Dear Family of St John’s

A parishioner shared his testimony a little while ago on his Facebook page. I have heard bits and pieces of his story over the last year, but reading it in one sitting has truly inspired me.

And so, I am grateful that Andries Thierssen has given me permission to share his testimony with you in our newsletter.

“My journey with Jesus

I was about 6 or 7 years old when the speech therapist at the pre-primary school I was attending decided I needed speech therapy to correct my pronunciation of the letter “r”. Later on, I was to learn that there was actually nothing wrong with my speech. She was referring to the fact that I had a “bry” as they would say in Afrikaans.

Back then I was a nervous kid as it is, and not really understanding why I had to go for speech therapy. Anyhow, right from the first to the last session it was pure torment for me. I remember the lady getting very upset if I didn’t pronounce the words correctly, and the more angry she got, slamming her hand down on the table, the more terrified I got and the harder it became for me to pronounce the words as requested. I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the years… maybe she was going through a bad patch in her life at the time, hence her anger.

And that’s where it all started… my spiralling journey that eventually led to thoughts of suicide, anything to make the emotional pain just go away.

My immediate hurdle was anything to do with speaking, and I would do my best to dodge it at school… answering questions in class, having to speak to teachers (funny enough I would sometimes be fluent when speaking to my pals but a nervous wreck when speaking to someone in authority), going to the corner café having to ask for something they kept behind the counter (always the thing I was sent there for!), buying movie tickets, and having to buy my weekly train ticket when I was at school. I later found a way to make this easier for me when I started working and were still travelling by train. I switched from buying weekly tickets to monthly tickets. That way I only had to stress about it towards the end of the month.

I remember one incident in high school very clearly. We had to prepare an oral for English. I think it was in Standard 8 or 9. I was quite proud of the subject I managed to come up with and made sure that I knew it well. However, on the day my mouth didn’t want to co-operate, and I tried everything under the sun, but I just couldn’t get the first word over my lips. After about a minute (that felt like ages) the teacher eventually said I could sit down and read something afterwards for marks. Thinking about it now, I think I was more concerned about how uncomfortable I was making people feel when I started to stutter, and that upset me the most. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve bitten my tongue or the inside of my mouth in my struggle to get words out, but those wounds would heal. It’s the deep scars on the inside that would hurt the most.

Having finished school, and not really knowing what career I wanted to follow (I think I was just trying to postpone it for as long as possible), I headed off to army for my compulsory one year military service. After that, in 1993, and after having done an aptitude test, I enrolled for a National Diploma in Public Relations, probably the most insane career to pick when you stutter. The other options were graphic design (that required an extensive portfolio), library services and teaching (that would involve talking all day). I was ready to quit after the first year, but the thought that my parents have sacrificed so much to get me there, made me push through.

I was cooped up in my room every night and over weekends, music and books my friends. I was doing everything in my power to avoid the social aspect of my life, not realising how I’m hurting myself on other fronts and what would eventually give way to feelings of utter despair and loneliness.

By the middle of 1998 I scared myself when I started thinking that the world would maybe be better without me as I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute in any case. I had quite a decent job, working as a translator in the advertising division of Die Burger Western Cape, but my life felt empty. I really didn’t know how I was ever going to find a lady who would want to marry someone like me.

I went to see our house doctor, who prescribed some anti-depressants, but also referred me to a psychologist. I had some serious doubts about this, but our dear Lord had other plans for me. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

I still remember it so well. As the psychologist was putting me under hypnosis, she asked me: “Imagine you are standing in front of a lift. Which floor do you want to go to?” Without hesitating I said: “Seven”. She carried on: “Imagine you are going down and the lift doors open. What do you see?”. I replied: “Myself when I was seven years old.” She said: “Now walk up to that boy, take his hand and tell him everything will be just fine.” Whenever I tell this to people in person, I always want to choke up, because this is where my emotional healing started and my real journey with Jesus began. The day I finally handed my stuttering over to the Lord and admitted I can’t do it alone.

You see, through this the Lord was trying to tell me that as long as I hold tight onto His hand, everything will be fine and I would be able to handle everything life throws at me I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

It is now 25 years later, and I can just praise the Lord for all He has done in my life ever since! I’ve changed jobs successfully, I got married to the most beautiful lady (whom I met on the internet – the Lord will make a way!), have two beautiful kids and am content with who I am.

I still stutter, but I’ve learnt that in my not being healed from it, there is also a great blessing as my story can be an instrument in the Lord’s hand to win souls for His kingdom. I’m however looking forward to speaking stutter-free in the life hereafter!

Just imagine getting to Heaven one day and the Lord introduces you to people who decided to give their lives to Him based on the way you handled your afflictions and troubles on earth, submitting fully to the Lord and letting Him work through and in your life. Wouldn’t that be something worth enduring the pain on earth for?

Jesus loves all of us so much more than we can ever imagine, dying for us that we can be free from every sin, from everything that weighs us down on earth. All He wants is a willing and surrendered heart to start transforming you.

I end off with this popular poem:

Footprints in the Sand, by Margaret Fishback Powers

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”’

God has wonderful plans for each of our lives, He walks alongside us. May this testimony shared by Andries be an inspiration to each person who reads it. I know it inspired me.

With love

Your friend and rector,