Is seeing believing

Is Seeing Believing?

By Brian France

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. In 1973 I was serving as a Platoon Commander in Northern Ireland 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 of Northern Ireland didn’t want reunification and so the terrorism with its bombings, snipers, petrol bombers, 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. My platoon was on the streets providing mobile and standing patrols. They searched vehicles and pedestrians 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 the bomb 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 detonated a metre behind me.

In a flash, my entire world was dominated by the exploding bomb as the sound and force 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 which is 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. from flak and 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 that the bomb 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 leg 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.

They took me to a nearby house and into the lounge where they sat me in a chair and prayed for my hearing to be restored. They were full of faith and seemed certain that my hearing would 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.

Bernadette Testimony