New life in Christ
My parents became Christians when I was two years old, so as long as I can remember I was brought up in a Christian manner. I knew all the Bible stories, went to church, said grace at mealtimes and had all the benefits of a Christian upbringing.
But I took little notice of it all. I believed that God existed; that he created the earth and everything in it; that there was a heaven and a hell; and that God judged sinners. But I put this to the back of my mind and pursued selfish pleasures.
I was disobedient to my parents and brought them much anguish throughout the years. I thought about God sometimes, but soon forgot and carried on as usual. I only ever turned to God in prayer when I was in a tight spot or had lost something. In the words of Ephesians 2:1, I was ‘dead in transgressions and sins’.
When I was thirteen I joined the Air Cadets. This brought some sense of purpose into my life, so that I became more self-disciplined and less disobedient.
I got more involved with the cadets and reached the point where I set all my hopes on joining the armed forces. There was an élite group in my squadron that did a lot of hard physical activities, and I ended up attempting a 105-mile march in Holland, which had to be completed in four days.
The first year I tried it, I failed. I was pulled out by the medics because I had bad blisters. The following year I tried again. This time, my feet held out but I began getting bad nose bleeds, some continuing for up to half an hour.
When it came to the march I prayed. I said to God that if he got me through I would stop sinning and follow him. I was desperate to complete it so that the other cadets wouldn’t think I was a failure and I would be able to take my place among the élite. I also wanted to prove to myself that I was good enough to do it.
Well, I completed the march and got the medal. But I felt suddenly empty. All that I had achieved – the exhilaration of fulfilling my ambition – didn’t satisfy me. As for my prayer, I just forgot about it. But God didn’t.
A deep experience of God
Two weeks after I returned from Holland I went to a camp in Wales run by Christian Camps in Wales. My parents had booked it, so I went. The preacher on the camp was teaching from Peter’s first epistle and we also had studies in the evenings on Ephesians.
He taught about election, the doctrines of grace and God’s sovereignty. During the Sunday morning service on the second day on the camp I had a deep experience of God. I saw things clearly for the first time.
Everything made perfect sense – as it says in Ephesians 1:4, I had been chosen in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. That night, thinking about what I had heard, I knew that if I died in my sleep I would go to be with him.
I knew I was righteous in God’s sight, not through anything that I had done but through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I also knew that God himself had given me this faith – it was not my own but a gift from God.
I was spiritually dead before and now I was alive. I had a total change of attitude; I saw everything in a different light. I had peace with God, and death no longer had any hold on me. The rest of that week was pure joy.
Called to serve
When the camp was finished and I returned home, I started to read the Bible with a ‘hunger’ I had never had before. I saw it had been God’s perfect timing for me to be saved at 18, while I was young and just before I joined the forces.
I thought and prayed about what I should do with my life now that I was saved. In the following weeks and months, Matthew 28:19 kept coming up in preaching and in other meetings.
It says, ‘go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. I decided to apply to an overseas missionary organisation to do short-term missionary service in Brazil.
When I was accepted and found out more about it, I knew it was from the Lord and that it could be the beginning of a life dedicated to bringing the gospel to people who have never heard it before.
As I have prepared for the trip, gone about my daily life, read the Bible, prayed and listened to preaching, I feel I have grown in the Lord and closer to him. I pray that this will continue for the rest of my life, drawing nearer to God through Jesus Christ my Saviour.