Recently I have felt moved to be more transparent about my faith and how it has transformed me. I hope that this will help some people on a similar journey to my own.
I was brought up in a loving Christian family. But I didn’t truly understand or engage with Christianity and stopped going to church when I was 16. I thought that religion was dreamt up by ancient people before science came along.
Years later life dealt me a wicked blow. My wife of 5 years left me. I was devastated and in a pretty dark place. I was drinking a lot and this began to escalate to dangerous levels. And with the drinking came a return to the smoking that I had previously given up.
The love of family and friends proved invaluable at this time, and there are many people to whom I am so grateful for helping me through. It was reading the autobiography of the cricketer Graham Thorpe that initially got me interested in Christianity. He had been through a marriage break up and found solace through the church.
Wanting to find out more I went on the Alpha Course – an introduction to Christianity.
The course helped a lot. I respected Christianity because of my family’s faith and also because of the charitable aspect of it. I know for many Christians helping others is a way of life.
I was sceptical though. I couldn’t get my head around the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. I believed in God, as I thought that a higher being must have created the universe. But would he put a son on Earth to live as a human?
Years went by with this half-hearted engagement with Christianity. I moved to Singapore with my job, where my life really changed. I met a lovely, beautiful Christian Filipina called Annie. Just before we got married I started going to church with her. But I was still seeking proof to get over my scepticism.
Then, we were in church one Sunday, when I suddenly thought: “Why not just accept that Jesus is the Son of God…you don’t need proof!”
At that moment, I felt an energy surge go right through me. It was an incredible sensation. I knew in that instant that it was the Holy Spirit. If I needed proof, then there it was.
Since then my life has been completely transformed. Annie and I have been blessed with a wonderful son, James. When we got engaged, not wanting to overdo it, we decided to have just three weddings – in Singapore, UK and Philippines. This all took nearly a year but we didn’t wait for the last wedding to be over before we started praying and trying for a baby.
Soon after our third wedding, Annie became pregnant. James came along at the perfect time. After he was born, the doctor told us that Annie has a condition which makes it hard for her to conceive. We truly believe that James is a gift from God.
God has answered our prayers time and again. Just before Annie gave birth there was uncertainty about my job. We prayed for safe and healthy delivery and for certainty about my work. Within a month both were answered: James was born, and I was contacted about an opportunity in Hong Kong – the job that I am now doing, which I really enjoy.
To quote one of my favourite comedy characters, Blackadder: “God is very quick these days!”
I have stopped smoking again. Previously I tried to give up by my own efforts and failed but I know this time it is for good. This is an example of how our relationship with God works. Our faith and belief in Jesus allows him to transform us, not our own efforts. The more we allow him into our lives, this transformation becomes all encompassing – physical, emotional, spiritual. And it leads us to helping others as a way of life.
Nowadays I feel an inner peace that I never had before. That is not to say that being a Christian is easy. But I know it is the right way, and the only way.
Andrew Ryland is originally from Croydon and now lives in Hong Kong with his wife Annie and son James. This is an edited version of his testimony which he shared recently at a women’s prison in the Philippines.