I sat quiet far too long, not prepared to share my experience. It was a strange experience, who would believe me? I did not want to make a fool of myself. For over a year I kept silent, but increasingly I became aware of the gentle pressure from God as I would come home from church, time and again, having failed to speak out of God’s love and what He had done in my life. People would ask me to give my testimony but always Satan would, as it were, butt in and say that no one would believe such a story that was so absurd. Time and again I would agree with him. On such occasions I would go home and feel miserable and guilty for the rest of the day, knowing I had missed yet another opportunity.
Then, God decided to make the pressure somewhat stronger. I was put into a situation where, in effect, the matter was taken out of my hands. I went along to a Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International dinner, and started talking to the man sitting beside me, not knowing that he was the main after dinner speaker that evening. As we talked I told him a little of my story and then I sat back after the meal, relaxed, and waited for the evening to unfold.
At that point the speaker, Dr Richard Kent, was introduced. He said he had just been talking to someone who knew a great deal about the subject that was close to his heart, and that this person could probably speak about it far better than he could. Without further ado, he asked me to go up to the front and tell the people my story. I had no idea what I was going to say, this being the last thing I had expected that night. But the Lord just touched me, the Holy Spirit moved on the people, and many of them were greatly blessed. Afterwards, the Lord spoke quite clearly to me saying that he would put me in situations to be able to share my testimony with others. I knew that the glory should go to Jesus, and that Satan would not have the victory over me.
In 1984 I started attending a very lively charismatic church, and for the next three years this became the centre of my life. I believed I was a Christian, and the constant prayer on my lips was, ‘ Use me Lord’. I firmly believe that Satan must have seen me as a threat, and he sought to put things into my life to choke my spiritual growth, and hinder my walk with God.
I had obtained an excellent job as a sales representative, and my career had taken off. The only way for me was up the corporate ladder. I loved the work, and became more absorbed. Before long instead of ‘Sales Representative’ on my card, it was ‘Sales Executive’. I felt very proud of what I had achieved. I had made it, but at what cost! My job became more and more demanding, as I had to justify my high salary and my brand new car. It was not long before the pressures of life caught up with me. Not only did I have this exciting, but demanding job, I also had two children at home. Eventually it began to take its toll of my church life. At first I missed only the occasional mid-week meeting – not so dreadful. But before too long the house-group went the same way, and then my Sundays were gradually eaten into. Inevitably with the job there was lots of paperwork to be done, and careful planning for the next week’s visits. So what better time than Sunday? People from the church came to see me and expressed their concern, but I assured them there was no real problem. I was always able to justify my absence from church. I convinced myself, but I don’t think I convinced them. They probably saw straight through my excuses.
Eventually, and here I attach no blame whatsoever, people stopped coming. Perhaps they thought it was something I had to sort out for myself. Whatever the reasons, it came to the point where I had no Christian contact whatsoever. My job, my car, and my hectic but exciting social life had taken first place. Again, I could justify to myself that my position as Sales Executive required me to socialise on this scale. After all, I was happy, and the money was coming in. Everything was great. So often however, we read in the Scriptures, ‘But God.’ That was how it was in my life. He had other plans for me.
On the 11th December 1989, my life was changed completely. I was suffering from a very bad dose of influenza. Instead of being sensible, and going to bed, I decided to go into work. Everyone I went to see told me I was crazy, and should not be working at all. But I said I was OK. The real reason was that I had just had another career jump. In this new position I was not entitled to any sick pay. Of course the life style I had become used to necessitated high expenditure each month, so that even one day’s pay was too much to give up.
By the afternoon I was feeling extremely ill. I had been driving for most of the day, which was wet, windy and foggy. Every bad driving condition you could think of. Even to contemplate driving myself home was madness, but I still tried. Then, during one moment’s lack of concentration, I wandered slightly over the central white line, and hit the only car on the road coming in the opposition direction. Such was the impact that it took a long time to get me out of the car. Through the whole time it took, I can honestly say that I knew God was with me. Not once did I feel any pain. In fact I felt embarrassed that everyone around me seemed to be making such a fuss. When I looked down I just saw me as me. To others I looked absolutely terrible. The men of the ambulance crew were amazed at my calm, though they did go through every red light to get me to the hospital as quickly as possible.
God’s hand was certainly upon me, and the situation, because the driver of the car I hit should have had exactly the same injuries as myself. He escaped with just a cut lip and some whiplash. We had exactly the same model car and had been travelling at the same speed. In a head on crash of this nature, both drivers would normally receive similar injuries. He however, got out of his car, and was able to walk without any problems. How good God is! Had the other driver been injured in the same way as I had been, his life could have been in ruins, and I would have been responsible.
I did not learn until some time later how seriously injured I had been. At first I felt nothing in the way of pain. Yet it would be easier to list what I had not broken and cut! I was in a terrible mess, and was lacerated all over my body. Not only was my car that was a total write- off, but I was as well. The time in Casualty was vague and unreal, as if it was happening to someone else. Over the next few days my condition deteriorated. The broken bones were not the major problem. My internal injuries were causing the serious concern. On two occasions I had a cardiac arrest, and I had to be resuscitated. It was all systems go, with everybody rushing to my aid. I had gone into septicaemic shock due to the internal damage.
I was taken to the Intensive Care Unit and wired up to machines. The prognosis was such that I had to have someone beside me all the time. My three grown up daughters were there. My parents also came. They were given a room in the hospital. The staff told them to sit and talk to me, but they did not know if I could hear anything. They were resigned to the fact that I was going to die, perhaps even within a few hours. I remained in that state for seven days, and that in many ways is where my testimony begins.
Whilst I was in this limbo state, with the machines in effect keeping my body alive, my spirit left my body. It was very clear, and I know it was not hallucinations caused by the drugs I was on.
When my spirit began to leave my body I began to go down into a very deep pit. It is difficult to describe. It was very black and misty. There was no beginning or end, and no sides. I just knew I was in a pit. I kept closing my eyes, and hoping that when I opened them it would all be a bad dream, but nothing changed. It is impossible to find words to describe the fear I felt. I was desperate to get out. When I saw what I thought was a small opening I began to claw desperately. But the more I tried to get to this opening, the more distant it became. It was an impossible situation.
All around there were people, just ordinary people. They were in deep pain and despair, and they seemed to be tormented by an enormous sense of guilt, which was reflected in their faces. It is so difficult to describe the depth of despair that was present in that place. If you could put all the pain, hurt and despair in the world together, then that was what I sensed in that place. I was far more aware of the depth of this despair than I was of the people.
In the darkness I became aware of an even more evil presence than I had already felt. There, up high, was this creature I just know was Satan. I did not know what to do, because this was not just a dream, it was reality. In my terror I screamed out, ‘I am a Christian, and I belong to Jesus, I should not be here’, but Satan just looked down and laughed a hideous laugh that I will always remember. He said, ‘When I tempted you with worldly things you gave in to me. You belong to me now.’ At that moment I knew it was true. What could I do? There I was in Hell, with Satan, and in total despair. I had thought I was a Christian, but I had not committed my life to Jesus.
At that point I thought, ‘Lord, please rescue me’. I prayed for forgiveness, and I remember falling on my knees pleading with Him to forgive me, as I went through everything I had not done for Him. Then I stayed there, because I could not do anything else. But, praise God, Satan is a defeated enemy.
Jesus heard my prayer, and He lifted me up from Hell into His presence. I looked up, and there stood Jesus in all His glory. I did not want to leave this place. This was so different to the place I had come from, and now I was in the presence of Jesus. I could feel His love and His peace. I told Him I did not want to leave, that I was happy there. But He told me, ‘No, you have to go back and let others know the reality of Hell, but also the reality of the alternative – Jesus’.
As I looked down I saw myself once again in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines, with all my family sitting around. I thought to myself, ‘Do I really want to go back?’ Whilst I wanted to stay with Jesus, I also loved my family and knew I must return. As I began to come down, as it were, and return to my body, I knew without any shadow of doubt that I was going to get well, and I was going to do the Lord’s work.
I was taken off the critical list. Exactly one month later I was discharged from hospital. Once I was taken out of Intensive Care I was put into a side ward. Every day medical staff would come to visit me. They would talk and smile at me. I was not sure what was going on, because I was still very ill. At that stage, I did not realise the impact I had made on all these people. My knees were very badly damaged and were encased in plaster. Every now and then I would be taken down to the Orthopaedic Ward to get my plaster changed. They would say, ‘Oh, you’re Christine! We have heard about you’. I even got a mention in one of the medical journals.
When I first came round I could not tell them very much about what had happened. In fact they were so concerned they sent for the hospital chaplain, because what I was trying to say about my experience sounded extremely weird to them.
Since that time, I have given myself 100 per cent to the Lord, although at times it has not been easy. But an inner voice would remind me, ‘I wanted you alive to do My work’, and that is what I have tried to do since that time. After I left hospital I went to stay with my parents, as I needed time to regain my strength. Within three months I was strong enough to return home. I was totally healed. Every bone had knitted well.
When the accident had taken place, the impact was such that it very badly crushed my knees. I thought I would be left with a permanent limp and that I would never be able to kneel again, or climb stairs. Now I have no limp, and I can kneel. In fact I manage to do everything, including my garden! I now work in a Christian bookshop that has 13 stairs, and I go up and down numerous times a day without any problems whatsoever.
Christine Eastell lives in the UK. She has worked closely with Dr Richard Kent, the co-author of this book, and has frequently given her testimony both in the UK and abroad.
Christine Eastell is still available for speaking engagements to give her testimony. Please contact Christine at the following e-mail address: [email protected]