As I already mentioned (was it here or facebook?), last Sunday 17th October was the 15 year anniversary of my conversion. Let me tell you a story....
Faith, God, church was never really a part of our upbringing and to be fair it wasn't really a part of my parents upbringing either. My mum and dad divorced when I was a baby, mum re-married and in honesty things were less than easy. By the time I'd turned 14 I was all over the place - a natural thing at that age. I'd always been a fairly mature lad given some life circumstances and so there were a lot of things going on in my mind at that time. Lots and lots of crys for help to be honest, overdosing on medication and things that I'm not proud of but that encapsulated both my need for loving attention and, frankly, the need to escape a few things.
There was one constant in my life all the way through that time, namely, music. I played brass at school and music was something that gave me a real sense of fulfilment but it still wasn't enough. But more than music, was the bloke who taught me, Brian. He was a constant source of encouragement and fatherly support and to this day, in spite of me telling him more than once, I'm not sure he realises the impact he had on my life.
Yet, more was to come from that relationship. I discovered that Brian was a Salvationist. I put two and two together and decided to explore. Not really putting God into the equation at all very much, but singly determined to be like Brian, I sought out the Salvation Army. Round about the same time, there was a spiritual search going on. A little red Gideon's bible I'd been given at school was impacting my life. I read the gospels several times over what was around 3rd year at secondary school and started to try and live it. No one had taught me that, it was just something I was trying to do.
My mum got wind of me attending the Army and really wasn't keen...more than actively discouraged me actually. This stuff was just alien to our family altogether. Anyway, it got to the stage where I had to steal the bus fare in order to go. Mother would find out, and ban me from going again. One evening during the summer of 1995, I met Linda outside a pub in the community I grew up in. She gave me a War Cry which had the time of the meetings on the back of the group which was nearer to my home than the one I'd been trying to get to.
Eventually, I get myself along to The Salvation Army in Irvine. I received there a welcome that I'd never experienced anywhere else and people who make me feel at home from day one. This is where Billy came into my life. Billy was another Brian, just an unending encourager and support. In a very short period of time, I came to hear the gospel.
That evening on the 17th October, at about 6.50pm, the Major had just finished his sermon. I couldn't for the life of me tell you what it was about, but I had a tremendous sense of 'gravity' pulling me to respond to what was going on. At the front of Salvation Army halls is a bench called 'The Mercy Seat' - basically a place of prayer. At the end of the sermon, the invitation was given to respond, to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour and I stepped forward and knelt.
At that moment, without a huge sense of drama, I knelt and Billy explained the gospel again and led me into a relationship through repentence (turning away from what I knew was wrong) and faith, believing that the death of Jesus was there to remove my sin and restore me to wholeness. I surrendered completely that evening. I just poured out my heart.
That evening, when I went home, I was just laying on my bed. There was a few things going through my mind. Firstly, what did this mean for my life? and secondly, how was I going to tell my mother!? As I lay on my bed, God completed the whole transaction. I began to become aware of tingling from head to toe. I could hear audible music which continued for some time. I had an overwhelming experience of acceptance, love alongside the physical sensation of the tingling and music. I now know that to have been the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
God proved to me in a very real way, that he was there and meant business. My experience of God has always been a supernatural one, and from that day 15 years ago he has been faithful and ever-present. At that moment, I knew that he had called me to devote my whole life to him. He ignited in my very soon a passion for his word, for sharing Jesus with everyone. Incidentally, he also began to birth in me an apostolic gifting. I had a passion to see ground broken for the gospel and I've grown in that calling over the years.
God continues to call and use me, for which I am incredibly greatful. I've been on some massive adventures, and in spite of rough times, there is no other place I'd be than in the centre of God's will living for Jesus. I invite you to do the same.