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  July 25, 2008

Over the years I have often been asked to tell why I started TTc. Recently, whilst learning how to design and publish our new web site (I hope you like it), I came across an old computer file with my original testimony. It had begun as a simple, “how are you? We’re fine” letter from me in Bangkok to my mother back home in Britain; but it had grown into a description of the incredible things that we had been experiencing as we began a new life with the Lord. At that time, my wife Khim, wisely suggested that I keep a copy. That letter, written seventeen years ago (that seems an awfully long time), contained a start on the story of how the Lord has built this incredible ministry.

Looking back now, I find I understand a bit more about what happened. I feel I should share my experience to encourage others, especially those who, like me, have a technically trained mind that makes us try to seek the Lord logically, rather than spiritually. Also, because I my simple testimony may help others understand that ‘despite themselves’ they too can be touched by the Holy Spirit. Here, then, is how I became a Christian and why Talent Trust was started.

Where to start in explaining to mom? It was going to take some time as I had never opened up these inner feelings to anyone before. Having an English upbringing is poor preparation for this sort of thing, but at least I had learned to organise my thoughts. Perhaps if I started where all good stories do, at the beginning, it would all make sense in the end. My mother had, after all, seen enough of my early life to understand me a little (perhaps better than me).

I had gone to Bangkok as the manager of an international investment brokerage. When Khim and the children (Naomi & Nathan) joined me, Khim met another Malaysian Chinese girl, also married to an Englishman. Their budding friendship led to us being invited for an evening buffet at one of the hotels. We didn’t really know what to expect for an international church group’s fellowship evening. Anyway, the evening went well and we enjoyed meeting lots of other expatriates from all over the world. There was nothing particularly religious about that evening except for ‘grace’ said before the meal, and a testimony shared by a Danish-Thai girl. She seemed very nice and straightforward, very honest, open and sincere. Her presentation was very interesting, especially as we’d never really thought about the way she saw Christianity. So, we decided to visit the church the following Sunday. Whilst in Britain, we had sent our children to a church school in Preston, and now saw an opportunity to allow them to learn more about Christianity, so they could make their own minds up about things when they were old enough.

Wow! That first Sunday was certainly an eye opener for us -- amazing, bewildering and perplexing! But everyone from New Zealander pastor, Gary Tobeck, to the visiting missionaries on holiday (rest and recovery is a more appropriate description) from India, China, and so forth was very welcoming. What surprised us was the way everyone was acting, in what we had assumed was going to be like an ordinary English church service. But here, people were waving hands in the air, dancing about, shouting ‘Praise the Lord’ every few moments, and engaging in many other emotional goings on. I understand now that this was quite calm compared to some churches, but at the time we did wonder what we had gotten into.

We didn’t know quite what to make of it, but we had enjoyed it …sort of. So, we decided to give it another go. The people had seemed very genuine and likeable. It was hard to express what we saw in them; they were somehow clean and bright. Therefore, we went about three or four more times before things really started to happen.

I had always thought there was a God, but until that particular Sunday I had only ‘hoped’ that it might be true. Rather like wishing for something to be true, so you had something to hold onto in the dark to keep those childhood fears away. Like a child wants the light leaving on when going to bed at night. Therefore, what happened that fourth Sunday really took me by surprise.

I was sitting at the back listening to our senior Thai pastor, Dr. Kriengsak, give his hour long sermon. Quite interesting, but mid-afternoon and on top of a big Sunday lunch ...not exactly the best of times for me to give him my full attention. So, there I was all unsuspecting, comfortable, and drifting a bit (to say the least). Then, the next thing I knew was ...everything went blank. I mean totally blank, still, and peaceful. No, I had not fallen asleep; quite the opposite as my mind was now wide awake and fully alert, but with no physical or emotional input. I was looking straight ahead, but could see a complete 180° to both sides without moving my eyes. Everywhere was very bright and golden. I am sorry I cannot explain it any better, however I have learned since that it was a form of anointing, which at the time felt quite odd, yet beautiful and very peaceful.

Was my first reaction close to disbelief? No, because immediately afterwards I didn’t know quite what to think as I was still soaking in the glow. It had not lasted more than a minute or so and I had towards the end been asking myself ‘why?’ Surely this could not be happening ...but it was, and to me too! For the next week or so, as I lived and drove about in that crazy city, I felt protected, almost indestructible, like nothing could dent my invisible shield. If it was not for what happened next, I would have concluded that I had, somehow, been drugged and was on some sort of wonderful ‘high’.

Then guess what happened? I did my spine in. I pulled it good-n-proper, far worse than the previous year in Preston when I had required 5 months, many doctors, and an 8-week course of traction & painkillers to return to near normal. I was bent nearly double every morning and it took an hour to get straightened out for the day. Other people even had to tie my shoelaces for me.

I endured the situation for about two weeks. Then a visiting American minister, Kevin McNaulty, and his wife, Lesley, gave a sermon in our church. At the end they invited anyone ill or in need of healing to come down front to receive prayer. Well, I am all for other people going out front, but for me to make a public spectacle of myself? I am British after all. Only this time it was different. I was in pain, real pain, and I just did not care. As long as it worked, I would have tried nearly anything.

So there I was up at the front. Yes, and feeling a fool for giving into the impulse. I had never heard of this before in church. Faith healing, yes, but in church? Well, what happened was not what I expected. I suppose I had wanted something quick, instant, and ‘crash bang over and done with’. No way! There was a slow warm feeling that I could hardly sense ...perhaps I may have even imagined it. Just a gentle trickle running down me. In fact, I was not absolutely positive that anything was actually happening. It sure was though, because I found it a little bit easier to get back to my seat, so I kept on telling myself it was much, much better and tried to believe it. Three days later I didn’t have to try ...I was healed. Yes, nothing, not even a little twinge. Thank you, dear Lord. Now the Lord had done it, all because he loved me and I had managed to exercise my tiny, new found atom of faith. "What next?" I wondered.

The Lord had certainly started to show me things. But, perhaps, because I had been taught to question things as an engineer, I was therefore inclined to explain away miracles with logic. It seemed I needed a third demonstration. Therefore, I thank the Lord for His infinite patience as I now have absolute proof. This time there was no other possible explanation. Sometimes we need to be hit over the head with a sledgehammer before we see the light. This time, I did an absolutely stupid thing. I had just washed our puppy, in the upstairs shower. It was not exactly the pup’s favourite event, so I was rather wet, when the telephone rang downstairs. I grabbed a towel and was carrying him downstairs when I slipped ...on wet feet. I skidded down about six steps, banging my back along the way until one of my legs went through the banister and stopped me going any further. I am talking about hard, solid, wooden stairs made from thick teak wood, with sharp edges. I thought I had broken something. Indeed I should have, but instead I had a whopper of a dent in my leg. My right leg, just above the knee had stopped all my downward momentum (200 pounds of fast moving me). The area was turning blue, black, red ...you name it. This was going to be one of those grey-green jobs that would last months. The blood under the surface had already spread out four or five inches, so I was wondering if I had perhaps broken something.

Anyway, I momentarily hung upside down, wondering how I could have been so stupid, whilst the dog was looking at me as if he really wanted another go at this charming new game. Naturally, the telephone had given up ringing. (We never did find out who rang us. I don’t suppose it is the sort of thing people like to admit to once they hear the story; even if it was not their fault.) Meanwhile, to put it euphemistically, the pain was beginning to make its presence known in no uncertain terms.

By the way, you should have heard what Khim had to say ...well, perhaps not. I think it was probably some new Chinese words I had not heard before. However, the final proof was about to happen. We had seen before, what prayers could do, so we decided to try it for ourselves. Nothing fancy, just a simple scream for help. Then over the next twenty minutes or so, we watched the Lord perform another miracle. He healed my leg. I mean everything! The pain, the black red blood, everything disappeared as we watched. What could I say to that? ‘Thank you dear Lord’ seemed very inadequate for how I felt.

After this experience, my advice to any new Christian is to be prepared for change. I hear it given often, but usually in the context of a person’s character. But, beware! It also applies to all aspects of one's life. I went to Bangkok as the manager of an international investment brokerage, but within three months of being baptised I found myself totally abandoned there with no job and little prospect of one back home either. That was the true start to learning to depend upon the Lord. It was not easy, nor very quick, but as I began to grow in faith and help others the way He had helped me, this little ministry also started to be recognised by more mission groups around the world. There’s still a long way to go, but I know I am on the right track and that all the success is due entirely to our Lord’s grace.

This was where my story finished (seventeen years ago), however, I now need to add a coda. About eighteen months ago, I had an MRI scan of my lower spine. Well, the result was rather surprising, because the doctor asked if I knew I had broken my back in the past. The scan showed a clear fracture line running across my lower vertebrae where I remember hitting the staircase in my fall. Yes, the Lord had done even more for me than I realised at the time. What a fantastic God we have. Who, indeed, can match His love and grace?

Blessings, Michael


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