Surprised by Grace


Now here is a great blessing for us all this Sunday. Canon Dave Doveton, author of “The Way of Balaam” and in his final days in Mauritius before coming to us in Port Elizabeth, shares this experience of amazing grace. And in an environment perhaps where no surprises were expected. But God……..

By Dave Doveton:

Last week was the first week of Lent and I had one of those experiences when one has to stop and think deeply, when you know you have had a very close encounter with the holiness and grace of God. For two years I looked after a tiny outlying congregation in a coastal village, and I went down every Sunday before the morning service in my main parish to preside at the eucharist. I found it hard going; most of the congregation consisting of about 15 persons were over 50 years of age, there were only 2 young families. I had to do the whole service in French including the sermon, and it was quite a journey down to the coast each week. The village was one of those shrinking communities where the young people moved away to the bigger towns to seek employment, and I wondered if it was worth keeping the church open.

One Sunday the sacristan came to me and asked if her son could come to see me, as he had begun to show an interest in reading the bible – he was in his 30’s and had spent his life far from the things of God. The next week he came to church. He sat in the back pew and seemed to be absorbing all that was happening in the service. At the end of the service he remained in his pew. I finished greeting each member as they left and noticed that the young man was still sitting in his pew as if transfixed. I sat down next to him and asked if he wanted prayer. He looked at me and said no, but began to talk to me as if he were reflecting on a powerful experience. Then he told me that it had been his very first experience of Christian worship. His father being a Tamil had kept him away from the Christian God, and he had always been afraid of Christianity. As he sat in the service he felt every word penetrating his heart and soul, the scripture readings, the hymns, the sermon. I could see he had been so deeply affected that he was struggling to take it all in. He said “I could not stop hearing the word of God, I tried to think of things outside, but I could not, I kept seeing my whole life in front of me….everything in the service was just speaking to me, it did not stop, the harder I tried to block it out, the stronger it became – I could not resist.”
I had an overwhelming sense in that small whitewashed chapel of the presence and the convicting power of the Spirit of God. I have led many to the Lord, and taken part in many evangelistic outreaches, but in all my years of ministry I don’t think I have experienced such a powerful and intimate moment, when the Lord reached down to a lost sinner, and took hold of them – body and soul.

I began to explain something about God’s grace but somehow my words just seemed feeble. He had already known something so profound and life changing that my attempt to put into words seemed inadequate.

Ryan reads his bible every day now, and is eagerly awaiting his classes that will prepare him for his baptism.

Canon Dave Doveton, Mauritius.

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