“I have a plan for your life”: God tells 14-year-old on his 9th dice with death
by Gemma Koh // September 8, 2020, 4:44 pm
Gareth Thomas (right, at age 2 with his brother and mother) experienced a string of nine near-death experiences from the time he was 18 months old till he was 14. All photos courtesy of Gareth Thomas unless otherwise stated.
He’s nearly drowned – twice. Had close shaves with vehicles (including an articulated truck) – three times. Was almost shot with an arrow from a bow.
And that’s just six of nine brushes with death that Gareth Thomas had before he turned 15 in UK where he was born and raised.
After the ninth incident, in which he plotted to kill himself, he heard God tell him: “I have plans for you.”
That he escaped unharmed was because “God was involved every single time”, Gareth told Salt&Light. After the ninth incident, in which he plotted to kill himself, he heard God tell him: “I have plans for you.”
Today Gareth and his Sarawak-born, Singapore-PR wife, Teresa (nee Hii) are living out that plan.
The 63-year-olds are active in several ministries in Singapore, including inner healing and counselling. Gareth’s gift of insight – that could only come from the Holy Spirit – “makes it so much easier because we get to the core issue very quickly”.
“If they walk out the door with hope, I have done my job.
“It’s not my ministry; it’s God’s ministry through us,” he said.
Gareth spends a significant amount of time researching and subsequently equipping people to understand relationships and overcome emotional pain.
“It’s not my ministry; it’s God’s ministry through us.”
He does this through his frequent talks that are insightful and practical – offering a Christian perspective backed by psychological findings, relevant to a Singapore context and laced with humour.
He has also taught on subjects like the gift of prophecy at Bible colleges, including St Paul’s Theological College in Kuala Lumpur and the Haggai Institute in Bangkok.
Gareth, who does consulting work for water treatment design on the side, is also managing director of his company Back on Track, providing coaching for individuals and corporations “to build people, to show solutions, to help them become the best version of themselves that they can be”.
More than nine lives
Gareth’s close shaves with death started when he was just 18 months old.
#1 Clover-shaped pond. His mother took him to Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey was later filmed) near Newbury where they lived.
“My mother was talking to some friends and suddenly realised I was not around.”
His mum ran to the cloverleaf-shaped pond and “found me face down and pulled me out, coughing and spluttering”.
“She removed the rubbish from my mouth and made sure I was okay. Her new summer frock was ruined.
“When she couldn’t find me, she had known exactly where I was. She says it was her mother’s intuition – but I don’t think so. How could she have known if God didn’t tell her?”
#2 Rear-ended. When Gareth was seven, his mother’s friend was driving him home in a Ford Anglia. They stopped, prior to turning right. “Without any warning, a large Mercedes drove straight into the back of the Anglia.
“The rear window of the Anglia shattered and flew forward into the car. None of the children was cut or injured, although the rear end of the car was. The children were in shock, but that was all.”
#3 Jagged rocks. Around the same age, Gareth was climbing around the rocks of Weston Super Mare’s coastline one afternoon, when his mother slipped and knocked into him. He fell about 5ft (1.5m), but came to rest on a ledge only half as wide.
“If you look at it rationally, it’s not possible for a person to drop that distance, fall onto a narrow rock and stay. You will bounce off,” he said, convinced that something stopped him from rolling on to the jagged rocks and potential death 20ft (6m) below.
#4 Bow and arrow. When he was aged nine, a friend received a bow and arrow as a present. Gareth and his two friends decided that it would be fun to shoot it in the city playground. “We came up with a bright idea of my friend firing it and aiming it so that the arrow should rest close to my feet.”
“However, this voice came again very clearly and said: ‘Don’t do it! I have plans for you.'”
The first arrow missed significantly.
On the second try, the steel tip of the second arrow passed between his legs and he felt the feathers brush the inside of his left thigh.
“Half an inch higher and my life might have been cut short, or seriously changed,” he says with a falsetto to make his point.
#5 Falling into the deep end. Also around nine years old, he was playing a game with his brother and a friend at the swimming pool. Gareth would take a stone and throw it into the deep end. “He and his friend would competitively dive for it and the winner would give it back to me.”
At the tenth time, Gareth slipped and he fell into the deep end of the pool. He could not swim.
“The lifeguard was more interested in the local beauties and not focusing on what was going on in the pool. Thankfully, my brother’s friend noticed me going down on the third time.”
#6 Electrocuted in his bedroom. One afternoon, Gareth switched on the lamp on his desk but it did not light up. He reached though the bookcase shelves to where he thought the plug was.
“I feel that I was protected by the intervention of the Lord’s hand, as though an angel cushioned my fall.”
It was partly out of its socket, and “my fingers touched the prongs”.
He received a significant electric shock.
“My body convulsed and I was thrown across the room. But I landed 10ft (3m) away safely on my bed with no pain or side effects other than a racing heart.”
He missed the two sharp-cornered shelves that held his toys and model planes above his bed.
“I feel that I was protected by the intervention of the Lord’s hand, as though an angel cushioned my fall.”
#7 Bicycle crushed by a truck. “When I was 13, I used to cycle to school a mile way, down a road called Monk’s Lane. “I was somewhat competitive as a kid and did not like the thought of being overtaken, even by cars.
“One day, an articulated lorry driver overtook me just as I was entering the narrow, winding section of the road. The lorry stopped and I thought I could pass him on the inside.”
However, half way along, Gareth realised he couldn’t.
“I believe that the Lord made sure the car didn’t hit me … and made sure that I knew He was there.”
“So I jumped off my bike and pinned myself against the wall. The rear wheels of the lorry crushed the back wheels of my bicycle. The side of the articulated section began touching my chest.
“At that moment, the lorry hit the side of the building at the corner of the junction and the articulated section bounced away from me.
“I had to carry my bicycle into school and tell the headmaster what happened. The police told me afterwards I was dumb for being too close to the lorry, and very lucky to be alive.”
#8 Stepping off the pavement. When he was about 14, he went to London with a friend to see the newly opened Football Hall of Fame. When they went their separate ways, Gareth was about to cross a large junction at the intersection on Oxford Street.
“I had looked right, thinking it was two-way traffic, then I put one foot on to the road.
“Something physically stopped me from moving any further. I felt something brush my left leg.”
It was water – the driver’s side of the car had brushed against his leg as it passed him. It had rained that morning and the car was wet.
“One step further, and I would have been in hospital at least.” He said: “I believe that the Lord stopped me, made sure that the car didn’t hit me, but also made sure that I knew He was there.”
#9 A plot to kill himself. “I had the classic teenage angst. My hormones were raging, parents arguing, lots of zits, no girlfriend and no real friends amongst the guys in the class. My brother was going to leave for university the following year and I had nobody else to talk to.” His position in class was slipping.
“I decided that ending my life would be a good idea. So I sat there to think how I might carry this out.
“As I sat there, I heard a voice saying, ‘Don’t do it!’
“I thought it must be my father, so I went to the landing and called out. There was no answer.” He later discovered that his father was in the back garden and nobody else was downstairs or talking loudly. His brother was not at home.
Gareth sat down again. This process repeated itself. “The voice sounded very clear, cool and calm, in contrast to how I was feeling at that time.”
On his third time sitting down, Gareth decided that the morning after the next, he would cycle out to a busy junction where trucks sped through.”I would peek around the corner and see if a large truck was coming at high speed. I would cycle out straight in front of the truck and finish everything.”
High hedges at the junction would prevent the trucks from seeing him.
“When you know what you have – eternal life – everything else pales in insignificance.”
But the voice came again very clearly and said: “Don’t do it! I have plans for you.”
Looking back, it was the first time he was fully aware of God in his life.
“I had no reference point for angels, demons or God speaking,” he said. At age eight, he had stopped going to church with his mum as he was “finding it boring”.
“The voice sounded so clear and commanding – almost awesome – that I stopped.
“By the end of the term, my position in the class had improved to 19th in the class. My parents had stopped arguing. My brother did go to university, but a new guy joined the school that became my very close friend for many years. (The zits did not stop however.)”
After he came to walk in faith and have hope in Christ and assurance of life everlasting when he was 23, God told him why he had stopped feeling anxious or fearful.
“It’s going to sound extremely simplistic, but it’s true: I know where I’m going, so what’s the problem?”
“Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
“I’ve seen this happen so often in my life and in other people’s lives: When you know what you have – eternal life – everything else pales in insignificance.”
Billy Graham and Brett
A Billy Graham rally in Oxford in 1980 was instrumental in bringing Gareth to Christ. Gareth was 23, and working for a car manufacturer. He wasn’t interested in going for it until his colleagues mentioned that they were going for a beer afterwards.
At the end of the event, a call went out for those who wanted to talk with a counsellor to remain seated. To his friends’ amazement, Gareth remained rooted to his seat even when they reminded him about the beer.
“Jesus went through whipping, crucifixion, betrayal, rejection, lying, cheating willingly just to have a relationship with us.”
A young man with a moustache whose name was Brett approached Gareth. It turned out he was a minister-in-training at Wycliffe Hall theological college. He invited Gareth to dinner at college canteen, where they had a discussion about faith.
Brett gave him a book, Who Moved the Stone?, by Frank Morison.
“It was a form of reductio ad absurdum. It gives you all the possibilities (about what happened to the body of Jesus after his death on the cross) and shows you how they are not possible except for one. The book addressed my intellectual issues.
“Brett was affirming, gentle in answering my questions. He made it very easy to see the truth.”
After a few dinners, Brett asked if Gareth wanted to give his life to Christ. He did. Brett led him though a prayer.
“I cried and laughed at the same time,” said Gareth. “My brain was struggling with this surge of emotion which I had never experienced. I felt like I was floating on air as I walked home to my rented room, knowing that I am loved at a level that I cannot humanly get.
“One of the Scriptures that has always meant a lot to me is: “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2) “Jesus was going to go through whipping, crucifixion, betrayal, rejection, lying, cheating … but He goes through all of that willingly because He wants to be in a relationship with us. Aren’t we loved?”
Going straight to the heart
Gareth moved to Singapore to marry Teresa in 1985, when he got baptised.
As his faith grew, the Thomases were invited to lead an Alpha group at a church some 10 years later, where Gareth started discovering his gifts of the Holy Spirit.
At one meeting, those gathered were asked if anyone had visions or Words of Knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8) – revelations or discernments from God.
“I started getting stuff, and I’m going ‘this is seriously weird’. Why am I getting stuff I don’t know?” He started writing the messages and pictures he was getting on sheets of tissue – the only paper his wife had.
He wasn’t going to speak up, but the vicar’s wife called him out: “Gareth, the Holy Spirit is resting on you. You’ve obviously got something.”
Of this gift, he said: “I can’t know these things unless God shows them to me. He’s not showing me for voyeurism. It’s because He wants people to be healed. He wants them to become all He’s created them to be.
“If you operate through Words of Knowledge, you are able to cut straight to the issue.”
He gave the example of a woman he met who didn’t feel loved by her mother. God showed Gareth an image of a cupboard with towels at the top of her stairs. Her mother had passed on when she was 11.
“On the third shelf, there’s a tin, and inside, you’ve got lots of photographs. Go and look at that picture of you and your mother,” he told the woman. He could not have possibly known about the photos.
A light on the second floor
As Gareth ministered to others through prayer, he told God: “Lord, I’m so under-qualified for this. I’m so out of my depth.”
He said: “God, you’re giving me the ability to open people up. I also want to learn how to close them up.”
God gave him a dream of a big building with a light in a second floor window. He could see the grass and a river.
Not long after, a friend invited him to a talk by Welsh Christian minister, Selwyn Hughes, founder of Crusade for World Revival (CWR). At the end of the talk, Hughes showed a picture of Waverly Abbey College, their centre of training in the UK.
It was the scene out of Gareth’s dream.
“If they walk out the door with hope, I have done my job.”
Gareth spoke with Hughes and was given a brochure with about 20 courses listed. “I don’t know how to explain it other than that the write-up on the Certificate of Christian Counselling lit up.”
Gareth would receive further confirmation when he and Teresa visited Waverly during a trip to the UK. The particular window in his dream was indeed the room where the course was being held that term. “Normally we hold it in the other side of the building,” he was told by the man showing them around.
“It is really exciting to get confirmation about what God wants you to do,” said Gareth.
Another confirmation? The night before their visit to Waverly, Teresa received a verse from the friend they were staying. The next day, the Thomases discovered it was a foundational Scripture at Waverly:
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
“God, you’re giving me the ability to open people up. I also want to learn how to close them up.”
Seventeen years after doing the three-week Certificate of Christian Counselling, Gareth received his Masters in Christian Pastoral Counselling in 2017.
One of the joys he has is “seeing a person through God’s eyes”. On a trip to Taiwan a few years ago, where the Thomases prayed for pastors, God showed him an image of a pastor researching his sermon “with three Chinese Bibles open (because sometimes the translations are different) and a notepad.
“He prays and prepares. He reads the Chinese passage, learns from it and takes notes.” He repeats the process with the other versions. “He spends hours preparing.”
When Gareth shared this, the pastor “was amazed that God cared that much, and that God was with him as he was doing that”.
Gareth said: “God showed me that image to affirm the pastor that God loves him that much and is proud of him.”
So why did God save Gareth from harm multiple times all those years ago?
“Because He had a plan,” said Gareth. “It really is that simple.”