Damascean experiences – which of course is what Saul, later known as the Apostle Paul, experienced – are to be envied. The sort of experiences where God manifests himself in a blinding light, making it clear that He truly is The Great I Am.
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’”
But for many, even most of us, the reality is a little different as we get to know God through a series of incremental epiphanies, and perhaps even moments of anguish where we cry out, asking why we’ve been forsaken. Rather like Jesus on the cross:
“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, `Eli, Eli lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” – Matthew 27:46.
Of course, we can tend to forget that it was never God who forsook us, but we who forsook God.
Now for countless millions who’ve had, at best, a lukewarm belief or a rocky Christian walk or perhaps indeed feelings of being forsaken, the Alpha Course has so often proven to be the clinching, final epiphany in their coming to know God.
One such person is Brian Trusler, and when we meet in a coffee shop late one afternoon it’s clear even before we move away from smalltalk that God has been working powerfully in his life.
“Before going on the Alpha Course at CityHill in 2015, my wife Katherine had been trying to get me to go to church for a long time,” says Brian.
And while he had in the past been occasionally going to church, including a number of different ones when he and his family lived in England for eight years, all was not well.
“I was a little angry and disillusioned with God,” confesses Brian. “A lot of bad things had been happening both financially and personally. My head space was just wrong, and the only thing I guess I could do was to blame it on religion and God.”
A turning point came when Angus Buchan was due to preach at CityHill.
“My sister and brother-in-law were going to that meeting, and they said to me, `We’re not asking you to come, we’re telling you to come!’ When Angus finished talking, I also ended up going up to the front,” says Brian.
On the same day he signed on for the Alpha Course, and when it first started he admits to not feeling too comfortable.
“We didn’t really know anyone, and then Nicky Mazoue wandered over, and it turned out that we knew people in common, so we sat at the table she was hosting,” says Brian.
“As it turned out I loved the Alpha Course because it really spoke to me. In some way I had probably been looking for something but in His own time God was working on me by getting me to Angus and then to Alpha.”
It quickly got to the point where Brian was actively looking forward to the Alpha teachings every week, and since then he adds that he can probably count on two hands the number of times he has missed Sunday services at CityHill.
“The only times we don’t go to Church really is when the roads are blocked for Comrades or we’re out of town.
“Looking back now I can see the hand of God everywhere in both little and large areas of my life,” says Brian, adding that their daughter Isabella has now given her life to the Lord (he also has a younger son, Benjamin).
Of course, Brian – and his family – are just some of the countless people who’ve ended up plugging into CityHill with Alpha as a direct catalyst.
And if there’s one Bible verse that truly uplifts and inspires him, it’s 2 Timothy 1:7:
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”