and went down in the Spirit. After a while I started laughing hysterically. This lasted for about 30 minutes!! God had 2 years running at soul survivor done something amazing in my life.

Going to SS is great but tell us how you have continued
to serve God when you not at Soul Survivor?

Away from Soul Survivor, I try to continue to serve mainly God, but the church as well. One of the things I do, as well as other older POGS is help out at the POGS youth groups (we are classed as leaders). I am also a leader every other week at a follow up club (called Café Base) in Highworth, from when the Collective band came into Warneford. 

Can you tell us what has made you think about Baptism recently?

Baptism. Well, I think the first thing that made me think about baptism was at Soul survivor last year. (I think there was a seminar on it) anyway, Luke Hodgson style, I didn’t really make much of it. Like I do at home with problems…shove it under the carpet. Well then I did about six weeks of lessons on Baptism in RE lessons at school. This really got me thinking about getting baptised. There were a few smaller things that made me think about getting baptised like reading different Bible verses. Finally, when my grandma told me she was going to be getting baptised, this made me really think about it. When she got baptised, I knew getting baptised was right for me

So is following God and doing everything right easy now?!

No. Not at all. Because in today’s society, there are lots of, well, temptations and things that are Non-Christian like. For example you may know I like football and I am a Swindon Fan. Being a football fan, well Ok a Swindon Fan means that I will be around non-Christians and people that do things that we believe to be wrong/sin. Swearing, for example is at football matches. Being around people who swear is almost like temptation. Occasionally when I go to football I swear. Not because I want to, but because there are a lot of people that do swear.

(you get carried along with the crowd)

Hopefully now I am getting baptised, I will find it easier to follow God and do what we believe to be right. 

 

Amanda's baptism - 9 April 2007 Harriet's baptism - October 2005

Ø   Background

I was brought up in family who weren’t Christian but had a strong set of morals and ethics that influenced me from an early age.  I had the privilege of a really great childhood with the support of a very loving family.  I think I believed in God from an early age – I remember reading my children’s Bible and I knew and loved all the Old Testament stories but it wasn’t until I was at school and Brownies that I really found out about Christianity.  It was, in fact, through brownies that I first voluntarily went to church (although at this stage of my life my motives were questionable!  Clearly, I was ambitious from an early age and when asking Brown Owl how I might go about becoming a sixer she said I would have to go to church – so off I went)!

 Ø      The Teenage years

At the age of 16 my best friend Katherine Rowe, who was a Christian, shared her faith with me and took me along with her to the college CU.  It was through the CU that I ended up going along to a couple of Billy Graham Mission events.  I remember being really amazed by the number of people there, worshipping God, and by the awesome atmosphere of love that surrounded everyone.  I decided to go forward and dedicate my life to Jesus – and so I took my first steps into a meaningful adult faith.  At that time I went to loads of churches but never really felt at home and I guess this is why I didn’t get baptised straight away.  Church for me was my CU – we met together daily to pray and often met up during the week after college to learn more about God. 

Ø   Furthest from God

Going to university was a big shock.  Coming from such a loving and sheltered background my world was suddenly turned upside down.  Having spent so much of my life on, what I saw as, a clear single track pathway to God I was suddenly faced with junction after junction and I ended up going further and further from God.  Looking back I was not proud of this time.  I worked hard and ended up in a very successful career in London but I was not happy in my job or my personal life – everything was grey and bleak.  Something had to change and it did…after a very difficult time, which saw me leaving London, I moved back in with my parents who really supported me and got me back on my feet.  Slowly I was healed of the pain that I had been through and the hope that things would get better eventually became a reality.

Ø   Swindon

The story of how I ended up in Swindon is as bizarre as it is long winded but I realised that I needed a clean break and I really wanted to see more of my sister Jo and my nephews Jack and Matthew.  Once I had made the decision to move everything from finding a job through to buying a house miraculously fell into place in a very short space of time! Suffice it to say that God was in control!  And so, on the 7th May 2006, I arrived in Swindon, bags in hand.

 Ø      Upper Stratton Baptist Church

When I first moved to Swindon finding a church was the last thing on my mind.  One Sunday, Jo invited me to an evening service at the church that she went to.  I was quite surprised to find that I really enjoyed the service and soon I was coming every Sunday.  Everyone was really friendly and I felt really comfortable and at home.  I went on the church weekend with Jo and the family and I was again surprised at how comfortable I was even though I knew very few people there.  At last I found a church where I felt at home.  As I came to realise everything that I had lost since those days in the CU at college I became overwhelmed with guilt.  In some services I just burst into tears.  Finally, I came to realise that God forgave me and that he was pleased that I had come back to Him.  That autumn, the church ran an Alpha course which I decided to go on.  I wanted to rediscover what Christianity was all about and have the chance to ask questions and explore my faith.  I found it was just what I needed and I am so grateful to those who ran the course and to all the new people who I met there (many of whom are here today).  One Sunday just before Christmas I woke up having just dreamt about my testimony!  I ended up going to the 9.15am service (another miracle as I never get up that early!) where I ended up sitting next to Dave Blandford.  The next thing I knew I was asking him whether I could get baptised!

Ø  Epilogue

Looking back God has given me so many blessings and he’s supported me through some really difficult times at work and in my personal life.  Now I feel really happy that I’m on the right path, I’ve found a church where I am at home, I’m much closer to my sister and her family, and I’ve found Martin, who I love.  I am looking forward to learning more and growing in God’s love.

 

Many of you know that I became a Christian when I was very young.

During the GLOC (God Loves Our Community) period we did Kidzchurch.  We spent some time waiting on God and listening to what he had to say to us. God told me that I should be baptised. Wayne really helped me and ran a Cornerstone Club to give us a chance to get to know God better which was really good. I became a much better Christian during this time but at the end I didn’t really think that I was ready to get baptised and Mum and Dad weren’t sure if I was old enough

In the summer I went to Soul Survivor which is a big Christian festival. During this time I really met with God and told him that I wanted him to be fully in charge of my life. I went down in the Spirit and God gave me the gift of tongues. He gave me a picture of him giving me a gold star and I knew that he was telling me that he loved me and I was special

So I am getting baptised today because it says in Acts 10 v 44 – 4:

"While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening to his message. The Jewish believers who had come from Joppa with Peter were amazed that God had poured out his gift of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speaking in strange tongues and praising God's greatness. Peter spoke up: "These people have received the Holy Spirit, just as we also did. Can anyone, then, stop them from being baptized with water?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. "

 

Andrew's baptism - February 2005

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.

Amen