My Story: Part 1
Updated: Aug 5
When I was eight years old walking home from school, I knelt down next to a pub wall and said to Jesus “I would like to know you”. I can’t remember what sparked this idea but I do remember the slight look of embarrassment on my mum’s face as she scanned the street to see if anyone was watching this strange event unfold.
My mum was a Christian and took me and my sister to church most Sundays when we were little. My dad was an atheist so never came, unless we harassed him at Christmas and Easter. The Church we attended was a traditional Anglican church. I didn’t engage in the services, as I found them boring and irrelevant as a young kid. I would just zone out and day-dream for an hour. At that point, I guess I was like the majority of people who claimed they were Christian simply because I attended Church most weeks. However, I knew virtually nothing about the Bible, about God, and about reasons for accepting the Faith. That must have made my decision to kneel down by a pub wall and give my life to Jesus even more perplexing.
A year later, my views about God changed drastically, when at nine years old, I went with my mum and sister to a Christian camp in the South West of England. About three thousand Christians camped in rustic conditions to pray, worship and receive Bible teaching. The kid’s clubs were awesome and so different from my traditional church back home.
One evening, I was with about three hundred other kids as our leaders began to pray for us. All the kids in the marquee began to laugh. Now, I have experienced many occasions of the giggles in my life. A ‘fit of the giggles’ is particularly embarrassing at inappropriate times (in class, during a work meeting or public speech, etc.) and you can’t stop, because if you look someone else in the eye who is also trying not to crack-up, that starts you off again! I have experienced contagious laughing episodes like this many times, but what happened in that marquee was different in every way. I was rolling around on the floor overcome by the loudest belly laugh I have ever produced. Wave after wave of laughter kept sweeping over me. I remember thinking why am I laughing? Why is everyone else doing it too? Nothing like this has ever happened before. The sensation came over me like an independent force. How odd, but in a good way. I wasn’t scared; I was just accepting it like only kids can do. I went back to the caravan that night to tell Mum what had happened.
When I arrived, my sister was already back from her kid’s club and we waited for Mum to return from her meeting. We heard her shouting from outside the awning. She was asking us to come and unzip the entrance so she could come in. That was odd – why couldn’t she unzip it herself? We went to open the tent and saw Mum had a look of incredulous amazement on her face. Her fingers were rigid in an outstretched position and she couldn’t move them at all. That explained why she needed the awning unzipping! My sister and I tried to bend back her fingers. They wouldn’t budge. This didn’t cause her any physical pain, just mental confusion! My nine-year-old brain took this in -- OK, that’s just what happens sometimes. When you stretch out your hands to pray to God, your hands can get stuck like that. Mum was obviously taking longer to process this new information, however. She sat in the caravan looking dumbfounded. All we had known until that point was our traditional Anglican church. We had never experienced the Holy Spirit before. I didn’t even know there was a Holy Spirit!
As kids can process this information a lot quicker than adults, my sister and I were ready to move on and talk about something else. She wanted to play a new, made-up game where you randomly open the Bible and read the first verse you see but Mum was understandably dismissive of the idea. Her eyes showed she was miles away; sat thinking through what all these bizarre experiences could mean with her hands still in that rigid position.
My sister began the game and opened the Bible to read the first passage she saw. The Bible has approximately 1200 pages with 727,969 words. Yet, just as my mum was wondering what was going on and what these events might mean, my sister read 1 Corinthians 2:4: “my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power.” That snapped my mum out of her musings. She was so shocked at what my sister had just randomly found, she asked her to read it again.
Unbeknownst to me and my family, this camp coincided with a revival that had begun in Toronto, Canada in the 1990s called the Toronto Blessing. There have been regular revivals over the past two thousand years and they have similar characteristics:
they cause dramatic Church growth;
signs and wonders of the Holy Spirit’s power are common;
and physical bodily manifestations of the Spirit’s power are evidenced.
This is what happened to my family. Years later, when I went to university and researched revivals, I stumbled upon the documented-phenomenon of Holy Laughter, which was a common occurrence during the Toronto Blessing. It was only then, 10 years later, that it finally twigged what had happened to me.
We went back to that same Christian camp when I was ten, but this time took along my best friend who also attended our traditional Anglican church. I’m sure my mum was full of anticipation about how we might meet God this time but I honestly was not even thinking about the strange supernatural events we had experienced a year ago. I just wanted to show my friend the really fun kids club I had been to, with drama, games and songs. Looking back, I attribute this to my age; I just accepted this stuff as normal in a way that only kids can do. Maybe that is why Jesus said we have to receive the Kingdom in child-like wonder – it is our adult scepticism that robs us of so much that God wants to give.
During an evening meeting in a large cattle barn, with hundreds of kids in attendance, our leaders prayed for us. No laughing happened to me this time, so I turned around to try and find my friend, only to see that her whole body was shaking violently. She was standing upright with her hands outstretched like when you receive a gift. But her eyes were closed and she was shaking and swaying, sort of rotating her upper body, while our leaders stood next to her praying. She opened her eyes and wasn’t stressed or scared in any way. Just like I had been last year. She was very matter of fact about it and we even had a little giggle about how funny she looked shaking like that. We didn’t know what it meant and weren’t really that interested either. We just wanted to get back to the caravan for some hot milk and midnight snacks.
As we walked back to our site, every now and then my friend’s arm would just shoot up in the air for no apparent reason. At one point, both her arms were swinging round and round like some super-powered back-stroke. My friend is no exhibitionist – she was quite shy and reserved at this point, so I knew she wasn’t doing it deliberately. People looked at her as she walked along, which seemed to embarrass her slightly, but that didn't stop us from giggling about the strangeness of it all as her arms flailed around. Throughout the evening, every now and then, her arms would shoot into the air -- like she was desperate to answer a question at school before anyone else could. We just giggled, eventually went to sleep and didn’t really talk about it again. We accepted it as the new normal.
My friend had been suffering with curvature of the spine before coming to the camp that year. She had been seeing specialists at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham for two years, with regular physiotherapy to try and prevent further damage, but the prognosis was not good. If she showed any more deterioration, they were going to operate and put metal rods in her back. When she went home for a check-up after this bizarre experience, the doctors couldn’t believe that her spine had corrected itself and she was well enough for them to discharge her immediately. She has never suffered from this condition since.
These were the beginnings of my journey with Jesus and I feel so blessed to have experienced these unique events. I appreciate that my retelling may not convince you because we tend to want to see the miraculous for ourselves. However, when ‘Doubting Thomas’ refused to accept the truth of Jesus’ resurrection (because he had missed the encounter when all the other disciples got to see Him), Jesus said to Him later on: "have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
I count my sons as more blessed than me. They have not yet experienced God in such a dramatic way but still they believe on the basis of mine and others’ testimonies. Now that is Faith, the Faith of children. They trust their Mum/Nan/Aunt not to lie to them. But why would I lie? This website is anonymous and costs me a lot of money to run – I’m not doing it for notoriety. I have spent years studying the evidence for Christianity, Atheism and other religions, so I’m not just passively accepting what happened to me. I’m trying to understand if it was genuine or not. You can’t claim that I’m just a product of my Christian culture – yes, I grew up in a Christian household (well half of one, as my dad was an atheist) but the religion of my infancy bore little resemblance to what I experienced in a barn in the South West. Plus, my mum was as flabbergasted at these events as I was. She hadn’t conditioned me to accept only Christianity as the true way to God and trained me to expect the supernatural to occur. I think she just thought it was a good way to raise your kids by taking them to Sunday School each week. She had no idea we were going to experience what we did.
These events remain some of the most remarkable experiences of my life. I was allowed to see the power of God exhibited in physical human bodies. I desire others to likewise experience a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
References & Footnotes
 The effects of the Toronto Blessing lasted for many years afterwards and were transported all over the world from visitors who went there and carried back the blessing.  Mark 10:13-16  John 20:29  1 Corinthians 2:4-5