Do you know those helium balloons that you can buy? Have you ever had one? I remember having them and that horrible feeling as a small child when it slipped out of your hand and floated off into the sky. Would I ever see it again? It was a bit like that when I became a Christian, I thought I was letting go of something that I had grown quite attached to, namely, my way of life.
I was not raised in a Christian home. Unfortunately my father was an alcoholic. I say this not for sympathy, but to paint a picture of my upbringing. Both my parents loved me very much. They brought me up to be independent, to believe in whatever life I chose, the over-riding principle being whatever makes you happy is best. My parents were not Christians, and I grew up as someone you would least expect to grace the doors of a church.
Touching the super natural
From a young age I rebelled. By age eight I was smoking and from about 11 I had begun getting involved in sniffing aerosols and soft drugs. To be completely open with you, my life was full of mistakes and as I write I am only too aware of what a fool I was. One of my most foolish mistakes was, at 13, I began to play a ‘game’ called the Ouija board, something people believe you can use to talk to dead spirits.
As I began playing this ‘game’ I realised it was my introduction to the supernatural world. Prior to this I thought we were but dust, here today and gone tomorrow. However, as I and a couple of friends began playing, I gained information about my future, information about friends and relatives, information about exam papers at school. It was exciting and began to dominate my life.
After a while we became a little bored and wanted the next high. It’s funny in life, isn’t it, that things never fully satisfy — we always want the next thing, the next gadget, the next house, the next promotion. We decided the next thing in this was to ask these spirits if they would enter our bodies, I told you mine was a stupid story full of mistakes. I want to say that what I am talking about here is strange, I understand it is not an everyday thing. In many ways it is hard for me to talk about it, and the reason why I do is because I cannot escape the truth of it, strange as it may appear.
Initially nothing happened until a few days later when we began hearing strange voices in our heads, strange because not our own. This ‘voice’ would tell me things that were coming up, information about my schoolwork, where my friends were at any given time.
One night my two friends and I found ourselves outside a church causing trouble by throwing stones at the windows and shouting and generally being the pleasant youths that we were. This chap came out of the church, a stereotypical Christian with a big woolly jumper on and brown sandals (least that’s how I imagined it; I sit here with my sandals very nearby, the irony!). He talked to us and I can remember being nothing but nasty to that man, spitting on the floor in front of him, laughing at him, jeering at him. At some point he offered to pray for us. I remember thinking why does this man want to pray for us? Here I am spitting in his face, throwing stones at his building, laughing at him, he should be calling the police or telling us to go, at the very least, but here he is wanting to pray for me. He prayed in the name of Jesus. Well, as soon as that name was mentioned my body shook violently. This man realised there was something more serious going on and he and another chap asked us to come back to the church to be prayed for.
As people prayed for me, these spirits (or what I now know to be demons) would actually physically take hold of my body and strange voices would come from my mouth. It took several people to hold me on the floor while I writhed around. It was a profoundly strange experience. I guess the pinnacle for me was when one day, as I was chasing one of my friends down a railway track, this demon physically took over my body and laid me down on the train track. A group of friends standing on a footbridge above me were shouting at me to get up.
Praying to Jesus
As I lay on that track, I had full control of my mind but not my body. There was a train coming towards me on the line and I thought I was going to die. I could just picture the newspaper stories, boy commits suicide on railway, that’s how it would have looked. As the train approached me, it felt like someone or something grabbed hold of the back of my neck and pulled me bolt upright. I was on my feet facing the train that was now whizzing past the front of my face. The reason I mention my friends on the footbridge is because they can testify that there was no one behind me, no human being. You see, I believe in that moment that God literally pulled me up off that train track.
This event really focused my mind. It highlighted to me the very real nature of my situation. This was no longer a game, this was life and death, good and evil. As the voices grew in my head, telling me I was going to die, I ran to my friend’s house, the man with the woolly jumper, and told him I needed help. He explained to me that he and many at the church had been praying for me, but that I needed to make a decision to turn and surrender my life to Jesus Christ. I had seen with my own eyes the power in the name of Jesus Christ. I just wanted to be free of these demons. As people explained to me about sin and good news I do not think I totally understood that, but I just wanted to be free of what was happening to me. I prayed to Jesus that night and I want to testify that Jesus Christ completely healed me, I certainly left the church that night in much peace and a renewed calm.
I went to church after that experience and we gave an assembly at my school. A number of my peers decided to give their lives to Christ — how could they not after witnessing much of this? I am, however, ashamed to say that after a few months I stopped going to church; I found it somewhat boring, if the truth be known. I always felt like church was about rules and trying to behave a certain way, taking away fun. I got lured back into the world and soon forgot about that experience.
As I grew up and left school, my life was all about my pleasure and my satisfaction. I wasn’t horrible to people per se, but I would sacrifice very little for others, even what I did sacrifice was there to make me look like a great guy. It was all about me and my happiness. That was all I was searching for, happiness. I think if we are honest with ourselves that is all we are really looking for. I looked for it in so many things: girlfriends, friendships, money, drugs, drink, travelling, material possessions, sport… I remember I would set myself new targets, thinking if I just attained that, then I would be happy, but each time I got there I was so disappointed because that void was still there.
After travelling to Thailand and owning a bar and restaurant on a tropical island and still not finding satisfaction I came back to the UK. I thought maybe God does have the answers and I decided to go back to that church I had been in all those years ago. One of the first things I heard was the story of the prodigal son; well, that was me in a nutshell. I guess for the first time I finally understood what Christianity was all about. As this prodigal son returned home full of awareness of his wilful turning away from his Father, what greeted him was not a scolding but a compassionate Father who ran to him and welcomed him. I realised that was what I had been looking for all my life: unconditional love that didn’t judge me, didn’t ask where I had been or how I was going to pay everything back, a love that didn’t care what clothes I wore or what achievements I had, a love that said I just want you back. I began to cry as I understood I had come home. That Father is God.
I began getting answers to many questions I had, each one has been answered and I cannot believe the grace that God has shown to me, the patience, the love. In many ways my life is much harder than it ever was, but that empty feeling has gone, that void has been filled. It is probably the biggest struggle of my life to be a Christian, so please don’t hear me saying life is a bed of roses, but as I understood the truth of Jesus it really has set me free.
I now work as a full-time evangelist for Avanti Ministries and I get the opportunity to speak in schools, prisons, church events. I have a burning passion to tell people the awesome news of Christ and to teach others how to do the same. We would love to hear from you if you need somebody to speak at an event or are interested in training and teaching the church in your area.
I am involved locally in Woking, Surrey, with an organisation called Outside Light (http://www.outsidelight.org) and we are passionate about seeing the love of Christ taken into the community both in word and deed.