My name is Benjamin Valentine, I'm 22 years old and have been a Christian (by this I mean having an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ) since 2002.
As for how I accepted Christ, at the age of two, my parents were noticing that my legs hadnt developed the strength that would usually allow a child to walk. I was taken to a physiotherapist who diagnosed me as having mild cerebral palsy. This meant that due to possible damage to my nervous system before I was born, my muscles would not have the normal strength that a normal child would. Because of this, I couldnt really do the things that normal children would do. A child invoved in primary chool would usually spend their free time outside, playing sport and enjoying all kinds of physical activity. But for me, my time outside of school was spent with hours of tedious physiotherapy excercises.
Because of this, I pretty much spent most of my life questioning God as opposed to considering whether or not I should actually worship him. Within my family, my Father was an elder of the Uniting Church, whereas my mother was a Catholic. Although I was originally baptised as a Catholic, my family decided to attend the Uniting Church. Every Sunday, I would go to Sunday school, but because of my condition, rather than thinking about things such as God, Jesus and the message of the gospel, I would be asking myself questions such If God is a god of love and peace, then why does he allow suffering? This was a question I took very seriously, and because of it I couldnt help but look upon Christianity with a sense of detachment.
At the age of 11, my family moved to Brisbane. At the ages of 12 and 14, I had two sets of surgery done on the tendons in my legs in the hope that it would increase my flexibility. On both occasions there was only a slight improvement.
During high school, I spent most of my spare time meditating upon philosophical issues such as where did the universe come from?, what is the future of the human race?, is there any purpose behind all of this? I would often ask these questions to some of my friends whom I knew were Christians, testing how far I could take them with these questions. The non-Christians at school gave me nicknames such The Philosopher, or Heretical Western Guru. I came to understand that the reason my Christian friends were so patient with me while others would ask the same questions to insult their faith, mine genuinely came from the heart.
When I was 17, I started to think about what I wanted to do at University. I wanted to be a writer, but unfortunately my OP wasnt high enough to study Creative Writing at Queensland University of Technology, so I chose an Arts degree at University of Queensland with a major in Literature. At the last minute, I discovered that I was too lazy to study that alone, so I decided to add Religion to what I wanted to study, and surprisingly found it more enjoyable than my literature studies.
During my second year at Uni, while I was having a lunch break, I met a guy named Peter, and from the way he spoke, I could tell that English wasnt his primary language. I told him that I was a religion student, afterwhich he took out his Bible.
He said, Ive been having trouble understanding the English meanings. For instance, what is Lord? What does Paul mean when he says saviour?
I then spent thext fifteen minutes not just explaining the English words, but the entire foundations behind Christian belief. By now I was starting to get the idea rhat maybe he was trying to test my own belief in God.
You have explained it so clearly, he said. But do you belive it yourself?
I was lost for words. How can I explain so clearly what the Gospel is about, yet not at least belive in some of it?
I was invited to an annual event called the freedom rally, which featured things that I usually didnt see at church. Contemporary music, drama performances, people who were filled with joy and humor. It was all great fun, but at the end of the night, the big question was asked. If you dont know God, do want to accept him into your life this instant?
I thought, Why not?
From then on, God was no longer a distant intellectual concept. He was there, ready to answer me whenever I needed to speak to someone. I returned to the original question, Why does God let people suffer? The response was clear and authoritive: Before you knew me, you knew suffering. Now that you know me, you will know encouragement and hope.
Several Sundays later at our service, it was asked that if anyone wants healing, please step forward. Others had stepped forward, but I found myself jumping the que. As people were praying for me, I started to feel a sharp pain the areas in my body that were affected. Someone finally said Thats it, and the prayers stopped.
At first, I didnt feel any difference. But as the week progressed, I found that my muscles were stronger; I was walking faster, and my spine felt straighter. Before the healing I stood at 56, but upon measuring myself, I found that I was now 57.
Because of all of this, I could never turn back from God.
2 Corinthians 5
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
So that's my story.
The Church I attend is the Brisbane branch of the Hope of God International Church based in Bangkok, Thailand. The Hope of God Movement began in 1981 when a young Thai national returned to his homeland with a Ph.D. in Economics from monsh University in Melbourne. With a heart burning with the vision from God, he set out to plant churches and spread the good news of Jesus Christ in response to the Great Commission stated in the Bible. Together with his wife and two other relatives, they held the very first Sunday worship service in a lecture room at a Bangkok hospital. This marked the beginning of the Hope of God Movement.
Based at the University of Queensland, Hope Brisbane's vision is to "raise strong Biblical People to plant Strong Biblical Churches in Brisbane, Australia and all over the world." Under the leadership of our pastor, Hope Brisbane holds three services: two (morning and evening) for International members from overseas and one for permanent Australian residents.
Currently, we are hoping to raise funds to have our own community centre that will not only be our future venue for services, but also allow us to be a greater blessing to the community of Brisbane.
Our church also operates under a cell-group structure, with fellowship groups for youth, University Students, Working Adults and families. My ministries at church include: Sunday Service reception, Intercessory Prayer, Newsletter Editing, Bible Discussion teaching, brown-nosing the leadership and being a morale booster for spiritual warfare.
Outside of church, my hobbies include Reading, Creative Writing (I'm currently writing my own christian sci-fi novel), history, film and comparative theology.
Great to be here!