Signs of the Times


I was born and grew up in Durban, South Africa.

I had a wonderful childhood. My parents, although they were unsaved, and hardly saw the inside of a church, lived good lives and were always in unity and at peace with one another. They had common interests and did things together. The only dissention in the house was caused by altercations between me and my younger brother, Keith. I was a nasty piece of work, niggling Keith until he lost his temper. Mom was the one who administered the discipline by means of a leather belt, which she wielded to good effect. Hot English mustard smeared liberally on our tongues was the cure for swearing and foul language. We lived on a small holding of 3Ĺ acres at Bellair, a western suburb of Durban. Although Mom and Dad did not go to church they encouraged us to attend Sunday School and I remember that as a young child I would kneel at Momís bedside and say the Lordís prayer before going to sleep. As we grew older these things fell away and we drifted off into a totally secular existence.

However two things remained embedded in my memory. One was the engraving on the stained glass window at the entrance to the Bellair Congregational church"Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness" Ps.96:9. The other was the refrain from the Boys Brigade theme hymn:

"We have an anchor which keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviourís love"

At the age of fifteen, I contracted Polio and was dispatched to the Wentworth Isolation Hospital where I spent a terrible time in the most excruciating pain, wondering why all the other young patients in the glass cubicles on either side of me had their legs up in traction with weights dangling over pulleys at the end of their beds. One thing I knew was that if I wanted to get out of this situation I had better start saying my prayers. So I prayed night and day, sweat pouring off me as I writhed in pain and then a miracle happened. Within 3 weeks I was discharged from hospital completely cured. The relief was indescribable but neither did I, nor my family, turn our hearts to the Lord to serve and thank him. And so we continued our secular existence.

At university, I studied for a degree in Electrical Engineering while Keith took the B. Com route. It was at the end of my first year of study that circumstances changed my life. Due to over study, lack of sleep, exam stress and general burn-out, I experienced a severe nervous breakdown. I had all the symptomatic panic attacks (I called them fear attacks), insomnia, depression, lack of concentration, loss of appetite and general loss of the desire to go on living. It was terrible; a mental hell. In those days Medical knowledge of nervous breakdowns was not what it is today and the doctors were really baffled as to what to do with me. They tried all the treatment available but nothing helped. I did not close an eyelid or get a secondís sleep for a whole month. Sleeping pills had no effect. My eyes were burning in their sockets from lack of sleep; I was like a zombie. My parents were at their wits end and decided to take me away on a camping holiday hoping that a change of environment would help. One evening as Mom was in the dining room sewing some canvass for the tent, I was sitting opposite her for company when I made a heart rending confession. I said, "Mom, I am finished, I am no longer the son you know as Gordon, I am totally crushed". At that moment I felt an invisible presence in the room. I knew someone was there, it was as if someone was putting a warm blanket around my shoulders. I looked behind me but there was nobody there. I thought I was going totally out of my mind and imagining things but the sense was so real that I got up and went to the kitchen door, opened it and instinctively cried out in my anguish "Oh God, if it is you, please heal me" I was on track, it was God alright, for at that very moment I felt something like an electric shock going through me from my head to the souls of my feet. It was powerful and I felt all the anxiety draining from me through the soles of my feet. A peace and sense of relief accompanied by joy and happiness, which I had never experienced before flooded my soul. Some call it an anointing; to me it was deliverance - a joy unspeakable and full of glory. Pen and paper cannot describe it. As I walked I could not feel my feet touch the ground Ė I felt I was floating through the house. Wow, what an experience! That night I drifted off to sleep for the first time in 30 days and slept soundly. This was as glorious as it was real. I took all the bottles of medicine and pills from my bedside table and threw them into the trash bin.

Over the next few weeks the question in my mind was "who is this wonderful God who had healed me instantaneously and free of charge, when we had spent a small fortune on physicians"? I wanted to make contact with him, and get to know him. It became clear to me that I must pray

I prayed repeatedly "Lord who are you"? A few days went by and there was no answer, just this joy unspeakable bubbling over within me. I couldnít pray in the house; there was not sufficient privacy as I shared my bedroom with Keith. In the evenings I used to sneak out to the car port to pray. The urge to pray and seek this great invisible healer was overwhelming.

One night while kneeling between the car and the air compressor in prayer the Lord met with me. On my right hand side I clearly heard an audible voice say, "Gordon, you want to know who I am! Go and buy a bible, and in that book you will find out who I am". The words struck me like a thunderbolt Ė there was no mistaking them. The message was clear except that I failed to understand why I should buy a bible if there was one in the house. I immediately made a search of all the book cases and other places where we had books stored away and guess what, not a single bible was to be found. I realised then that God Almighty had spoken to me. He knew that there was no bible on the premises and consequently told me to go and buy a Bible. The next day was one of the most exciting days of my life, travelling into town and buying a Bible at the Methodist Book Store in West Street, Durban.

A new world opened up to me as I read Godís word. All the old Sunday school bible stories that I had long forgotten came flooding back and Jesus became a reality to me. He was no longer just some guy you hear about in church. The first reality was that I did not need to fear death anymore. Up to that point ,for many .a night I had lain on my bed and tried to figure out what the whole purpose of life was. Why was I on earth? Why was I born to live and then die, what was the whole idea? What happens after death? Do we just cease to exist? Was I just imagining all this? Is life real or just a dream? Fear and confusion repeatedly gripped me. Now all of a sudden the light had gone on Ė the Bible had the answer. There is eternal life and that life is in and through Jesus the Son of God (1 John 5:11). I had found the secret door that led me out of the prison of unanswered questions into a beautiful garden of truth, hope and the whole meaning of life. And the great creator of all this had just healed me, and had actually spoken to me in the car port, called me by my name and told me what to do. I had found the way. Jesus said , "I am the way the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me." John 14:6

Signs of the Times