From football to faith
Hi, my name is Hamilton, but you may call me Ham!
My childhood wasn’t anything spectacular; I did what most children did when growing up. I had a real love for football and was always playing it. Looking back, I don’t really remember having much to do with Christianity and church, apart from two incidents.
The first memory is going to church with my grandmother, sitting in the Sunday school and being given a drink of squash. The other is when I was about eleven. I was on my way to play football in the park and it looked like it was about to rain.
For some reason I prayed to God to stop the rain. It turned out to be very sunny and I got to play football! But even after that incident, I didn’t think much about God.
My parents separated when I was eleven and my dad moved out. My brother and I lived with my mum. At the time it didn’t affect me, as I was interested in enjoying life and spending time with friends. A year later, we moved home and I went to a new school.
There I was invited by a friend to go to a youth football meeting on Monday nights. The group was free and run by the church. I enjoyed the first night and decided to carry on attending.
After we had played, the leader John would give a talk from the Bible. I was never interested in the talks. Around the same time, my Dad informed me he was going to get baptised. I wasn’t able to go, but it made me think.
I had been going along to the football group for about a year, when John invited me to a camp which the church was organising. I didn’t want to go initially, as I would not have been able to spend my birthday at home. At the last minute, following much persuasion by my friends, I changed my mind. This was a crucial decision.
About halfway through the week I noticed that many of the people seemed different. They seemed happier and more peaceful than I was, even though we were about the same age.
We were having talks from the Bible and doing Bible studies in groups. I began to ask questions of the leaders about the Bible and Christianity. I remember one night, after a meeting, I stayed behind at the back of the small chapel and began to cry.
John came over and asked what was troubling me and I told him that I wanted to know for certain that it’s real and that I wanted become a Christian, but I felt I wouldn’t be able to keep it up when I got home.
John told me simply that if we choose to believe it and it turns out to be true then we go to heaven, but if we choose not to believe in Christ and live for ourselves, then when we die and find out it actually is true, we go to hell instead of heaven.
He then said to me that I would be able to keep it up, as God would change my heart and I would be a new creation in Christ.
The next day I asked one of the speakers: ‘How do I become a Christian?’ He explained it to me and told me to remember ABC: accept and apologise for all the wrong I have done; believe that Christ came to earth to die on the cross, so we can come to God through him; commit your life to God.
On the Saturday morning, before we left the campsite to go home, I decided that I wanted to ask for forgiveness and commit my life to God. I remember the day very well; it was 13 August.
I couldn’t think of anywhere to go and pray. I didn’t want my friends to see what I was doing, so I decided to go to my tent. Someone walked by and I nearly changed my mind. Then I said, ‘No. I’ll do it now, because, if I don’t, I probably won’t ever do it’.
While in the tent, I simply knelt down over my suitcase and prayed to God. I just prayed, asking for forgiveness, saying sorry for all the wrong I had done and asking him to come into my life and change my heart.
There were no flashing lights or any loud noises after I said ‘Amen’, but there was definitely a big smile on my face, a sense of peace in my heart, and it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.
After coming out of the tent, I told John that I had become a Christian. A smile came across his face and he gave me one of the biggest hugs I have ever received. Thank you, John!
The next day, 14 August, I went to church in the afternoon as there was a camp service. After the service, I went to John and told him that I wasn’t sure if I had done it right and if I was a Christian or not, as there weren’t any flashing lights after I’d prayed.
John then spoke to me about the devil, who tries to tempt people when their faith is just beginning. He also told me that when God comes into our lives, the changes he makes don’t just happen overnight, but over time. That chat really helped me.
This all happened seven long and glorious years ago, and in those seven years I believe I have changed in many ways and have learnt so much about the Bible, God and myself.
Before becoming a Christian, I was very aggressive to people when I didn’t get my own way and I was selfish. I didn’t really care if I upset or offended others. Since becoming a Christian, I have become more caring to others, less aggressive and more at peace.
I now feel I have a purpose in life, rather than just wandering around in the wilderness. At the beginning, there was one passage in the Bible which helped me focus on the right things and take my first steps in my faith.
It was: ‘Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels’ (2 Timothy 2:22-23). This really spoke to me, because it talks about the evil desires of youth and I became a Christian in the middle of my teenage years.
Enoch ‘walked with God’ (Genesis 5:22), and I am challenged to do the same.
Hamilton M. Barrs