I started smoking when I was 11 years old. I started drinking heavily when I was about 17 years old. I rebelled and left home, I went to Rakaia Gorge. It was like a second family for me. We would go to the pub a lot together. It was illegal in those days; you were meant to be 20, but everybody was drinking under age so I found that to be normal.
That's how I met my wife, Joy. I was a shepherd at the freezing works when I got married. We were paid in cash every Tuesday morning and so I would just put my pay packet, all the cash, in my back pocket and it would stay there all week. I would go to the pub and just start pulling $20 notes out of my back pocket all day long. Come Tuesday morning when I got up to go to work again, I would just leave whatever was left in my back pocket on the kitchen bench and that was what Joy could have for running the house and the family and everything else. There wasn't much left so she had to go to work.
I got sick once and it gave me a real fright. I still needed to drink and that was the first time I realised I was addict. I already knew I was addicted to smoking but I didn't know I was addicted to alcohol as well. I couldn't stop, I had the flu and I had to have a drink, and that shook me up a little bit.
Time sort of went on and there was an advert that came out in our little town of Oxford that there was a traveling evangelist coming to speak at the Oxford Baptist Church. So I thought I'll go along and I'd love to see this guy speak. At this point in my life, I felt God just had a ring binder of sin on my life and how would God ever want to speak to me, or know me, or forgive me when I've done so much stuff?
I can remember a time as a young fellow with the drinking, and everything was going wrong. I can remember getting down on my hands and knees and thumping the ground and cursing God in the middle of a paddock. As a 16 year old, I was just devastated with the way life was for me even then.
So I'm remembering all this stuff and going to church. Why would God want to speak to somebody like me? The song leader gets up and she started singing the song then she said, "I really feel to bring another song tonight. I thought about it before when I got here and I really want to do it. It's called 'Jesus, take me as I am, I can come no other way.'" I can remember thinking "Is that true, God? Will you take me the way I am?"
So I'm standing there and I've got this really bad back. I was portable saw milling at the time and I had a really bad back. Here I am, a laborer with no qualifications, 27 years old and a bad back. It used to really ache and hurt. So this evangelist got up and he started talking at the front of church and he said, "There are some people here that God wants to heal." I don't know why, I just got all of a sudden really skeptical. He said, "There are some people here in need of healing and someone here has got a sore knee."
So I just did the maths. You know, there are over a hundred people here and with 200 knees, there's got to be a sore one. Someone put their hand up and I thought yeah, no, that'd be right. Then he said, "Someone here has got a sore ear." I looked around and yeah, there were 200 ears, and someone put their hand up. Yeah, they had a sore ear.
I just folded my arms and I stared straight at him. I thought, you're not going to fool me. And then he said, "And someone here in this room, has got a really bad back." Then he turned side on and he put his fist down on his back, and he started to roll it around and he said, "It gets him right down here, right at the base of his back."
He pointed straight at me and he said, "You sir, God is going to heal your back right where you stand, right now." When he said that, I just felt this heat shoot down my back and my pain went instantly out of my back. I couldn't believe it was happening. Then I felt as light as a feather. I actually looked down at my feet because I thought my feet had come off the ground. I had been standing there with the weight on my back and everything else, and now I felt like I was completely defying gravity.
At the end of it he did an altar call for anyone who wanted to give their life to Jesus. I wasn't going to be that easily conned and I went straight back into my skepticism. A friend of mine said, "Is he talking to you? Do you want to go out and give your life to Jesus?" I told him I did not. "Well, why don't you come up the front with me to get prayed for? He can just pray and lock in that healing on your back." I thought, yeah, I could do that.
So we went up the front and he started praying for my back. The next thing you know, he's doing a prayer leading me to Jesus. I thought, yeah, why not. So I just prayed and thought yeah, you know what? I'm going to commit my life to Jesus. I think by that point my wife had as well and we went home.
We walked back home and we went and saw her parents on the way back to our garage. As I was telling her mother and father what had happened, he said to me, "How long do you think this will last for Greg?" I said "It's for life Stan. I'm going to follow Jesus for the rest of my life." He said "I think you are."
Joy and I went home and we talked about it. We often prayed together, just locking in our salvation. We didn't fully understand grace and although I'd given my life to Jesus, and I wanted Him in my life and I was so grateful for His forgiveness, I kept drinking and drinking. The thing was, I couldn't stop it when I wanted to. It was taking up all the money we were earning and my family was suffering because of it. I knew something needed to change.
One night, a friend of mine talked to me about his daughter. She was having her 21st and he asked if I would come over and be a part of that. It was a really cool time and I enjoyed seeing all my old friends there and lots of things. My drinking got a little bit out of control so I decided in this drunken state that I would drive home. I drove from Hororata to Oxford in second gear with the windows down to stay awake. I got home, and I just went to bed.
I woke up in the morning and got ready for church. Joy said to me, "Did you drink last night? I think you're playing with God." At that, I erupted. I stormed out of the bedroom. As I walked past the stereo, I kicked the "on" button and it turned on — playing Amazing Grace. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit like I've never felt Him before. It was so powerful and so deep. I had a video put in front of my eyes and in it I was telling Joy off. Verbally abusing her. Within a few seconds, God showed me about 20 or 30 different situations that was just bang, bang, bang. All these different places.
I just began to weep. I don't even know how I got to the floor but I just wept and wept. I couldn't believe that was me. Then I felt this question, "What do you want me to do?" All I could get out of my mouth was "Sorry". At that, something began to turn around inside of me and then it just stepped out. Something just left me. I said, "What was that?" I saw the answer written in front of my eyes, "Alcohol," I thought, "Wow, I've been set free from alcohol."
Then something else inside me turned around again. I felt my insides almost wanting to be sick but not violent or anything. Then something else left; it just stepped out. I thought, "What was that?" It was written in front of my eyes again, "Nicotine".
I thought "Am I never going to smoke again? I don't have the battle anymore?" I got up and I thought about it for a minute. I had a packet of smokes in my pocket and I threw them in the fire.
That happened 32 years ago and I've never had the urge since that day to ever light a cigarette up, or to try a cigarette. In fact, I can't stand the smell of them. I've also never had the urge again to ever have alcohol, I was completely set free.
Joy and I went from struggling, to nearly freehold in just a few years. It was an absolutely incredible turnaround. I truly believe in my heart ever since that day, in the healing power that comes in the name of Jesus Christ. That comes through the Holy Spirit. That comes from heaven. It is incredible. God is changing lives all over this world, and I'm so grateful He changed mine. He is a good, good God, and I love Him heaps.