Christianity, Faith, Forgiveness, Hope

When you lose the most precious thing in the world.

In February 1988, our lives as a family were going well. We had three beautiful children and I was moving up the ladder in my career with a retail chain.  

Our three children, Natalie, Jamie and Richard
 I have always been an early bird and my morning routine before leaving for work, was to check on our youngest son Jamie, who was 13 months old. On the morning of February 9, I left for work but for some reason that day, I did not check on him. I arrived at work and just after 9am, I received an urgent phone call from a neighbour who said, ‘something has happened to Jamie, you need to come home’.

The details were not clear at that point, so I jumped into the car and drove home, like I have never driven before. As I was racing along, the word ‘death’ kept coming into my head and I screamed out to the Lord, ‘No, Lord…no, this CANNOT be true’. 

As I arrived at home, the front door was open, the paramedics were working on Jamie and I could hear the desperate cries of my wife. I still did not know what was going on, but I learned that our son Richard who was 10, had found his brother unresponsive in his bed. The paramedics took Jamie to hospital, blue lights and sirens blazing and my wife and I followed behind in the car. When we arrived at Casualty, we were met by the doctor and were not allowed to see Jamie while they worked on him. Eventually a doctor came out and we could see by the look on his face, that it was not good news. Our beautiful son had died at 13 months old, from sudden infant death syndrome. 

We were numb, confused, angry and had many questions. Jamie had been for a routine check-up just a few weeks earlier and was fine. Had we done something wrong? Could this have been stopped? It felt as though we were trapped in a nightmare and we struggled to understand.

The hospital staff eventually told us that Jamie’s body was in the Chapel of Rest and asked if we wanted to see him. My wife did not feel able to go, so I went to spend some time there on my own. As I stood there, my heart cried and ached and I said, ‘God, I KNOW you can do this, I know you can bring him back’. As I prayed, I suddenly felt a strange tap on my shoulder. I immediately looked around but no one was there. This happened 3 times and each time, there was no one behind me, but then very clearly I felt God speak into my spirit. I cannot say for sure if it was an audible voice, but I know God spoke: 

‘He will not come back to you, but you will go to him one day.’

I learned years later, that these were words spoken by King David in 2 Samuel 12:23, after he lost his own infant son. Although I did not recognise at the time where the words came from, I knew God was saying there was nothing more we could do. He had taken Jamie home. In one sense, it released me from the burden of praying for God to restore Jamie to us, but that did not stop us from feeling the desperate agony of grief.  

Jamie

In the days ahead, although our lives were shattered, we tried to keep things as normal as we could for our children, Richard and Natalie. Our church family gathered around us and our pastor, John Mosey was a wonderful friend, supporting us through the many practical arrangements we had to make. Little did we know that John would face his own terrible family tragedy toward the end of the year, but I will talk more about that in another blog post. The church’s support was incredible but we still had so many questions. I felt God speak to me clearly one day; Stop asking me why. Ask me what I am going to do through it. 

Two weeks later, I had been due to speak at our church. Our pastor said I did not have to do it, but I was able to share a short word on Romans 8:31: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us’. I asked our church family to pray for us and I also encouraged them to be as normal as they could with us. We didn’t want people to stay away or think that we did not want to see their children or their babies. We knew this would be an important part of rebuilding our lives.

Throughout all that time, I can say that I felt God was lifting me. I had to grieve but I also had the responsibility of caring for my wife and children too. My mother gave me a copy of the famous Footprints poem  and I knew that despite our shock and grief, God was carrying us through the darkest time of our lives. 

Today as a family we live and enjoy a good life. It is a different life which will always be scarred by losing Jamie, but we are not broken. We have been through many stages of grief and up until recently, I was struggling with many private emotions. In a future blog post, I will share more on this and how I feel God has set me free from the burden of guilt which I carried for many years.   

If you are facing your own tragedy today, then if you are a believer, you can know that God is with you and will carry you through it. As believers, we are not protected from pain and we should not con ourselves and think we can go through this life without heartache. But God can hold us together powerfully through the most terrible times of our lives and give us strength to keep going.    

After a terrible loss, your life may never be the same again, but with God, it can still be a good life. He is the reason for our hope and we know that one day we will see Jamie again.  

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Evangelism, Faith, Forgiveness, Hope, Miracles

God is the God of the impossible

Early one Friday morning over five years ago, our Company Secretary came to see me. ‘David, we have a problem,’ he said.  ‘Our cashflow is bad. We need half a million pounds’.

When you are responsible for a large organisation, this is never good news to hear. Coming from a commercial background, I knew it was quite common to operate a business out of an overdraft, but I did not feel this was the answer for UCB.  I did not know what the solution was, but firstly,  I knew that we needed to pray.

When facing unexpected news, it is easy to get caught up in meetings and discussions but at that moment I wanted to be alone so that I could ask God for His answer.  I took out my Bible and felt God prompt me to read Jeremiah 17.  My eyes fell initially to Jeremiah 17:7-8.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit’.

As I read this, I felt encouraged especially that we were to ‘have no worries in a year of drought’, but in my heart, I still didn’t feel fully peaceful.   I felt God prompt me to read Jeremiah 17 again, but this time I needed to read the whole chapter.  I have to admit that verses  4 to 6 shocked me – they were curses about goods being plundered and lives being destroyed!

I remember I prayed,  ‘God, ‘I do not understand. First you gave us a promise and a blessing and now I am reading about a curse?  What are you saying to us?

However, as I read it again, Jeremiah 17, verse 6 suddenly came alive to me;

This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

I felt this was our answer!  I knew I had a decision to make.  Where should we take our strength from?  Should we rely on an overdraft which came from ‘mere flesh’ or could we find the courage to trust God, believe His promise and see what He would do?

I gathered all the UCB staff together for a time of prayer.  I remember we stood in a circle in our Hanchurch building, all holding hands and we prayed and asked God for a miracle.  I told the team that I believed God wanted us to trust Him.   I later wrote to our Board of Trustees and asked if they would support us in this decision, and they all agreed.Those were difficult months but we believed God had given us a clear promise from His Word – His divine instruction manual.

That was at Easter time and we had to wait until nearly October before we began to see the financial breakthrough in our circumstances.  However, we did not ever need to use that overdraft and we give God all the glory for seeing UCB through a very difficult time.

There have been many other challenging times since then, but prayer remains an essential everyday part of what we do.  I do not believe we can function properly as a ministry unless we purposefully choose to spend time in God’s presence.  It’s in His presence that (combined with His Word) we can find answers to the problems that we all face.   In God’s presence, we are able to talk openly and honestly with our Father.  We can tell Him our problems, our fears and frustrations.   It’s in that place that we can truly find our peace.

We continue to believe that God is the God of the impossible and He will never let us down.

David-Blog10

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Faith, Forgiveness, Healing, Hope, Miracles, Spiritual healing

When trouble comes, will you stay the course?

I am very pleased to hand the blog over to my friend Bruno Kondabéka this week. Bruno and his wife Joanne are great friends of our family and are also the pastors of Chichester Family Church.

Some years ago, their son (who was then 7 years old) was struck by a terrible illness, but God did something remarkable.

It’s an incredible story of God’s power at work.  Bruno will share what happened next.

Bruno writes…

My wife Joanne and I have three boys and as pastors of a church in Chichester, our lives are often busy.   About two years ago, I was preaching a sermon series on the issue of suffering.  I remember asking our church, when trouble comes, will you stay the course?  We didn’t know then, that soon ‘trouble’ would visit our home and put our family to the test.

It began without any warning, when one day our youngest son Samuel started to feel unwell.   He had a slight fever but didn’t seem too ill, so we gave him Calpol and he stayed home from school for a few days to recover.

Five days later Samuel started to get visibly worse, his temperature went up and he was complaining his head and neck were hurting, so we rang NHS Direct who advised we take him to the emergency Doctor.  On Sunday the hospital checked him over but they felt satisfied that it was probably a virus and in time it would pass.   However, by the middle of the week, Samuel was still not any better, so we took him to our GP and that’s when things became very worrying.   Samuel was very agitated that day, which was not like his usual cooperative self, and he seemed to be in pain and was very confused.  The GP rang the paediatric unit at the hospital and the Consultant suggested we take him straight there.

We were greeted at the hospital by the Consultant and his team, and we started to realise that this was maybe very serious indeed.  Again Samuel was very agitated and confused and had become light sensitive, so he was sedated in order to calm him down so he could be examined and given a CT scan.

After the scan, our son’s condition deteriorated rapidly. He was finding it hard to wake up, his heart beat was erratic and he was not responsive to anything we said to him. The results of his CT scan were passed onto the specialists in Southampton Hospital and because they were concerned with what they saw, they arranged for Samuel to be transferred by ambulance to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit in Southampton. To stabilise him he was put in a drug induced coma and he was quickly taken to Intensive Care.

Samuel

After further tests, we were told Samuel had Meningoencephalitis – a very rare and potentially deadly infection on the brain, caused by mycoplasma, a cross between a virus and bacteria, which causes the brain to swell. As parents, our hearts were broken and the tears flowed as we watched what was happening to our little boy, but we did what we could to hold on to God and to trust Him to take us through this.

I remembered that just a short time previously, I had asked our church family if they were able to ‘stay the course’ when suffering came and now we were facing that exact situation ourselves. We felt all the emotions you could expect – we wept and we worried, but we were also encouraged by remembering words spoken over Samuel’s life when he was dedicated as a baby, by our friend Pastor Brian Downward from Bournemouth.   The words at that time were that God had a purpose for his life and it was a good purpose.  He was to be a man of God.

I was also aware that our friends in Angers, France, were holding a week of mission at their church that week.  I lived in France for some years and the church there had helped to sponsor me in my theology studies in South Africa.  I had a phone call from David L’Herroux who told us that the church wanted to pray for Samuel.   David felt it was important that the church prayed together during one of their services and so that night at 8.30pm at the hospital in Southampton, we connected by phone with the church in France (as David paused in the middle of his preach). We laid hands on Samuel as David prayed, and then because we were in the ICU and couldn’t make too much noise, I went outside the ward and continued to pray (with my arm outstretched toward my son’s bed) while the church prayed that God would heal Samuel.   That day had been particularly hard as we watched the nurses struggling to get Samuel to wake up out of the coma and they were not succeeding.   So, we were encouraged by this prayer and support and it gave us courage to believe for a miracle.

I walked back to the ward and we continued to sit beside Samuel’s bed and literally just 30 minutes later, we had the biggest surprise of our lives when Samuel just opened his eyes. He had been unconscious for 3 days.   The nurses rushed to see him and confirmed he was conscious – they removed his breathing tube and from that moment, he started to make a full recovery.

Samuel2

The next day he was moved from the ICU and 14 days later, he was discharged from the hospital.  The neurosurgeon who had worked with Samuel took us to one side and said that although she was amazed at his recovery, we should also expect the worst, as there could be long term damage.

But just over two weeks later, Samuel was back at school part-time, and the following week, he went back to school full time.  He will soon be celebrating his tenth birthday and has suffered no ill effects whatsoever.

Samuel3

We thank God every day for the amazing miracle he gave us for our son.

Family

David concludes…

Bruno’s story is a wonderful reminder to us that God is very much at work in the world around us.  At UCB, I encourage the team to keep being expectant and believing for the impossible. We live in a world which is bound by fear but I believe God wants to set us free in every area of our lives.   I trust Bruno’s story has encouraged you to believe for more.  We serve a mighty God!

 

David-Blog9

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Evangelism, Faith, Forgiveness, Healing, Hope, Miracles, Spiritual healing

Faith is like a muscle – it has to be exercised.

Last week, I shared some stories of the incredible miracles which have been happening at my brother’s church in France.   We felt that God started to move in the church about two years ago during our first missions week. A lady came asking for prayer for pain in her hips, which was caused by deformed bones.  She was completely healed and this opened up a door for God to do more.

Over the last two years we have heard many more incredible testimonies;  a man healed of complete deafness, a woman healed of paralysis in her leg, another lady who had severe pain and even discharged herself from hospital for an hour to come to the service. She was completely set free and later declared free of disease.   Others have been restored from tumours, depression, restless leg syndrome, chronic insomnia and addictions.   There are so many stories I could share and in the future, I hope that some of these people will write guest blogs and tell you their stories themselves.  There is so much to thank God for!

I have been asked a question which is close to many people’s hearts – why are some people healed and others not?  I do not have all the answers but I can share from my own experience what I believe is true.  I wrote last week about the need for expectancy and how we should approach God believing that He will do something.

To give you an illustration; if one of us was sick, we would go to the doctors for a check-up. Often, we will not know the doctor, but we will take their advice and when they give us a prescription for medication, we will then take that to a chemist.  At every stage, we usually trust the doctor we do not know, we trust the chemist we do not know, and we trust the pills, even when we do not understand how they work.   But when it comes to trusting God, we often struggle and we question if He is capable of giving us what we ask.   We have no trouble believing that He could die for us, save us and give us eternal life, but we do struggle to believe that He could do the miraculous.

I believe that faith is a muscle and just like any other muscle in our bodies, if we do not use it, it will eventually become  weak and useless.  As believers, we are children of God’s kingdom and just like being a citizen of the United Kingdom, we have certain citizenship rights.  If something was wrong in our country, we would have the right to take a petition to 10 Downing Street and in the same way, we can take our petitions to God.

As citizens of God’s kingdom, we have a constitution (God’s Word) and we can stand on that and petition God to do what no one else can do. Just as with politics,  we don’t always see answers right away, but we should keep standing on God’s word, believing His promises and asking Him to bring about a miracle.  God’s Word is the instruction manual for life.   If you or I bought a new mobile phone, we would go home and start reading the instructions, to make sure that we got the best use from the phone.  If we pay that much care and attention to our phones, how much more attention should we give to our lives. God’s Word is the instruction manual – without understanding it, our lives do not work properly.

Now it is true to say that not everyone does get healed but I believe that God is sovereign and we are not here to dictate to him, how He should do things, but just be obedient to His Word.  However, I have also seen great things happen when a person didn’t get healed.

Last year, a lady came to a meeting during the mission in France. That very day she gave her life to Christ and asked us to pray she would be healed from terminal cancer.   We prayed for her but sadly just five days later she died.   When the church went to visit her family (they were not Christians), her husband said that in the days before she passed away, he had never seen his wife so happy and peaceful since he had known her.

He said;  She spent her final days praising her Jesus and she left this world in total peace, knowing that she would soon see him face to face.   So although she did not see physical healing in this life, she was healed when she stood before Jesus and was given a new body, free of disease.   There is no sickness or ill-health or cancer in Heaven.  Praise God!

If you are trusting God to heal or set you free, can I encourage you to persevere?  Stand on His word, trust Him and practice exercising your faith muscle.  Whatever happens, you can be sure of one thing, your life will be changed for the better.  I have never met a person who wasn’t changed by spending time with God.  Follow God’s instructions and wait to see what He can do in your life.

David-Blog7

 

 

 

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Forgiveness

Finding hope in the middle of terror

Last November I was at home in France, in the middle of an exciting week of mission and evangelism at my brother’s church.    We were being blessed with God’s manifest presence and seeing many people commit their lives to Christ and be healed and set free.   As we rejoiced in God’s goodness, the news hit our TV screens of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris.   We had been celebrating what God was doing through the mission, but now our hearts were broken for all the families who had lost a husband, a wife, a parent, a son, a daughter.   Whole communities were left devastated, confused, numb and torn apart by grief.

The Sunday following the attacks, it was the last day of our mission and my brother Daniel stood before his church, which was packed with people who were shocked and devastated at the events of the week.   It is difficult to know what to say in the face of such a terrible situation, but my brother began to read from Psalm 37;

Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong (v 1&2)

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.  (v 7)

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him. (v 39 & 40)

I have been thinking back to that moment this week, after seeing the news of the horrific attacks in Brussels (and the many acts of terror we see around the world).   As believers, these cruel and violent acts can seem so overwhelming and sometimes we can feel unsure of what to say or even how to pray. I believe that God’s Word shows us how to pray in these circumstances.

Firstly, let’s consider people.  Let’s pray for those who are fighting for their lives.  Let’s pray for the families and those who have lost someone they loved.  Let’s also pray for those who witnessed the attack and for the local residents who have to come to terms with this enormous tragedy.  Let’s pray also for the medical centres who are working with the injured.

Secondly, we need to pray for wisdom for Governments as they discuss and debate what happens next.  Proverbs 14: 12 says, there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.   We should pray for wisdom for world leaders, that they choose ways and responses which are inspired by God and not necessarily their own intuition.

Thirdly, what I am about to say may seem unthinkable, but we should also pray for those who plan and plot such evil acts.    We can pray for God to change their hearts.  Just as He did for Saul of Tarsus, God can change the hearts of these terrorist groups and their leaders.

Is it possible to have hope, in the face of such unthinkable terror and hopelessness?  It is easy to feel as though the world is an increasingly dangerous and unstable place and if we look at the darkness around us,  we can easily lose hope.

But we need to continue going to God’s Word for our answers.  His Word (John 1:5) says that the darkness in the world will get darker, but that darkness will never extinguish light. In fact, that light (His light) will continue to shine brighter and the darkness CANNOT overcome it. That is where I get my hope.

Let’s pray with passion for our world and all those who are suffering and grieving today.   And may God’s light, his in-extinguishable light shine ever brighter in the middle of the darkness we see.

  
 

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Easter, Forgiveness

What Easter means to me.

I was blessed to grow up in a Christian family. My father was a minister and Easter was always a very important time for us. A lot of the local churches (in my home town in France) would get together to hold special meetings.  We had speakers and worship and it was an exciting time for the churches to work together on evangelism.   I have great memories of those days!

Today, Easter is just as special for my family and I.   It is a reason to celebrate the gift of life that Jesus has given us, through His death.

The team at UCB know that I like to use acronyms and a few years ago I shared the below with friends and supporters of UCB.

E.A.S.T.E.R.

ETERNAL– (John 3:16) – Through the gift of His son Jesus, God the Father offers the gift of ETERNAL LIFE to all those believe in Him.

ACCEPTED – (Ephesians 1:6) – We are ACCEPTED in Jesus Christ.

SAVED – (Ephesians 2:8) – Anyone can be SAVED if they believe – because of God’s Grace and God’s unmerited favour.

TRANSFORMATION – Only real and lasting transformation takes place in Jesus Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:17) – “If we are in Christ … we are a new creation …. old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”

ENDURES – (Psalm 100:5) God’s love ENDURES forever.

RISEN– (Luke 24:34) Meaning He is alive today and we have access to a living and true God.

Here is a link to one of my favourite worship songs, ‘Forever’ by Kari Jobe.  It is a tremendous and powerful song that describes the fullness of the Easter message.

Let’s never forget that, ‘Forever He is glorified, forever He is lifted high, forever He is risen, He is alive, He is alive!’  It reminds us that we are worshipping a true and living God.

I learned as a young man, that the Gospel has the power to transform every life, even the most broken and at UCB, we often receive letters and emails from people who have experienced it for themselves.    Sid O’ Neil discovered God’s love after a terrible accident which left him with serious injuries.  He experienced the power of the resurrection, which changed his life.  Thank God for His sacrifice and for restoring countless lives.

Can I encourage you this week, to take time to consider what the resurrection means to you?  Why not tell your story to someone who hasn’t heard it before?