By Mark Ellis
He grew up in London and became part of a notorious motorcycle gang. Embroiled in criminal, violent activities, God was the farthest thing from his mind. But God broke in one day when he least expected and brought a joy that surpassed any of his drug-fueled highs.
“I came from a poor family and my dad was a violent alcoholic gambler,” says Alan Ames. “What he didn’t drink away he gambled away.”
Ames became jealous when he saw other families enjoy three meals a day, so at an early age, he and his brother turned to crime. “I was determined to do whatever I had to do to get what I wanted,” he says. “I was extremely violent. I never thought about God.”
If God did exist, he reasoned, he couldn’t love someone like me. He would probably condemn someone like me.
“All I thought about was getting as much pleasure and excitement and money as I could. I didn’t care about who I hurt, and I hurt and abused many.”
Ames married and moved to Perth, Australia, where he held a respectable position as a salesman for a pharmaceutical company. Still, he had become an alcoholic like his father. “I was living in darkness. All I thought about was myself,” he recalls.
But at age 40, a voice broke through into his consciousness, at times audibly and sometimes resonating in his mind. At first when he heard it, he thought he might be going crazy – the sad result of his overindulgence and intemperance.
Stop sinning and go to church, the voice said. If you don’t change you are destined for hell.
“Who are you?” he asked.
I am Teresa of Avila, the voice said.
He was somewhat put off by her tone, which sounded stern, even strict to Ames. Then she led him in prayer, an unfamiliar practice to the former gang member. He says the visitation really “shook me up and woke me up.”
Ames had never heard of Teresa of Avila, so after some research, he was surprised to discover she was a prominent Spanish mystic and Carmelite nun who lived in the 16th century.
A short time later he had an even more impactful encounter – with Jesus Himself. “His presence was overwhelming,” he recounts. “He was about six-feet tall, with a beard and hair just above the shoulders, with blue eyes.”
“He reached into my heart and soul and touched me with His love and filled me with ecstasy,” Ames says. “He embraced me in His love and lifted my human heart into His divine heart. He encouraged me to change my life, to avoid sin – even the smallest of sins – and to keep my focus on loving God and loving other people.”
Ames was baptized as a baby in the Catholic Church, and even though he never attended church throughout his life, he found his way back there after his dramatic encounters.
When he took communion for the first time, the joy he felt in his encounter with Jesus returned. “When I received Him in the Eucharist, I had even greater ecstasy than when He appeared to me,” he says. “I knew He was truly present, so I go every day now and get the same joy and overwhelming ecstasy.”
After his powerful conversion to Christ, Ames left his high-paying job and became a traveling evangelist. “Jesus said I want you to go out and tell people about my love and pray for healing,” he says. “Now I work for Him every day.”
Under the supervision of a priest assigned to him by the archbishop in Perth, he travels the world, speaking to Catholic and Protestant gatherings. “By the grace of God there have been many wonderful healings around the world. But the physical healings are not as important as the spiritual healings that take place.”
“We are so weak we can easily be distracted and turn our back on Jesus,” he observes. “I never want to lose His love. Every day, I say, ‘Make this day my Pentecost, like my day of conversion.”
“I can’t do anything good without the Holy Spirit. I am only a vessel. When the Holy Spirit fills you, it brings such joy. I experience that every day.”
If you want to have a personal relationship with God, here are four steps…