Ash Kotecha

Profession: Evangelist

Born into a prosperous Hindu family in Malawi, south-east Africa, I came to the UK at the age of 17 for further education. As a fun-loving university student, I also had a serious side. Sometimes I found myself asking deep questions about the meaning of life. I was soon accustomed to student life in Manchester as exams - and girlfriends - became hot topics.

Perhaps it was my family background, but for someone so young I was also seriously searching for truth. I read books on philosophy and world religions, including Buddhism, but was soon disillusioned. Did God exist? Is anyone up there?" I wondered. Curiously, some western students were also exploring Asian religions, including Hinduism. Once, at a party, with a drink in one hand and a "joint" in the other, I took one puff - and felt myself float up to the ceiling. In a frightening out-of-body experience, I actually saw myself below, standing with my friend. Was this like dying? It seemed to me that at death, anyone might slip out of their body just as easily. I never took drugs again.

After graduation I moved to London and was soon caught up in a hectic business life. I was wheeling and dealing in property, false passports and driving licences! Eventually, I owned a lovely house in Harrow, Middlesex. However, to cover my mortgage, I rented out two rooms to a couple of young women students. They were ideal tenants. Always cheerful and tidy - even offering to cook, and iron my shirts! Their practical kindness impressed me. They were full of joy and peace, and I was hungry for what they had. They said it was Jesus who gave them the happiness that I wanted. One day I asked them where they disappeared to each Sunday. "Church", they replied. Out of sheer curiosity I accepted their invitation to "see what it is like".

After a few visits, a leader in their church asked me if I believed in Jesus. As a Hindu, I was baffled. Surely someone like a bishop or even the Pope would have to give permission for someone like me to become a Christian?

"No", said my friend, "you don't need to see a bishop. Just ask Jesus, that's all".

Yet to me, Jesus was merely the God of the Western world. To trust Jesus would be a huge leap of faith!

"Don't worry," said my friend. "Jesus will catch you. Just say these words after me: 'Dear Jesus...' " I said the words, adding (as he suggested), and as sincerely as I could: "I am a sinner and I ask you to save me, Jesus, and make me your child. I open my heart to you and I ask you to come into my life."

Then a strange thing happened: I felt as light as a feather, as if a huge burden had fallen off me. I felt I'd landed on a very solid rock. I was soon baptised with water as a sign of my new faith - and I felt as clean as a new-born baby. But as the days passed, I still found the Bible hard to understand. I also found it difficult to share my faith without fear among my Hindu family and friends.

So, a leader at the church prayed for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God. It was a life-changing experience as I spoke in a heavenly language (tongues), praising God with all my might. Suddenly, I had a new confidence in Christ - and I discovered that the Bible became a new, living book to me. However, my Hindu family and friends were very upset with me for "bringing shame on the family name." Jesus, they said, was the white man's God, "but we have our own gods - no-one can change fom a Hindu to a Christian. It's unthinkable!"

One day I was visiting my perplexed parents and found my father sick in bed with a slipped disk and much pain. My mother, a devout Hindu, shouted: "Why don't you ask your Jesus to help your father?" What was I to do? I laid a hand on my father's head and prayed in tongues for a few seconds. Then I heard a voice telling me he was healed. "Dad," I said, "I think you are healed."

He must have believe me because he leapt out of bed, got dressed rapidly and then rushed me over to a sick nephew's home "to do your magic". Amazingly, the nephew was also healed.

The family persecution eased as many in my family became believers and were healed.

Curiously, when I was born, my mother had a premonition that I would serve God. Eventually, at the age of 77, she phoned me one day saying: "Son, I am dying - and I am very scared." We prayed, and she was not only healed but lost all her fear of death. As a result, she asked Jesus to save her as well. She is now going strong at eighty-five!

Yet today, I realise that the greatest miracle is not physical or emotional healing, but spiritual birth through simple faith in Jesus Christ. That's what the Bible calls being born-again, when we receive the life-giving Holy Spirit.

I met my wife, Sharon, at Bible School and we later pioneered a church, before God called us into and evangelism and healing ministry. Sharon is a gifted musician and prophetic psalmist.

It has been a tremendous thrill, in recent years, to see God change people's lives as we have travelled across the UK and Europe, preaching the Gospel and praying for the sick. We are also setting up an internet training ministry to reach people in the Middle East and Asian nations.

Ash is an itinerant Evangelist with a healing ministry and can be contacted at AKMinistry@aol.com or www.ashkotecha.org.

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