In Glenn's younger years, a thrilling social life took priority over church. Unbeknownst to him, God would soon draw Glenn back to Himself, in several unexpected ways!
I was a sickly child, my health wreaked by chronic asthma. My mother was at her wit’s end when she first brought me to an evangelistic rally. As my family had never attended church before, this was our first encounter with the Gospel. Thereafter, we started to attend church regularly.
Despite being healed from asthma over time, church to me was never the most interesting thing in my life. I went through school with excellent grades despite being a delinquent student who often skipped classes. I was filled with pride, feeling that all my accomplishments were my own. When I entered junior college, I relished my newfound freedom, starting to hang out with a ‘cool crowd’ of friends who smoked.
During National Service, my social life overtook time spent with my family. Church was not a priority, especially after a night out filled with alcohol and cigarettes. My parents’ pleas for me to return to church fell on deaf ears and my younger brother began to distance himself from me. Friends became my new family.
A decade later, I informed my family that I would be marrying my girlfriend, Lina, who was not a Christian at the time. This news was met with obvious displeasure. Little did I know that God would use her to reel me back to Him, and start the healing process in my life and within my family.
Lina and I had decided that we would not be coerced to go to church on Sundays after we got married. However, she was curious as to why my parents were serving when they had little time, and giving when they were not well-to-do. We went to church one Sunday after our marriage registration. To my surprise, Lina found the worship meaningful and moving, even though she did not understand the sermon at all. When she heard that the church would be starting a run of Alpha, she immediately expressed interest in attending.
When I heard this, my first thought was: “it’s ten weeks long, boring and irrelevant!” I had been to Alpha once before, brought by my mother who had thought that it would bring her delinquent son back to church.
I said to Lina, “Are you sure?” We had just been married for about a month, I was a ‘back-slidden’ Christian who had only recently begun accompanying Lina to church, and she still held Eastern religious beliefs. She was sure, and we started attending Alpha. Surprisingly, my second experience with Alpha was very different from the first. I found the talks by Nicky Gumbel entertaining and refreshing.
I wasn’t sure why it felt different this time around. Was it because I was older? Less distracted? Or maybe because I was helping to explain parts of the content to Lina? This was the beginning of a slow but irrevocable change in me.
I had stopped drinking and clubbing before my marriage, but smoking was proving to be a more challenging addiction to give up than I had thought. Over the years, I must have tried to quit at least ten times using various methods, but it was too easy to keep falling back into the habit.
“God, make me hate cigarettes, the way that You would hate it!”, I prayed after one session of Alpha. Surprisingly, the next day, the smell and taste of cigarettes seemed different - detestable and no longer calming to my nerves. I felt sick after smoking. A week later, I could no longer be around smokers, let alone light up a cigarette myself. I felt that this miracle was of God, and that all my past ‘achievements’ may not have been possible by my own efforts.
One day, I was asked: “Glenn, would you like to help out as a facilitator for our group?” I was
surprised. I did not think I was up to it.
However, facilitating turned out to be a refreshing experience for me. I never thought that I could play a useful role in church, as I knew so little about Christianity. I found myself preparing before each session with new-found enthusiasm.
“I think I want to believe in Jesus”, Lina told me one evening after returning from Alpha. I was amazed; I had never thought that she would embrace Christianity. And yet, God surprised the both of us by being so real.
That night, we prayed the sinner’s prayer together, similar to the one that Nicky had prayed during one of the sessions. At the next Alpha discussion, Lina, filled with the love of Christ, asked another small group member, “what is stopping you from believing in Him?” It was just the prompting he needed, and that night he gave his life to Christ.
Following Alpha, two more members of the small group and three of Lina’s sisters came to Christ. My mother-in-law has also accepted Jesus as her Saviour and asked our Senior Pastor to assist in removing idols from her house in Indonesia.
Lina and I started a small group after that run of Alpha and have been blessed with the love and fellowship of community week after week. As we have been transformed, our family members have also grown closer and more loving. We have even gone on holiday in Europe with my mother and younger brother, who volunteered to be our tour guide!
At the 2007 New Year’s Watch-night service in church, my father gave thanks for the year that had passed. He testified of how God had brought his ‘prodigal son’ back into the family. I know that all this would not have been possible without God’s timely intervention, the support of our church and the experiences we had at Alpha.
May we continue to give God the glory, for the great things He has done!