Is Seeing Believing? By Brian France
During Hitler’s fire-bombing blitz on London during World War II my family were bombed out of their home and they moved to a council estate in Dagenham, where I was born. Down the road lived Twiggy, the world famous fashion model, and round the corner was the comedian Dudley Moore. Terry Venables, who became a well known football manager, was “one of the boys”.
My family were not Christians and I grew up being told that “seeing is believing”. So anything relating to God or the supernatural was not part of our worldview. Some years later when I became a Christian, it never dawned on me that the Bible was telling me something quite different. I assumed that when Jesus walked on water there must have been a sand bar under His feet. When He fed the 5,000, the loaves and fishes must have provoked the people to get out their sandwiches. When He restored sight to the blind, well, I never worked that one out and I never thought the day would come when I would receive a miracle.
I was serving as a Platoon Commander in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s during the time of the “Troubles” when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was endeavouring by force of terrorism to have the six Northern Counties reunited with the rest of Ireland. Two-thirds of the people didn’t want reunification and so the terrorism with its bombings, snipers, petrol bombs, sectarian murders, kneecappings and bloodshed continued.
The Royal Air Force Regiment had been deployed in Northern Ireland as part of the peacekeeping forces for some years and this was my third tour of duty there. I was now responsible for the security of the Walled City of Londonderry. It was early March, the weather was cold and damp, but I felt no sympathy for my men who were on the streets providing mobile and standing patrols. They searched cars and pedestrians alike, looking for weapons and explosives, whilst all the time running the risk of sniper fire, petrol bombs and stone-throwing mobs. They were on duty twelve to fourteen hours a day in all weathers and stoically did everything that was asked of them.
Saturday morning dawned fine and clear. The city was in the process of coming to life, shops were starting to open, people were beginning to move around, and then the bombs started to explode. By the time the third bomb had detonated and three buildings had been destroyed, leaving a number of casualties, I realised the IRA were targeting my sector and were looking to give us a real pasting. As these bombs continued to explode, houses and shops were damaged or destroyed and people were killed or injured. By the time we got to bomb number five, we were really into the swing of it. As unexploded bombs were discovered, my men cordoned off the area and called the Bomb Disposal Squad. In dealing with the aftermath of bomb explosions they did what they could for the injured and kept people from entering damaged buildings.
I was alerted to unexploded bomb number six by a radio message from our control room through the radio receiver in my right ear. My senior sergeant and I made our way to where we were told it was located. Taking a short cut through a line of terraced shops and houses and entering a bakery by the back door, I found myself in an empty room about four metres square. In front of me was a counter and I was looking out through the front windows of the bakery at a line of terraced houses set at 90 degrees to where I was standing. The front doors of these houses opened directly onto the street, and every door was ajar with a person’s head peering around it, apparently looking at me.
It took a second or two for me to realise that what they were actually looking at was the shop I was standing in, waiting for a bomb that had been planted to explode. I turned to my left and was going to shout “get out” to my senior sergeant who was coming in behind me. I never quite spoke those words, as at that instant an estimated fifteen pounds of high explosive went off a metre behind me.
In a flash, my entire world was dominated by the exploding bomb, as the sound of it momentarily became my whole existence. The detonation completely demolished the room I was in, stripping the linings off the walls, bringing down the ceiling and blasting a large hole in the floor. It picked me up in its destructive grip, endeavouring to destroy me as it hurled me out the front of the bakery, along with a mass of debris.
The force of the blast threw me about eight metres from where I had been standing and I found myself lying on the road at the front of the shop with bricks, smashed wooden beams and a mass of rubble around and over me. The front doors of the houses now opened and people came out towards me. I knew I was badly injured and one of two things was about to happen. If these people now coming towards me were IRA sympathisers they would complete the work the bomb had started. If not, they would offer assistance; it was a 50/50 chance. Thankfully they picked me up and I was draped over the shoulders of two burly Irishmen who took me to one of our Standing Patrols some distance down the street. My men applied field dressings to the worst of my injuries and called an ambulance which took both me and my senior sergeant to the Londonderry General Hospital.
Fortunately I was wearing a flak jacket made up of laminated layers of fibreglass with a green nylon cover. The jacket’s function was to protect my vital organs of heart, lungs, kidneys etc. That’s exactly what it did. The nylon outer covering was vaporised by the explosion and the back and sides of the jacket were impregnated with pieces of steel, wood and concrete flak that the bomb had unleashed at me. Undoubtedly the jacket saved my life, and had I not been wearing it, the outcome would have been very different.
The end result of being blown up was that I was invalided out of the RAF with no hearing, and legs that didn’t work properly because they were full of shrapnel. Walking was painful, with hundreds of tiny pieces of metal in my muscles, knees and ankle joints. My hearing was so bad as to be non-existent. When I asked to have hearing aids I was told, “Sorry fella, you don’t have enough hearing to amplify; they’ll do you no good. So get used to being profoundly deaf. That’s how you’re going to spend your life”.
I came to New Zealand and for three years lip-read and guessed my way through conversations with “umm”, “well I never!” and “is that so?” being my major contributions. I refused a wheelchair and did all I could to get my legs functioning again.
One sunny day I was shopping in Darfield and bumped into a small group of Christian street evangelists, who on discovering I was deaf, asked if they could pray for my hearing. Don’t forget, I was brought up with the understanding that “seeing is believing” – but I figured that I couldn’t hear now, so they couldn’t do me any harm. I’d let them give it a go.
I went with them to a nearby house, into the lounge, where they sat me in a chair and prayed for my hearing to be restored. Absolutely nothing happened and I went to bed that night as deaf as I had ever been. However, in the morning I was awakened by the ticking of a small electric clock that sat on my bedside table. I leapt out of bed with incredible relief, realising that I could hear and the deafness nightmare was over. This was a life-transforming moment.
God’s healing power had restored the damage the explosion had caused and it changed my life. I went from being largely unemployable, depressed, non-productive and feeling useless, to suddenly having a full life again, apart from my legs which only functioned with considerable pain.
A week or so later, I was again shopping in Darfield and bumped into the same group of Christians. I told them of my healing and thanked them profusely for praying for me. They jumped around shouting “Hallelujah!” and “Praise the Lord!” We chatted for a few minutes and were about to part when I had a sudden thought. They had prayed for my hearing and it had been restored, what if they were to pray for the pain in my legs? They enthusiastically agreed to do this and took me to the same house, into the same room and sat me in the same chair. Placing their hands upon my legs they asked the Lord Jesus to remove the pain. As they prayed I felt the pain drain down my legs and out of my feet. I have had no pain in my legs since.
God really got my attention that day, and I realised that the “seeing is believing” worldview on which I had been brought up was false. I now realised that what the Bible says is true, that “believing is seeing”. If we want to minister in miracles, we must first accept that God is a supernatural God of miracles, just like the Bible says.
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God is all-knowing, all-powerful and eternal. What happens how it happens , where it happens and why it happens is never a mystery to Him. He is the universal King that decides each of His children’s destiny. Because God made us with a purpose He wants us to be blessed and be a blessing. Our lives can bring glory to His name.
On 23rd October 2012, about 3:30pm I started having acute difficulties with my speech. My wife, Prakashni, noted that I was not making sense with my speech but, I was able to understand what was being said to me. Despite my reluctance, my wife called the ambulance straight away. I was able to walk independently to the ambulance. This was my first ride in an ambulance. I have never been carried out before.
While I was in the ambulance the nurse kept on talking to me, while my wife was sitting at the back seat and praying not knowing what was happening. 20 minutes after the ambulance reached the hospital emergency, the right side of my body had collapsed.
A number of relatives and friends came to see me. Thanks to pastor Narain Makan and Brian France who came and prayed for me instantly.
A stroke is always a medical emergency and emergency intervention improves chances of survival and successful rehabilitation. The miraculous saving was yet to happen. As I was taken to hospital without considerable delay and my heart and other organs of my body were in good condition, doctors had a window of opportunity to give me a new treatment called “clot retrieval”. At this time this treatment was only available in Auckland and North Shore Hospitals and only 5-6 people got the treatment annually. I was very fortunate to be one of the five people that night. It was a complicated procedure, and my wife had to sign a number of documents before surgery.
With the faith and prayer of friends I was kept for only 2 days in the Neurology unit and began to walk on the second day. With the presence of my wife and three boys, I gained increase in confidence and was discharged from the stroke unit in 9 days.
When I suffered the stroke a million questions went through my mind, Why me? What did I do God? Haven’t I been a good servant my Lord? It was later that I realized God wanted to use me to show His love and grace through the recovery process. Recovery for a stroke patient usually takes 6 months to 2 years. My quick recovery surprised a lot of people including the therapist. I was walking and talking within the first month and a few months later I was able to read and write. Now I am driving, gardening, shopping, playing tabla and even cooking which makes my wife happy.
Isiah 53:5 states that “by His stripes I am healed” and in Jeremiah 30: 17 God says ”I will give you back your health and heal your wounds”.
While I was in hospital I came to learn that a stroke is the third largest killer in NZ. More than 2000 people die every year and everyday about 21 New Zealanders have a stroke. It is caused by a sudden interruption of blood flow to a part of the brain. This causes the affected part of the brain to stop working and eventually damages brain cells. Basically you can say a stroke is a brain attack.
Once discharged from the hospital I was placed under a community rehab programme indefinitely – the programme was run by an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist and a speech language therapist – the purpose of this exercise was to give report on the results of the rehabilitation period to the appropriate health authorities and clinical records. I had to compliment the team for their systematic and comprehensive reporting.
At this time I had experienced a drop in vision of both my eyes and as a result cataract surgery was done on 27th May 2013 and 28th August 2013 respectively. I was very scared to undergo cataract surgery but if it is recommended to any of you do not hesitate to accept it. My eyes are much better than before.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus will protect you as you walk through life.
“Those who live in the shelter of the most high, will find rest in the shadow of the almighty. This I declare about the Lord. He alone is my refuge my place of safety. He is my God and I trust Him. For he will rescue you from every trap, and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armour and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night. Nor the arrow that flies in the day “ – Psalm 91:1-5
After 6 months I was replaced by the health authorities with the Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation Trust. The programme for stroke survivors include –
A: Increase physical activities
B: Improve knowledge, understanding skills for life after stroke
C: Increase participant’s potential to participate in life activities
While here I was given the opportunity to study – motivation, memory, exercises, fatigue, healthy eating and risk factors for stroke.
From the 8 weeks programme I was a changed person.
Let me take you back to Fiji where I come from. I was born on Christmas day 25 Dec 1946 in Suva. I was married to Prakashini and we have 3 boys, the eldest Moveen is now a service manager, Ron a gym programmer and Raj a physiotherapist. As the eldest son in my family of 7 children I had the responsibility of educating my siblings and providing for the marriage of my 5 sisters… My parents were very poor.
I did not give up and was able to sustain these experiences through my job. Though we lived a simple life it was sophisticated by the number of sacrifices offered to Hindu gods. One of them was an annual sacrifice of a goat to a god. We were very strong Hindus, and when we migrated to NZ we brought our own ¨big temple” in the container.
Fortunately I was a bank manager in the BNZ those days. As well as being an active Rotarian I was also the national Treasurer for Fiji Football Association before I came to NZ in 1988. I had been to NZ 4 times before. I knew NZ reasonably well but to get a banking job after the share market crash was hard.
With no choice I bought a running business Roskill Fruit Mart which was later changed to Asia Pacific Food Centre Limited. We ran the business for 17 years and retired in 2006. These 17 years was a very hard exercise for us. I had to go to the Turners & Growers distribution centre 5am in the morning and my wife used to open the shop at 6 am. I carried on the importation business and sold it in 2010. Since then we have had an enjoyable retired life.
Moveen believed in Jesus Christ when he was 10 years old in Fiji. He was fascinated by the scripture classes at a Christian school and accordingly convinced his two other brothers to become Christians. Moveen actually wasted no time in locating the ideal church for himself when we arrived in NZ. He met pastor Brian France in Wesley Methodist Church in 1989. They formed a long term friendship with Brian officiating Moveen’s marriage in 2004.
Our three boys had been praying for our salvation and finally we came to the point where we became fully convinced that Christianity was the answer for us.
Our children have been a blessing for us. My wife crossed the floor in 2002 and I followed suit in 2006. Since then our family never turned back but has been serving the Lord.
Isiah 41:10 says ¨Don’t be afraid for I am with you, don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you I will hold you up with my victorious right hand¨.
When I compare my life with what I am experiencing now to the situation before the stroke, there is a big difference. I seem to be more humble, compassionate, kind and loving to others. Being included in God’s family is the highest honour and the greatest privilege you will ever receive.
God is the goal for your life. God smiles when we trust Him completely, when we love Him supremely, when we obey Him whole heartedly and praise Him continually. Our worship should be accurate, authentic, thoughtful and practical. Love should be your top priority, primary objective and greatest ambition. The best expression of love is time. Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money but you can’t make more time. So the best use of life is love, the best expression of love is time. And the best time to love is now. The entire law is summed up in a single command, ¨love your neighbour as yourself¨ -Galatians 5:14
Jesus wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility and our ultimate destiny.
God bless you.