You may or may not know, but I have been a Christian since the 30th January 1998. Yes, I can put a finger on the date on which I was saved, because I have been blessed with a most powerful testimony, of which I am convinced God intended for other people's benefit. I suppose with just words I could never really portray the true power of my testimony or how it has moved and changed me, but I'll have a go, starting off with a brief summary of my life.
I started out in life going to a Church of England church, and when old enough even went to Sunday school. My whole family went to church, although I never really understood why, we just always did. I guess you could have called us a church-going family as opposed to a Christian family. I must have missed the whole point of God and faith during those years, because I never had a clue who Jesus, the Father, or Holy Spirit were. Everything seemed like fairy tales, and all I remember is Moses being hidden in the reeds as a baby, and of course the scene set for nativity plays, the virgin birth. But I did not at the time think I was missing anything. Anyway, when I was about nine or ten we stopped going to church, largely because they moved Sunday school to half-way into the family service. That meant that for me to go to Sunday school we all had to go to the family service, and so we stopped going. That was the end of that. I also decided at that point that I did not believe in anything I had been told, and so became an atheist. Although early on in high school my friends and I had some reasonable discussions about life and the possible existence of God. I thought during one of these discussions that I was being too narrow-minded and became an agnostic, to be more 'open-minded'. However after that I got set in my ways, I became arrogant, and a firm scientist that believed in all the leading 'theories'.
This was how I was like for many years, all the way up through the rest of high school, through college, and finally reaching university. I was on the whole a well-behaved child, never got into any trouble really, did not drink or do drugs ever, or anything stupid like that. My parents were (and still are) brilliant and I love them. I may say they were strict in not letting me go drinking until the legal age of 18, but it many ways it was for the better as you will see. After my 18th birthday, since everyone else (and I do literally mean everyone) I knew was in to drinking, I started up, but I wasn't a regular really. Then I reached university, where as far as I could tell, it was a requirement of students to go out and get plastered every night, which I pretty much did. I began to fall into the stereotypical image of a drunken student.
To further explain the story, if you cannot tell I am a Computer Scientist, but none of my best friends from home are doing the same as me and are all at different universities. But we wanted an easy way of talking to each other, and someone suggested internet chat. So I checked out Yahoo chat, probably the most popular of all web based chatters. I went on, and of course I got hooked, but as it turned out, my friends never really got into it. I was only on about a week or so when I met a girl called Christine from Florida. We got chatting on this Yahoo thing, and began to spend more and more time together. Before I knew it I did something that I thought at the time was pretty sad, I fell in love over the internet, with this Christine, but at the same time she fell in love with me. Now as it turns out, she is a really strong Christian, but she was quite disappointed to find out that I was agnostic. With most people's testimonies you may hear of people saying that they felt that something was missing from their lives (that being God), but I did not feel that. I was one severely stubborn and arrogant individual. But Christine prayed for me that God would reveal Himself to me, and I can say He quite literally did.
It was a Saturday, 10 January 1998 to be precise. I had just got back to my room at Westwood Campus (remember this, because it is important for another later on) from Tescos. I was in my room, and all I can say in a sudden wealth of emotion, my whole faith changed, and from that point on I believed that there was a God. (It is rather hard explaining how God speaks to you, for He can do it in many ways, and is not always a bellowing audible voice. And no I have never done drugs and actually Christine had opened my eyes about drinking and where it was leading, so I had cut down drastically, long before this point) The only trouble was, stubborn as I was, I did not realise that it was the one and only God that had spoken to me. I tried to come up with all sorts of theories to get around admitting the truth. In the meantime, I spoke to Christine, and she recommended that I read Mere Christianity by C.S.Lewis. Now I was most definitely at this point convinced that I could not become a Christian, but since I had not been able to make progress in explaining what had happened to me, I gave it a read. The Thursday after that life-changing Saturday I just finished reading what C.S.Lewis had to say about God, and it suddenly dawned on me Who had spoken to me that Saturday. So I carried on reading the book, and I do not know if you have ever read it, but it basically covers everything fundamental to Christianity. When I had finished reading it I thought to myself "Hmm, I didn't disagree with anything in that book. Maybe Christianity is the way to go after all." Now I did not just dive straight in, being a scientist I took a methodical approach. I was very lucky for there to be several Christians in our hall, one or two of whom I knew. So I was talking with one of them one day, and the topic of faith conveniently came up, so I told him about my change in faith, and he was very welcoming about it. He invited me along to a presentation largely about Jesus, which cleared up quite a few misconceptions. After that I began going to a "Just Looking" group in our hall, which for those of you who do not know is basically a bible study aimed at those who are looking into Christianity. These groups further cleared up my misunderstanding I had for I had many. (Just to make a point here, looking back on everything I find it strange to see all these people mocking us Christians, when they have probably never picked up a bible in their life, or at least never read it for themselves.) I was given a little booklet in connection with a mission called 'Breakthrough', which was John's Gospel. And in the back of this booklet there was a prayer to pray if you wanted to be saved, and it goes like this:
Lord God, I'm sorry that I've been trying to live my life without you.
Thank you for sending Jesus for me, and others like me. I'm starting to understand that His death on the cross was for me, and believe He rose again and is alive today.
Lord God, please forgive me, and put your Spirit in me to teach me more about Jesus and to help me to love and serve you as my Lord and God.
I prayed this with earnest on a Thursday night (technically Friday as it was after midnight), which made it the 30th of January. After finishing the prayer, nothing amazing happened, but as I was lying in bed, it suddenly struck me that I had accepted Jesus into my heart, I HAD BEEN SAVED! All of my sins had been forgiven, and I was given a new life, I was born again. It took all of Friday to really sink in. So when I next saw one of my Christian friends I told him, and he was full of joy for me, and he took me to see all the other Christians in our hall and told them. They were all just so genuinely happy for me, it was then that I had realised what had been missing from my life. It took God's love showing through all of these people to show how much more satisfied they were.
Now most people would end their testimony there, but that is only half my story. I would also like to tell you how God has really helped me get started in my new life, not for my glory but for His. Firstly, when anyone is saved, their life WILL change, simply because they have been given a new one. Having read just a small part of the Bible a week later, it became very apparent to me that getting drunk was very wrong. Since I am such a lightweight just one pint could go straight to my head sometimes, and so I decided of my own accord to stop drinking altogether, there and then. With the help of the Lord I haven't drunk a drop of beer or whatever since.
Down here at the university (I'm a northerner) I was not too worried about which church to go to, because I already had many Christian friends, and immediately started going to the Christian Union. I started off going to a church popular with students called New Horizons. But I am a very quiet person and New Horizons is a very lively church. I liked it, but wanted to see if there was somewhere I liked even more. At this point the story returns to Christine in Florida. Her uncle is an elder at a church of Reverend Stuart Briscoe. He is quite well known, and has done a lot of travelling. Many, many years ago he spent a year working in England with a lady who is now Mrs Oliver, and the Oliver family live in Westwood (As in, the same area as my campus). Somehow the connection was made between the Olivers and me both living in Westwood, as Christine gave me their address out of the blue. It was a while before I got around to seeing them, and it was approaching Easter. So in the penultimate week before we went home for the Easter holidays I decided to go see the Olivers. I looked on a map, saw that we were only on opposite ends of a road call Charter Avenue, and I was amazed at how closely we lived (Although little did I know how long exactly Charter Avenue is). The day I set out to walk to their house, it was of course pouring down, but with a determined spirit I set out to see them. I kept walking along, getting wetter and wetter, wondering where on earth the Olivers' road was. I nearly turned back a few times until eventually I got to their house and knocked on their door. The Olivers were not expecting me, nor had they heard of me, so when they opened the door I told them of this very tenuous link, but they believed me and invited me in for coffee. We chatted and so on, and they invited me to their church, Canley Evangelical Church, which I had passed on my way walking to their house. So the last Sunday before Easter while at the university I went along to the church and found that I really liked it. It is a really welcoming and warm family church (It is now the church I regularly go to while here at university).
It doesn't stop there either. The one thing I was really scared of, was finding a church at home. The one I went to as a child had not seemingly reached me, so I did not fancy going there, plus only one of my friends back home was Christian, but she lives a fair way away from me. This was really concerning me, but as always God takes good care of His children. While at Canley church for the first time, one of the ladies, called Mrs. Avery at the church got hold of my home address I had just given to the Olivers. I live in a town called Stalybridge near Manchester, and Mrs. Avery had just been in Stalybridge the previous week as she was visiting her daughter who lives in Ashton-Under-Lyne, the town right next to Stalybridge. Her daughter is also a Christian, and so I was given her phone number to ring when I got home. I did that, and the next day the youth group leader of a local church in Ashton invited me to their church. Again I liked the church and the youth group also. So I now have a church and youth group back home also!
If you follow this link all the way back to its roots, you will see there is much more chance of me winning the jackpot on the lottery (And I don't play the lottery). No, this was no coincidence, it was God at work! I would just like to take this space to praise Him for all that He has done for me, and allowing me to share this amazing testimony with you, in the hope that it may strengthen your faith, or maybe convince you that God IS REAL! All of this is the truth as best to my knowledge and belief and did really happen.