When I moved to Dorset, little did I know my life would be changed. In fact I had only been living in Dorset for two weeks when the dramatic change took place.
I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and I attended church regularly until my middle teens. Roman Catholicism was all I knew and as much as I went to church each week I never really understood what it was all about. I attended catechism classes, eventually took my first Holy Communion and in later years was confirmed. But I have to say that I was never shown a Bible. I never saw a Bible in the Church. This was very sad.
My past life was not good. I did everything that I shouldn’t have done. When I got to my teens I went out every night, partying and dancing. I lived in a City so there was plenty of night life. I also used to drink a lot of alcohol. I loved partying; in fact I lived for parties. But they always came to an end. Then I had to wait for the next party. I didn’t have any concern for any wrong in my life and just lived for myself. If anyone did a wrong towards me then I would do a wrong to them.
I achieved quite a bit in my life. I was a good tennis player and won many tournaments. I played the Cello in an orchestra, and had the chance to travel abroad as a musician. I had a good job with good money. I spent a lot of money on clothes and clubs. But it didn’t matter what I had or did, none of these things brought me any lasting satisfaction. I found life a bit ‘hum drum’, boring unless I was drinking and partying. Although I didn’t go to church regularly, I always stuck up for the faith. If anyone said anything bad about the catholic religion, I would 100% defend the faith that I was in.
I eventually left the City and moved down to Dorset where I got married. Later I had three children who all attended the Convent School, my oldest served at the altar on many occasions. One day an Evangelist knocked on my door. He did not get much of a welcome. I was very rude to him. I told him I was a catholic and did not want him to talk about religion. My words were ‘I am a Catholic – don’t talk to me about religion’. The Evangelist was kind and said that he wouldn’t. He invited my children to a Mission that was being held during the holidays. I had just moved house and thought this would be a great help to me if my children could attend this mission and it was only a few yards away from my home. I took my children to the mission every day the following week. I avoided going into the hall, I wanted to keep well away from the organizers as I didn't want anybody talking to me about religion. When the week had finished the organizers took my children up to the local church for an end of mission service as I didn't want to attend. I made sure I kept well away.
The following week the evangelist knocked on my door again just to ask if my children enjoyed the mission. This time I felt more at ease with him. I asked him in and told him again not to talk to me about religion. Once again he didn’t. He left, but a few minutes later knocked on my door again and handed me a tape. I took it and thanked him as I didn’t feel threatened. I was quite happy to take the tape. Out of curiosity, I listened to this tape. It was a testimony of a converted Roman Catholic lady. I began to get quite interested in what she was saying. I heard something which I thought very relevant to me. She was saying ‘why did I confess my sins to a priest and not to God'. I suddenly realized that what she was saying made sense. She also spoke of boring sermons that didn’t mean anything to her, also rituals and candles. All sorts of things I had been brought up to believe and accept in the Catholic Church. I had never questioned this or even thought about it before. She was right -‘why did I confess my sins to a Priest?’ He is only a mere man! Every Saturday afternoon I would go to church and confess my sins to a priest, and then I would do penance after. For the first time I started to question the faith which I was in. I had never questioned anything before. I was brought up as a catholic and accepted everything that was taught. Suddenly my mind was beginning to change. I realized I had been misguided into accepting a lot of things which I now felt I had to question. I suddenly felt insecure in the faith that I had been in for 39 years. I carried on listening to this testimony as I got more interested. It all started to make sense. I had to phone this evangelist up again. I felt unsure about the Catholic Church. I felt I belonged to a church that wasn’t centered on God.
The Evangelist came along to see me again, but didn’t say anything. He just handed me another tape and went on. This time I was more enthusiastic to listen to the tape, and I put it on straight away. It was the Gospel message and it made real sense to me. The sermon was based on the Bible. I could understand every word. Every word that was said and every hymn that was sung meant something to me. Suddenly, while I was listening to the tape an amazing thing happened to me – God suddenly revealed Himself to me and convicted me of all my sins. All my past was put in front of me and I became very much aware of the sins in my life which I had never noticed before. I realized how bad a sinner I was. I saw Hell and that was where I was heading. Hell never worried me before. But suddenly it became real to me. I didn’t want to go to Hell. I suddenly knew how real God was. One minute I was in the dark, the next minute I was in the light. I had crossed over from death to life. It was like I had been lifted out of the pit of hell. It was amazing and so real. I felt so close to God, like he was a real person in front of me. I knew that God was alive and truly living because He was living in me. I knew what sin was for the first time and I knew it offended God. For the first time I was experiencing what it was like to know the real living God. It was then that I suddenly came to a realization that the priest had never forgiven me my sins. I was so upset that I had been misled for 39 years. I used to believe everything the priest said. I had well and truly been stumbled. But thanks to God, the truth was revealed to me and it was not too late to get myself right with God.
I always thought I was going to Heaven. My mother taught me that as long as I believed in God I would go to Heaven. I have always believed in God, but I know now that just believing God exists does not get you to Heaven. You need to believe from the heart and really want to get to know God. You need to have a personal relationship with God. I was suddenly experiencing this. God had come into my life, made me aware of my sins and made me realize my need of Him. My life was changing for the better. It was as if a miracle had taken place. For the first time God was real to me. There was no mistake, God came down and revealed the truth to me. This did not happen in the church, it happened in my kitchen at home.
I never liked going to church, probably because I was forced to go at an early age. I had passed my first holy communion and was later confirmed. But none of this meant anything to me. I found the Roman Catholic service very hard to follow and I was now beginning to realize why. There was too many distractions and too much side-tracking taking you away from the Gospel. No wonder I never got to know God. But suddenly I longed to know the truth. I had a sudden urge to read the Bible. I had never read anything from the Bible before. I wanted to know more about God.
I thank God with all my heart for ‘saving’ me. I was privileged; I didn’t deserve to be saved. I haven’t done anything in my past that would be pleasing to God. But God came to me, forgave me and changed my life. I handed my life over to God as I knew He could run my life a lot better than I could. Since then, my life has been turned upside down. I am no longer the person I used to be. God has given me the power to do things I could never do before. I have inner peace and contentment knowing that I have eternal life. I know for sure that I have been forgiven, something which I was not certain about as a catholic. I have the assurance that when I die I have eternal life. I have a lot of love for people. The greatest change is that I have Christ Living in me where before I was alienated from Him. What a difference. When I was a catholic I was alienated from God, following a set of rules and traditions. No wonder I never got to know God personally. You have to trust God alone for salvation. A man cannot and will not save you. Only God can bring about a change in peoples lives. No one could ever get close to God without the teaching of the Bible. It is through going to Bible believing churches that I have come closer to God and grown spiritually.
But I often ask myself, why me? What about all the unsaved people out there? What is going to happen to them? Why can’t they see the truth? Why don’t they acknowledge Jesus Christ? And why don’t they realize Jesus Christ died on the Cross to save them from their sins? I don’t think many people know what the Cross means to us today. I know I never used to.
Thanks be to God for making me see the light and thanks be to God for his gift of eternal life. Knowing God in a personal way is truly the best thing that has ever happened to me.