I’ve heard many great tales of Christian heroes that begin with someone experiencing an amazing encounter with God or some deep spiritual revelation or a huge life-changing event …
Well, my story doesn’t.
All these things may have happened somehow along the way, but my story began in a leafy green suburb of comfortable Adelaide, motionless on my couch.
And there it stayed for years.
I was not on the move. In fact, my life had come to a veritable halt as I remained on that couch, planted as firmly as the trees outside my window. While they were watered by the rain, I was watered by my own tears of fear and frustration.
“Why?” I asked God, as I studied the ceiling and waited on yet another panic attack.
But God was moving.
If there was a rock bottom, I’d reached it. When I could no longer stay alone, my gracious sister dragged me along to an English class at the local community centre. There people from many cultures gathered to learn and make friends.
And God was moving.
I didn’t want to be alone anymore. I was so lonely I was ready to befriend anything that moved.
God was moving too.
I began to realize the students needed friends as much as I did, and I started to visit them in their homes. I was always welcome. And I learned a lot as we sat and talked and drank tea and ate homemade bread.
Many of my new friends had stories from staying in the detention centre. I’d heard of other people visiting there, but I was never going into one of those places. Not if I had to be locked up with the inmates and be supervised by guards.
But God was moving in me.
This must be why I somehow agreed to visit an Iranian asylum seeker in that big modern building in Adelaide. When the door had opened and closed behind me, I realised I was in the detention centre that I feared. Not that I had much time to worry about it – I was introduced to an Iranian man who requested prayer and to come to a bible study, so I was busy organising this with my minister. He was the first of many.
I went back again and again. One Iranian man had a vision which he feared greatly, of a man in white, so he spent the next day watching violent movies to force the vision from his mind. Though the man was trying to avoid Jesus, Jesus came again to him the following night. The man spoke secretly to me of what he saw in the vision and I showed him the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8 in an Iranian bible. Immediately the man realized it was Jesus whom he saw and he became a Jesus-follower.
What is amazing is that this story is not unusual. God was moving in these peoples’ lives. We saw many inmates come to the Lord. They came to us too, brought by bus with the guards to our church. Some of them had seen a man in white, others saw a great light, and all I had to do was follow God blindly, and work alongside the wonderful work that God was doing in people’s hearts.
Many of the people we spent time with followed Jesus in baptism, and still today some of them live in my neighbourhood. I try to be wherever God needs me to help my friends. Whether they know my God or not, I pray that they see His love in me, whether I’m helping them with practical things, chatting to them on the phone, or sharing our homes with them like family.
I don’t have much time to lie on my couch like I used to.
At one time I wondered if God had forgotten me but I was wrong. It was while I was on that couch that God was moving, preparing me for working alongside him in this new, exciting ministry that he had planned and I would never had dreamed of.
He’s still moving now. I wonder what will be next?!
This is the story of a CultureConnect worker based in Adelaide, told by a returned Interserve Partner who served in the Arab world.