As a young man I went to university, played rugby and painted artworks. I surfed, drank beer, worked as a bouncer in nightclubs and partied. My mother has always been very involved in the Anglican Church and whilst growing up I had been part of that church. However, as a teenager the worldly distractions were overwhelmingly more interesting than church doctrines, as they are for many teenagers.
I remember on holiday travelling around Israel as a 10 year old and swimming in the Sea of Galilee and going into lots of dark, strange smelling, cavernous places in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth; then the same around the ancient temples of Greece. My father, very wisely kept my brother and I busy with sport as we were growing up and he actually started a new cricket club in the suburb we lived in.
After University I taught Art at a catholic school, at state schools and to adults at technical school. I travelled around the world. Although travel had never really interested me because I had done so much as a child. I spent a lot of time camping during holidays in the Boranup forest of South Western Australia– painting, reading, sleeping, eating and going surfing in the mornings. However questions were arising during this time and a growing realisation that there was something more to life somewhere and I was eventually led towards meditation.
The wisdom dimension of Buddhism was not something I had understood in the Church that I had attended in my younger years. The emphasis there seemed to have been; "Be nice and you will go to heaven" which is not a message easily comprehended by a teenage male growing up in Australia. I spent 20 years studying Buddhism and two years as a Coordinator of a Buddhist centre. Buddhism definitely helped in the process of the thawing out of the hardness that was in my heart and Buddhism also taught me the need for and the benefit of morality.
Buddhists emphasize developing compassion, awareness and wisdom through prayer, study and meditation. There is beautiful truth in Buddhism and many very good people. But that truth is distorted by Satan. The sense of peace from meditations on such things as loving kindness helps promote a sense of some of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). However, and it is a big ‘However’; with no God, no Saviour and no Holy Spirit, Buddhism relies on works, on self. In many ways Buddhism develops a type of overcoming of self but in a subtle way it promotes self; teaching that through our own efforts we are able achieve perfection; which we know is impossible.(Ephesians 2:8)
Some types of meditation bring about presence and increased lucidity and exercise the mind, others can bring about a vulnerable state of mind. There are literally hundreds of very different types of meditation for many different purposes, most of these types existed before the Buddha’s time of 2500 years ago. Of course the surrender of the will to any other than the Holy Spirit is an invitation to be led down the proverbial garden path.
The Bible in the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis links the desire for self-improvement to Adam and Eve’s demonstrated lack of faith and their subsequent fall. Satan tempted Eve by telling her she would become like God with wisdom. He also told her that she would not surely die. Here we have some of the tenets of Buddhism; self-improvement, perfection of wisdom, freedom from death through karma and an immortal mind stream.
God had however given me a Buddhist teacher who had previously been a Christian minister and this teacher often quoted bible texts in his classes teaching wisdom. This teacher also suggested that instead of the prayers to the Buddhist trinity (the Buddha, Dharma - Buddhist teachings, and Sangha-saints or members of the community); that I should pray to the Christian Trinity in order to develop more opening of the heart. So I did pray to God the Father, to Jesus the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
At this time I began noticing a force leading and helping in my life circumstances, especially when helping others. A force that helped effortlessly resolve long standing issues between people and factions within the group whilst I was the Coordinator. The teacher was evasive when I asked about this phenomenon. I also realized that after many meditation retreats and going back into the busy grind of daily life that the underlying causes of anger, selfishness and the rest, were still waiting beneath the calm façade for a chance to explode.
The Holy Spirit began reaching into my life and drawing me out of the world. As the differences in our values became apparent, my first marriage fell apart. I floated for several years, continuing to teach Art in high school implementing values in my teaching programs. For example with my year 12 classes we explored the themes of Soul and Transcendence. The students were so inspired by these themes that another art teacher is now also using these themes with her students. Continuing to paint I was increasingly trying to capture a spiritual dimension in my art.
Very soon after a process of clarifying my personal values and writing them down with specific goals, I met Ayolani. New Year's Eve 2009 was our first date and sparks of love flew from the beginning. That first date has not ended yet, more than six years later, and I thank God for sending me such a wonderful and beautiful wife, that I adore. She took me back to Church in a Seventh Day Adventist way. Here I discovered the truth in the bible. Here was fuel and inspiration for the soul.
The whole impossible but brilliant story of the Bible came to life for me through the guidance of Pastor Gys Seeger, and the clarity of the teaching of Pastor Maurice Berry, Leo Schreven and others. The courage of the likes of Martin Luther and Huss that Ellen White presented in 'The Great Controversy' inspired me with their power and integrity. Then I was shocked at the intelligence and effectiveness of Adventist couple counselling at the beginning of our relationship. In 2010, my fiftieth year, I was was baptised into Adventism and married to my beautiful and lovely Ayolani.
During this time I attended my first Bible Prophecy Seminar in Perth, Western Australia, where Pastor Maurice Berry almost broke my heart when he made the call. Thankfully he kept the invitation open for a long, long time. Every lame excuse, fear and prideful embarrassment assaulted me in the centre of my chest. I wanted to get up but I could not move, although I knew I needed to. Repeatedly he asked "Is there anyone else who the Holy Spirit is pressing?" I wasn’t being pressed I was being crushed with pain in my chest. Then I was up and at the front of the congregation in prayer.
Maurice Berry visited and asked how I felt after his Prophecy series. I said I was very angry that I had not heard his message earlier in my life! I know there are so many good people in the world that deserve to hear the power of the Adventist message. The message of Adventism appeared so clearly and powerfully that it seemed to me bizarre that more people did not know these truths.
The Seventh Day Adventist theology takes the Reformationist theology to completion. Justification by righteousness by faith, ten commandments not nine, a powerful health message, and a bible knowledge second to none with light from the inspired pen of Ellen White. With this support Jesus became a living presence guiding my life in many wonderful ways
After Becoming a Member of the SDA Church
It was back during that discussion with Maurice Berry that I heard myself talk myself into studying how to share this message because I realized I had absolutely no idea how to do so. However as I discussed the possibilities of ministry work with my wife I felt the overwhelming entrapment of my situation, with a home mortgage and responsibilities as a teacher and worries about future security; We took it to God in prayer and made a commitment to go into ministry
However the real estate market in Western Australia in 2011 was depressed as it was in most of the world. We knew people who had been trying to sell their homes for literally years. Also a few years before then I had tried to sell my house and had failed so our confidence was low. The real estate agent gave us a shock when she told us her valuation of the property as it was much higher than we had imagined. We tidied the place up and waited. The first Sunday of home open, about twelve people came and looked with no response. The second Sunday was very hot and we asked the real estate agent how many people came to look and there was an embarrassed silence on the other end of the phone and the she told us that not one person had come to look at the house after all that work cleaning and tidying.
So the third Sunday we were not holding our breath; but afterward we heard that about ten people had been through and several had made low offers. The agent asked if we would like her to negotiate with one couple who had put in the highest bid to try and encourage them to increase their offer. And she did and they did. So we sold the house in three weeks for more than we thought possible. After thanking God, we were able to pay our debts and pay for our airfares and tuition at Amazing Facts Centre Of Evangelism in California.
AFCOE was an incredibly inspiring experience. With great teachers and a very rich curriculum including bible doctrines, prophetic studies, preaching, health, and every aspect of evangelism how to’s. We arrived at Weimar a week early and enjoyed the beautiful country surrounds of hills and pine trees with views to the Sierra Nevadas. People kept asking us if we were going to ASI. We said “What is ASI?” They told us it is a massive event with great speakers from around the world and this year it just happened to be held down the road in Sacremento. So we went and enjoyed hearing the many inspiring testimonies from so many ministries from around the world. We loved hearing Ivor Myers’ ‘Blue Print’ and Elder Ted Wilson’s powerful appeal for revival and reformation. It was a very moving experience being in a hall with 7000 people singing one song.
AFCOE was like drinking out of a fire hydrant. We learned more there than we probably would in a 3 year degree course; Prophetic studies, Bible doctrines, Health, Personal Evangelism, Public Evangelism, Text memorization, Preaching, Outreach, Health expo, a visit to Ellen White’s house Elmshaven, Participation in an evangelistic series, and these were just some of the elements of this great course. A talented and dedicated staff helped us to learn an amazing amount. Our teachers included: Don Mackintosh, Eric Flickinger, Wes Peppers, Lowell Hargreaves, Tammy Steenson, Eugene Pruitt, Doug Bachelor, Stephen Bohr, Mark Finlay, Derek Morris, Skip McCarty, Leroy Moore, Dennis Priebe and several other guest lecturers.
From AFCOE we were blessed to be able to go to the Philippines and work with and learn from Lowell Hargreaves and family. Lowell has been an Amazing Facts evangelist for twenty years and he is a dynamic speaker. This was the first year of PAFCOE, the Philippines Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. Ayolani taught the health course and did medical missionary work and I preached in churches in Iloilo and in the provincial prison. From Iloilo we went to Davao where I presented a four week prophecy seminar. And that raised the bar in terms of fervent prayer, intense study and many trials. What a beautiful experience with many warm hearted individuals of the Catalunan Grande church and the generous support of the Davao Mission. 32 people were baptized but perhaps more importantly after Ayolani’s health lectures combining with the message we felt a shift in the culture of the church. Ladies dresses were longer, including the youth’s and diets were changed.
From Buddhism to presenting a four week prophecy seminar has been a busy fifteen months. Baptised in February 2011 to giving a seminar in May 2012. Thank you Jesus, thank you for the inspiring light in the Seventh Day Adventist Church and thank you my beautiful wife for looking after me and loving me in a way I've never experienced before!