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Spiralling into "the seedy world of self-seeking pleasure", Brian Statham only saw darkness when he looked into the mirror. It took a series of seeming coincidences to open his eyes to God's light. Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash.

Betrayed in love, Welshman Brian Statham was a broken man when he moved to Asia in 1995.

Shortly after moving to Bangkok at the age of 33, he started visiting the bars.

“I saw darkness in my eyes. I saw my soul and what I had become.”

“The bright lights and exotic dancing girls all seemed very enticing and harmless fun,” Brian said.

“I pursued a godless life with all the temptations you could think of.”

When he moved to Singapore in 2000, he spent almost every evening boozing at a bar in Holland Village with a buddy.

“Deep down I was hurting and using these addictions to numb the pain,” he said.

“But all I achieved was to take things out on myself, and I became more bitter and harder than before.

Brian moved back to Wales in 2016 after living in Asia and America. Photos courtesy of Brian Statham unless otherwise stated.

“If you think about a bowling ball when it goes down the alley, my life was destroying other people’s lives as well. I was just knocking them out of the way.

“If anyone tried to get too attached to me, especially romantically, I would do anything to hurt them to keep them away.”

Darkness in the mirror

The pain that stemmed from the betrayal was compounded by earlier wounds in his life.

“I internalised the lie that I was unlovable.”

Brian was five when his mother disappeared from his family’s life for several months.

“She was a kind and gentle soul but was tormented by mental health issues,” he said.

“I came home from school one day to an empty house. My older sisters later found me in a state of fear and trauma.

“I internalised the lie that I was unlovable, that I had been rejected and abandoned because my mother didn’t like me,” he said.

“She returned after six months, but this fear of rejection and abandonment followed me into my adult years.”

“My life was destroying other people’s lives as well. I was just knocking them out of the way.”

Only later, in his 50s, did he process it and realise it was not his fault. 

But when he was growing up, the impact of the lie played out in other areas of his life. 

For instance, Brian couldn’t read till he was nine, and believed that he was “stupid”. 

When he went to Asia to work as a teacher, Brian continued hiding his pain and fears behind a mask of confidence. 

“People didn’t know what I was going through,” he admitted.

Brian didn’t like the man in the mirror.

When he was at a low point in Singapore, Brian’s sister sent him this photo of himself when he was a tiny tot. “I looked angelic. I had white hair and chubby cheeks,” said Brian. “I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, ‘How did I get from that to this?’”

“I saw darkness in my eyes. I saw my soul and what I had become. And I was not happy with my inner man.”

Watching people fail

Then came a series of seeming coincidences that would change his life.

It started when Brian returned to the UK to visit his father a year after moving to Singapore.

“I wanted to watch people fail and not succeed.”

On Sunday night, Brian was watching TV when he came across a 10-week series called Alpha: Will it Change their Lives?

In the documentary, television host David Frost traced what happened to a group of 10 mainly agnostic people as they attended the Alpha course that welcomes all to ask questions about the Christian faith.

“As soon as I saw that it was about God, I flipped the channel to look for something else to watch,” Brian recalled.

There were only four television channels at that time, and he kept cycling back to the programme on Alpha.

When a participant on the show proclaimed “I did the course, I got the T-shirt and it did nothing for me”, Brian was hooked.

“It made me want to watch the rest of the programme. I wanted to watch people fail and not succeed,” he said.

It also brought to mind an old friend – James (not his real name), a Christian.

Brian called him up to meet for a beer.


James’ wife had passed away a few years earlier. They had three young children.

“I had spun off the rails with my pain and hurt. But James, in his pain, was rock solid and steady.”

Said Brian: “I had spun off the rails with my pain and hurt. But James, in his pain, was rock solid and steady.

“Something was holding him together. I basically wanted what he had.

“I knew what it was. It was his Christian faith. He was now walking the talk. His actions spoke to me more than all of his words could.”

James shared with Brian that he and his late wife had become Christians through the Alpha course.

“‘Oh, that’s a coincidence,’ I said. I told James that I wanted to continue watching the Alpha programme to see people fail, but had to go back to Singapore next week.

“James said, ‘Well, you never know, there might be an Alpha programme there.’”

“Up till that week, I had been going to work every day for a whole year on my own by taxi.”

Brian returned to Singapore, thinking no more of the matter.

Shortly afterwards, his sister, who also lived in Singapore, asked him to housesit and look after her son.

“One of my work colleagues happened to live next door to my sister. She asked if I wanted to share a taxi to work in the morning,” Brian said.

They shared a cab on Monday and Tuesday. And on Wednesday, Brian found out that his colleague was going to an Alpha course that very evening. It was held at the church where she would be holding her wedding.

What were the chances of Brian finding out about the course in this way?

St George's Church

St George’s Church, where Brian and his colleague attended the Alpha course. Photo by Gemma Koh.

“Up till that week, I had been going to work every day for a whole year on my own by taxi,” said Brian.

“I did not believe in the Bible. I believed that it was all made up. It was mythology.”

So a few days after his second brush with the Alpha course halfway across the world, Brian went for a look–see in person.

“Everyone was very friendly and the free dinner was great. I thought, ‘Well, this isn’t too bad.’”

In the video playing that week, Alpha pioneer Nicky Gumbel, talked about the authenticity of the Bible.

How do people know that what was written in the New Testament in the Bible hadn’t been changed over the years? After all, it was purportedly written close to 2,000 years ago, thought Brian.

“I didn’t believe in the Bible. I believed that it was all made up. It was mythology.”

(Below is an updated version of the episode of Alpha that Brian watched.)

But when the sheer number of early New Testament copies was compared against other ancient texts that are widely used in universities, in a science called textual criticism, it all made sense to Brian.

Said Brian: “I had to admit, ‘Okay, the Bible is a historical document. It’s authentic.’”

Historical figure or madman?

Since the Bible is an authentic historical document, Brian asked himself if it therefore meant that the character Jesus was authentic too.

“I acknowledged that Jesus was a historical figure, just as I believed that Napoleon lived, even though I have never met him.”

Brian learnt that outside the Bible, Roman historians like Tacitus wrote about Jesus. And first century Roman-Jewish historian Josephus described Jesus’ works, His crucifixion and alleged resurrection from the dead.

“Here was evidence to show that Jesus lived. And so, I acknowledged that Jesus was a historical figure, just as I believed that Alexander the Great and Napoleon lived even though I have never met them,” said Brian.

“Now that I saw evidence to show that Jesus lived, what was I going to do with that?”

Brian found himself asking himself: “Is Jesus who He claims to be – the Son of God – or is He mad?”

“The more I looked at the evidence the more it made complete sense. I no longer had any doubts or unbelief,” said Brian.

The warmest blanket

Besides “the free food, friendly people” and “straightforward videos that were not high and mighty”, something else drew Brian back to the Alpha course – even if it meant giving up drinking one night a week.

Brian painting in Laos, the year after he moved to Asia.

“I really enjoyed the discussions after the videos and I didn’t feel threatened,” he said.

One Sunday night, a few weeks into the course, Brian was preparing his books and clothes for work the next morning.

“Suddenly I was overcome by such a feeling of complete and utter emptiness. It was as if a hole had just been bored right through my body,” he said.

“I had a reassuring feeling you get when a parent tucks a child into bed and says, ‘It’ll be all right.’”

“I thought about how I had messed up my life big time and it seemed that nothing I could do was going to make it better.”

In despair, he fell to his knees next to his bed.

I found myself praying a simple prayer as I sobbed my heart out to God. I told God what I had done wrong. I was ashamed and the guilt was oppressive. I said I was sorry, and then begged Him to forgive me, and invited Jesus to come into my life.”

Brian sobbed for about half an hour.

“There was no bolt of lightning or mysterious soundtrack from Hollywood,” quipped Brian.

“But strangely, I felt as if the warmest, cosiest and softest blanket was being pulled over my shoulders. I had the reassuring feeling you get when a parent tucks a child into bed and says, ‘There, there, it’ll be all right.’”

Healing a heart of stone

But even though Brian had invited Jesus into his life, he continued to go drinking with his buddy almost every night of the week – except Wednesdays when he attended the Alpha course.

God was about to surprise him further.

Towards the end of the Alpha course was an evening dubbed the “healing night”.

A leader in Alpha read out a list of Words of Knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8) – twice. These are revelations or discernments that the prayer team had received from God.

“There’s someone here with a heart of stone.” Brian instantly knew the word was for him.

Brian explained: “We were told that if a word or a vision meant anything to any of us, it could be that God was speaking into our life and wanted to heal that area of concern.”

When the Alpha leader said, “There’s someone here with a heart of stone”, Brian instantly knew the word was for him.

Said Brian: “My heart was still hard and cold.

“But I didn’t want to go up for prayer. I didn’t want my colleague and 60 other individuals to know that I had a problem.”

However, Brian felt someone pushing the back of his knee, even though there was no one behind him.

“I fought against it, but I was shoved to the front.”

A man and a woman started praying for him in a corner, and he was touched by the Holy Spirit.

“Within a few short seconds, I felt all the horrible blackness come to the surface. And I bawled my eyes out – not just gentle crying, but sobbing.

“My knees gave way, and my arms reached out to hug the neck of the man – a total stranger.

“By the end of the prayer, I was still sobbing, unable to stand.

“I went home that night absolutely joyful and skipping.”

“Emotionally and physically, I was so whacked. God came to me so unexpectedly, so powerfully, so lovingly and so full of grace. He saw it fit to forgive a wicked wretch like me for all the things I had done wrong in my life.

“I had lived in a bubble of self-protection for so many years, where I vowed that no one was going to come into it to hurt me.

“It was as if God had a huge needle and pricked my bubble. My bubble burst.

“And I knew, wow, my heart had softened and the bitterness left. I physically felt transformed.

“I went home that night absolutely joyful and skipping.”

New man in the mirror

When he reached his apartment building, Brian pressed the button for the lift.

“The doors opened up and I saw a man.

“I said to him, ‘What floor do you want?’

“I looked in the mirror and pulled my eyelids down. And I thought, ‘I can see light in my eyes.’”

“Then I realised I was talking to my reflection in the mirror!”

Brian hadn’t recognised his own image.

“Previously, when I looked in the mirror, all I could see were pools of darkness and a lifeless soul.

“But now, I looked in the mirror and pulled my eyelids down. And I thought: I can see light in my eyes and in my soul. I felt alive!”

The following week at Alpha, Brian shared of the miraculous way in which God had led him to the course and had touched him.

When Brian shared about how his eyes and his heart had been flooded by the light of the hope in God, one of the leaders quipped: “He’s quoting Ephesians 1:18 without knowing it.”

Chains fell off

Brian’s heart was filled with peace and joy. He stopped feeling anxious, and stopped boozing with his drinking buddy.

“This pain I had been carrying around was eating me to the core. It wasn’t affecting the people who had wronged me.”

He also became a little quieter and more thoughtful.

“Before I was filled with the Holy Spirit, I wasn’t like that. I always had something to prove and I must have been a real pain in the neck.”

Keen to know more about God, he started attending a Bible study hosted by two Alpha leaders who took him under their wing. Brian grew exponentially in his faith.

He played the piano at church and became a facilitator at the Alpha course. He also discovered that he had the gift of praying for others to be healed and he joined a prayer ministry.

A few weeks into his new life, the subject of forgiveness came up during Bible study. Their leader talked about The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and about forgiving others as God has forgiven us.

Brian moved back to Wales in 2016, after 12 years in America.

It became apparent to Brian that he had to forgive the people who had had a part in the betrayal that had broken him before he came to Asia.

“This pain I had been carrying around every day was eating me to the core. It had tarred me.

“I imagined them in the same room as me. I said, ‘I forgive you’, and felt chains come off me.”

“It wasn’t affecting them at all. They were going on with their lives 6,000 miles away with no knowledge of where I was or what I was going through.

“Every day, I had imagined myself killing them in various forms.

“But that day, I shut my eyes and imagined them in the same room as me. I went up to each one, named them and said, ‘What you did was wrong. And it can’t be undone, and it changed my life.’

“Then I said the words, ‘I forgive you’, to the first person.

“I felt chains come off me. I felt even more chains come off when I forgave the next person.

“I’m free,” Brian realised. “There’s power in forgiveness.

“Whenever I am hurt now, I am quick to forgive.”

Click here to find an Alpha course in Singapore near you.

This story first appeared in Stories of Hope, Salt&Light’s sister website.


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About the author

Gemma Koh

Gemma has written about everything from spas to scuba diving holidays. But has a soft spot for telling the stories of lives changed, and of people making a difference. She loves the colour green, especially on overgrown trees. Gemma is Senior Writer & Copy Editor at Salt&Light and its companion site, Stories of Hope.