Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Hounded Into Heaven – The Andrew Christie Story
By Nico Bougas
Special to ASSIST News Service
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (ANS) -- The Great Depression during the last century resulted in many Europeans emigrating to South Africa. Amongst them were the Chrisostomou family from Cyprus seeking a better life.
They had a son, and in keeping with the common Greek practice he was named after his grandfather. And it is this Andrew Christie who is at the center of our story.
Like most Greek families they had left behind them a poverty stricken homeland. But they were hard workers and Angelo Christie and his family were soon able to earn a comfortable living. But this came at a cost to the family as Angelo was busy in their little store from early in the morning till late at night.
His wife, Rita, was a God-fearing women who prayed for the salvation of her family. She took young Andrew and his cousin Johnny as well as their sisters to a children’s Sunday School. And it was here that he committed his life to Christ and began what was to become a life of Christian service.
But there was still some distance to travel before this became a reality. Life got busier and soon his commitment to Jesus faded into the distance. He began to drift and before long was getting involved with the wrong crowd at school. He played sport every day and continued to party as much as he was allowed to.
The First Warning Sign
Andrew then had what was potentially a serious accident. His bike was so badly messed up that it took them 6 or 7 weeks to repair it. Miraculously he came away without a scratch. A few bumps and bruises was the only evidence of what could have been a tragic incident. But he refused to recognize the warning signs and continued his wayward life, much to the dismay of his caring parents.
On The Brink Of Eternity
He got his bike back and a few days later an event took place that was to change the direction of his life.
He was on his way to yet another party after working at his father’s video shop. As he came around a corner he ran straight into a bus and was hit head-on. He doesn’t know if he was on the wrong side of the road or the bus was. All he remembers from that fateful night was lifting his head and looking down and seeing his left foot dangling straight down and his right foot was sitting at his hip with his knee smashed open, blood pouring everywhere.
He was rushed into surgery. When he woke up in ICU his hands were tied down and he had pipes everywhere, he could not talk and he drifted in and out of consciousness.
At that very time a group of his mother’s friends were meeting for their regular weekly Bible study. It soon turned into a time of fervent prayer for Andrew.
A doctor who had just left his birthday party was the first on the scene. He had been given 7 silk shirts by his mother and he tore them and used them to bind Andrew’s legs. Andrew had lost so much blood that the doctor couldn’t find any blood pressure.
The first operation lasted 6 hours. Doctors removed his burst spleen. They were in a desperate struggle to save his life. The doctors were preparing to amputate his leg. Then another doctor came on duty and said, “hold on, this boy is only 16, let’s not take his leg, I will try to save it.”
It was 5 am, two days after the accident when his mother and father got the dreaded call from the ICU unit. “Mrs. Christie, come through immediately, your son is not going make it!”
A pastor from Zimbabwe called a few minutes after the hospital while Angelo and Rita were rushing to get to the hospital. He said “Rita, What’s happened? I have had a vision!” She told him everything. His vision was clear and he shared it. He said “Rita I saw blood and pain but the Lord is going to save Andrew for His purposes!”
An incredible peace came upon Rita. She knew that her son was going to survive. For the next few weeks Rita and Angelo sat tirelessly at the hospital, all day every day. And Rita being the typical Greek mother decided that hospital food was no good so she brought Andrew and others in the ward food everyday.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
He spent the next few months in hospital; having 6 operations in those first 6 weeks. It was in that time that he had a visit from a relative, Uncle Harry. He had been involved in church and came to pray for him. Again he committed his life to the Lord
But unfortunately things began to go south. Andrew’s leg got infected and his other leg had to be re-broken 4 times to straighten it. Anger and frustration festered.
He spent from July to December 1997 in hospital, except for a short few weeks when the doctors felt he should go home to spend some time in a different environment. He was in an orthopedic bed at home and his mother had to change his leg dressing daily, sometimes more than once because of the infection.
He spent another 6 months in a wheel chair and struggled to recover. Eventually he managed to get onto crutches it was wonderful to be able to make some movement again. However he spent almost the next 3 years on them. His right leg just would not heal. He had 4 bone grafts and a number of pins and plates put in and taken out of his leg. Nothing seemed to work.
He was getting angrier and angrier with God and drifted away from Him again.
Andrew journey to faith received a further setback when his cousin, Johnny was killed in a car accident. A drunk driver had jumped a red traffic light and hit his car.
They had grown up as brothers and Andrew was devastated. How could a God of love allow this to happen?
This tragedy served to push him further and further from God. He was angry. He couldn’t reconcile this with what his mother had taught him about the goodness of God.
The Loss of a Father
More heartbreak was to follow.
The Christies were a strong family unit that was dominated by Angelo Christie. He was the leader not only of his immediate family but his whole extended family and the community. And he was especially close to Andrew who saw him not only as a father but as his best friend. Almost every day they would be working together and playing together. Angelo was a wonderful example of strength, integrity and love. Nothing was too much for his family…
But there was one missing dimension to his life. He had never committed his life to Jesus. Then after 27 years of Rita’s prayers, he gave his life to the Lord.
Just 3 days after that critical commitment in his life Andrew received a shattering telephone call at 5 am. “Mr. Christie please come through, your dad has been shot…”
Andrew was devastated. He could not believe what had happened. He felt like his very heart had been ripped out of his chest… “My dad, shot?”
He was lying in a pool of blood, covered with a white sheet… He couldn’t even go over and hold him, because it was a crime scene.
His mother and sisters tried to comfort him with the news that he had made a commitment to God, accepted Christ in true repentance and forgiveness for his sins. But this was little comfort to him; in fact it just served to make him feel more angry with God
“I was very angry… I mean what kind of a God allows this kind of thing to happen… After 27 years of prayers… He finally comes back to God and BANG… He is murdered for his cell phone...”
Andrew entered a period of rebellion against God. If others said grace before a meal he would get up and walk away from the table. If someone opened a Bible close to him he would get up and walk away. One afternoon his mother brought a Pastor Wayne to pray at our Pizzeria. Andrew glared over at them from the counter as they were praying. Today Wayne is one of his closest friends and he remembers that day he prayed in a restaurant with a lady and a big Greek glaring at him.
A Pastoral Visit
Then came the day when two prominent Christian leaders came into the restaurant for lunch. His mother came excitedly over to Andrew and said “Do you know who those men are?” He obviously had no idea and when she told him that they were pastors and evangelists, his first reaction was to wonder if they were allowed to sit so close to a bar and eat pizza. After all these were supposed to be religious men!
J.John, like the Christie family was originally from Cyprus. And he too has married an English girl. As they chatted Andrew began to realize that they had a lot in common. He enjoyed his sense of humor there was an immediate rapport. Then he asked the question “I’m speaking at the Hillside Vineyard tomorrow and I would like you to come. Would you?”
If anyone else had asked him at any other time, the answer would have been most definitely no way. But God was setting him up for his great day of restoration. J.John coming into the restaurant that day at that time was a perfect set up.
Andrew went along to hear J.John. His message had huge impact and the Lord touched him.
It took time and a whole lot of screaming, shouting, battling, crying, moaning at our Father in heaven, but through His infinite wisdom and patience Andrew received healing for his pain…
Andrew describes the final healing of his pain was while he was driving. It was a benchmark in his new Christian walk…
“I had been going to Church for a while, done the Alpha course and was sincerely journeying with the Lord… I was driving home from a friend’s factory in Cleveland… Got onto the M2 west… As I got onto the highway I suddenly wasn’t driving any more… I don’t know how long it was but what I saw changed my life…
“I saw my dad, sitting on a wall say about at door height, he was looking down at me, trying not to smile, but you know when you are just so proud you can’t help but smile… And he was kicking his feet like a child does… The love, healing and peace of God came upon me in the most wonderful ways… It was a sacred moment in my life and just to share it is difficult, because I don’t want in any way to diminish what I saw and felt that afternoon…
“I don’t know if it was a second or 15 minutes… But I tell you something I cried and worshipped God the whole way home…
“This is my God… This is your God… I don’t know why he took my dad… But I do know that I will see him again one day and I would rather know that than have him here with me for another 30 years and not know where he will be when he dies one day…
Andrew has been happily married to Mandy since 1994 and she has been a tremendous support through this hazardous journey. The church has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. God has blessed his ministry. The church has blossomed and grown. And Andrew has passionately pursued his calling both as a pastor and an evangelist to lost men and women. He has been there and done that. Now he spends his life bringing others to a knowledge of the Savior.
You can contact Andrew at his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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