By Michael Ashcraft —
For his 40th birthday he planned a 3-day drinking binge at a hotel in Edinburgh for him and five buddies, but his Dad called. His mother was deathly sick.
At the hospital, the surgeon said his mom, who had suffered a massive heart attack, had two days to live. Stephen Christie let his born-again sister stay with her that night, and he would come in the morning.
“When I went in the very next day, I didn’t know what to expect,” Steve says. “What was I going to see? Am I going to see sadness or depression? Am I going to see tears nonstop? I walked into the hospital room, and there my mom was lying in her bed, knowing she’s going to die, but with a huge grin on her face.
“I asked my sister Jacqui, ‘What’s happened? Has he got the wrong diagnosis?’ She said, ‘No, Steve, it’s better. Mom is saved.’
“I went, ‘Saved? Saved from what?’”
Four years ago, the baffling grin of a dying mom was the first “link of the chain” leading Steve, now 44, to salvation and to outreach in the streets. Today, the Scotsman from Aberdeen chides himself for shelving the Bibles, tracts and CDs his sister left in an effort to see him come to Christ.
His conversion and subsequent involvement in ministry is heartening for a nation that helped found the Protestant Reformation through John Knox but now languishes in a spiritual apathy that many observers call “post Christian” times.
“I was really stubborn,” Steve says. “I had 20 years of my way. I did it my way, which was completely wrong. I tried everything for happiness.”
Steve was a carpenter with his own business working from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. in a quest for endless wealth. “I was never satisfied with a figure,” he recalls. “If I made 100,000, I wanted 101,000. I thought then I would be happy.”
On weekends, he was a big drinker with his buddies at the pub. He was absentee father who tried to buy his wife’s love and his children’s love with extravagant gifts.
“Go buy a horse,” he would say, forking over the money.
Meanwhile, his sister, Jacqui Wilkie was an on-fire preacher’s wife pioneering a church for Christian Fellowship Ministries in post-modern Scotland. Steve tried to politely avoid her because she was loving insistent and persistent. “She is bold, bold, bold,” he explains now. “The darkness doesn’t like the light.”
His mother’s death – and more specifically, her surprising happiness in death’s vestibule – was a first step for him to understand the reality of blissful eternity in Heaven with God.
The next step came on a gloomy winter day. A sufferer of Season Affective Disorder due to the sunlessness of Scottish skies, Steve acceded to his wife’s idea that they read the Bible together.
With no prior experience in the Bible, they opened to the Book of Proverbs. “Oh wow!” he says. “Some made real sense: Treat others the way you want to be treated. There was nothing offensive in that.”
Then came step three. Extreme pain from a tooth abscess forced him to abandon his work on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. He went to the hospital, but there were no emergency dentists to attend to him. He would have to wait until Monday.
That Saturday night, he was awake with pain. His wife had planned to go to church the next day, Easter. But he would stay home. “I didn’t want to go to church,” he says. “I didn’t know if I would like that.”
With nothing else to do at 1:00 a.m., he opened an evangelistic tract that his sister had left. At the end, he saw and read the prayer of salvation.
“Nobody’s looking at me,” he persuaded himself. “What harm can it do?”
With sincerity, he prayed that simple prayer. Then, the miracle happened.
“It felt like somebody put a finger on my face and, just like that, as gentle as a feather, the pain disappeared and the swelling went down,” he says.
“I went upstairs and woke up my wife and told her I was going to church the next day,” he recalls. “You would think she would tell me to leave her alone because she was in a deep sleep. But no, she burst into tears of happiness.”
Four years later, Steve is a happy man. He doesn’t work as many hours. He spends more time with his family. He witnesses to his clients. Friends warn him he’s going to lose clients if he evangelizes. He doesn’t care. The work keeps coming in.
More importantly, he’s involved in street ministry. He joined a group called Street Pastors, which helps keep peace in the streets in rowdy party neighborhoods at night. Once a month, Steve patrols the pub neighborhoods he used to carouse from 9:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. and talks to people about the love of Christ and apologetics.
“A lot of people believe that Christ was a fictional character like Homer Simpson,” he says. “But according to a Harvard study, 96% of professors recognize the historical evidence proving that this guy was real.
“The question is not if Jesus was real but if His miracles were real,” Steve says.
“Faith is hard,” he adds. “It’s believing something you can’t see or touch. You just need little bits to hold on to. Did you know that of the 12 disciples of Jesus, they all died brutalized for their faith. Surely one of those 12 would have cracked if it was a lie. One of them would have said, ‘Ok, this is all a scam.’ But not one of them cracked. They all died for what they believe in.”
According to history, all of the apostles were martyred, except John, whom when they tried to burn him would not burn.
Fiery preacher John Knox fomented revival with the establishment of Presbyterianism in the 1500s. But after World War I church attendance declined, until revivalist Billy Graham toured Scotland in 1955, and sparked a resurgence of spiritual interest.
“The state of things in Scotland is not good at all,” Steve says. “The secular society is chipping away at morals. They’re taking Christianity out of the schools. It’s now offensive to have the ‘Christmas play.’ They now have a ‘mid-winter play.’”
Steve attends Banchory Christian Fellowship Church in Aberdeenshire and continues to hit the streets as a “street pastor” where the needy people can be found.
“I enjoy the streets,” he says. “I watch guys go from pub to pub. They’re looking for happiness. But they’re not going to find happiness there. That was me a few years ago.”
Knox’s grave is strangely under stall #23 at a parking lot. Its existence is marked by a tiny oil-covered placard in the asphalt. It would appear to be a symbol of the surging secularism that would want to re-write Scotland’s history and undo its spiritual heritage.
Meanwhile, people like Steve are working, one soul at a time, for the next revival.
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