I have vivid memories of being about eleven years old and standing in line with the rest of my school year to receive a Gideon’s New Testament and Psalms. We shuffled along under the watchful eye of our teacher and politely received that little red book. I was unaware of the power of the Scriptures that I held in my hand! When I got home, out of curiosity, I flicked through its pages and put it away on my book shelf; and there is stayed for the next six to seven years.
Youth and Searching
As I entered my teenage years, I became more and more dissatisfied with my life; I transformed from a quiet, thoughtful child into an arrogant and rebellious adolescent. My anger needed an outlet and I found it in Nazi ideology. I joined the Young National Front (how ironic, since many of my dearest friends are now people of colour!!) I became part of a teenage subculture, a Mod! I got into music, girls, clothes and eventually the drugs that went with that scene. As that scene began to fade, I started hanging out with a different crowd and started to grow my hair and expand my taste in music and drugs. My politics changed 180 degrees from far right, to far left. I joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and marched with hundreds of protesters on the Houses of Parliament…and yet still felt incredibly lonely. As I started college I was frequently drunk and rowdy. I continued to experiment with illegal drugs like Cannabis, LSD, amphetamine Sulphate, Cocaine and even abused household products; anything that would change my reality. Two years later, my two closest friends went to Amsterdam and tried Heroin for the first time. I had become involved in the Occult and started to practice the Wiccan form of witchcraft. I cast spells (some worked, some didn’t) but I felt empty inside. My curiosity in spiritual things also drew me into Eastern Mysticism, Transcendental Meditation and ISKCON (Hare Krishna movement.) One day I phoned an old college friend of mine, to see if she would like to go out for a drink. Her reply both surprised me and intrigued me. She said that she didn’t go to pubs anymore, but if I liked, I could come to her church that Sunday. Out of the depths of my confusion, misery and desperation, I heard myself say, “Yes!”
Encountering the Lord
As I sat in the hard pew and considered the words that were prayed, preached and sung – I became aware of the presence of God. It was as if everybody in the whole building disappeared and there was just me and the Lord! I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ that night and wept like a baby as “the burden of my heart was rolled away.” When I returned home, I lay on my bed and allowed the enormity of what had just happened to sink in. It was real! I knew it; I felt it in such a tangible way! I was so scared that if I went to sleep that night, I might wake up in the morning as the “old” Paul. Yet He had promised “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5) It was then that I remembered; wait a minute! I’ve got a Bible! After some routing around my book shelf I found the New Testament that I had been given at school. How I devoured that book! I read the whole of the New Testament in just over a day! It formed the framework of my Christian life and I have no doubt that God used it, even in those early days, to give me a hunger for the pure milk of the Word. The grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit have enabled me to teach and preach that Word to others and have set the course of my life and my subsequent call into the ministry. Thank you God for being so patient and gracious!