My first encounter with Jesus was at a Youth for Christ outreach at the Durban ice-rink in 1967 at the age of 13. My family were church-goers but not born again, and the spark of life that I had experienced that night, soon fizzled out. I had a second encounter with the Lord at Boarding School the following year during an African Enterprise crusade. Michael Cassidy preached the Gospel. I made a decision to give my life to Jesus, along with a number of other boys (including Nigel Harris) – but again, my initial enthusiasm waned after a while.
Several years later, in early 1978, I met Sister Molly Attlee through working with one of her sisters. I had completed University and was working at Clover Ice Cream while waiting for the July intake into National Service. Sister Attlee talked to me about the Bible and I listened politely, but with a measure of embarrassment – after all, “religion” is a private matter, I thought! She said that she would write to me while I was in the army, and she kept that promise.
Over the years I had made up my own mind about God and although I thought that I believed in Him, I certainly didn’t believe everything in the Bible. I had many questions about evolution, dinosaurs, the age of the earth, and the age of the earth. Sister Attlee sent me Gospel messages like “for God so loved Chris Sykes that He gave His only Son, and that if Chris Sykes believed in Him he would not perish but have everlasting life”. She also put me in touch with a young man who would answer my questions – Malcolm Harris.
On 14 November 1978, Malcolm picked me up at 4:00pm outside Army HQ in Pretoria and took me for a cold drink at a café. I was armed with my questions but I didn’t get to ask one of them. Instead, Malcolm asked me, “Do you believe that Jesus in alive?” In an instant, as I thought about it, I knew with absolute certainty, that Jesus was alive – and if that was so, I had to accept that every word in the Bible was true – and if that was the case, I had to give my life to Him then and there.
I prayed with Malcolm in his old silver Cortina station wagon and surrendered my whole life to Jesus that afternoon. My eyes still fill up when I think of the grace and mercy that the Lord showed to me that day, and has shown to me every single day since then.
Thank you Lord Jesus!