‘Oh come to the altar; the father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.’
Not the words you’d imagine being shouted by a bunch of teenage boys during the half-time break at a rugby match. But at last year’s grand final between long-time rivals St Joseph’s Nudgee College and the Southport School, that’s exactly what happened. There’s video evidence, and we guarantee it’ll give you chills!
The Nudgee Boys—Stephen, who sang, and Ben, who played keyboards—could hardly believe it either. They told Alex during a Vision180 interview that it was the culmination of a year of praying. They knew God was powerful in their school, but they couldn’t see how.
On the Wednesday before the big game, they decided to take the massive gamble of teaching a Christian song at a Catholic school. ‘Come on, boys. We’re gonna do something different this weekend. We’ll teach you a song.’
Turns out they didn’t have to. Everyone already knew the words.
‘And then come Saturday,’ Ben revealed, ‘they were all fired up and ready to go.’
To hear their whole school belting out the anthem, originally by Elevation Worship, was a triumphant moment for both of them. ‘Having teachers responding, and students responding, in such a powerful way—it’s been incredible,’ Stephen added.
For those of you wanting to step out and do something for Christ in your own school, Ben thinks prayer is the most important thing. They’d been praying over this for more than a year. And even though they were not really seeing any impact, they never lost hope. ‘So just pray into it as much as you can, and don’t hold anything back.’
‘We would do mass and full school assembly,’ Stephen said, ‘and we’d be like, yeah, that was good, but we haven’t seen anything. We want to see something. But we just kept on praying, and being faithful, and eventually, we got to play in front of the grandstand.’
The performance has kickstarted conversations with a lot of other students, including non-Christians. They talked about hearing songs on the radio, and thinking, ‘That was cool.’ ‘But then when they hear a song that Ben and I play, it touches them. It’s an emotional touch as well. It’s something that they’ve never felt before, which they want to hear more of.’
These days, even Christian music can be controversial. However out of the many thousands of people who’ve watched it, only one guy wrote a negative comment about the video. Unusually, Stephen decided to reach out to the hater. ‘So I sent him a message, and had a bit of a chat. I haven’t yet converted him, but close to it, I’d like to think.’
Converting a keyboard warrior into a believer? A bit far-fetched, you might think. Well wait until you hear Ben’s story. Believe it or not, he used to be a passionate atheist. He’d grown up in a Christian family, going to church every weekend, but he says the message just never sank in.
‘And then I started researching more into science, and around year 7, year 8, I started looking into evolution. I thought you don’t need God anymore. This is just a fairy tale.’
Ben was so passionate about his beliefs that he actually started an atheist club at his school. ‘It was me and about four other mates; we’d just sit round just talking about how crazy Christianity is. We’d even get to the point where we’d almost bully kids for being Christian. Unless you deny God, you can’t sit with us at lunchtime. Go away!’
we just kept on praying, and being faithful, and eventually, we got to play in front of the grandstand
He remembers the exact date when everything changed. On the morning of 20 July, he was walking to his next class with a friend when he heard someone saying: ‘Ben, come back.’
‘I turned to my mate, and said what do you want me to come back for? We’re walking together. He was like: “I didn’t say anything, Ben.”’
As the day went on, I kept hearing those same words, again and again and again. ‘Ben, come back.’
‘This is just weird,’ I thought. ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know what I’ve been eating.’
‘I was just walking at lunchtime, just by myself, trying to air my head from it all. And I was just looking up to the sky, and I could have sworn that what I saw was an angel, coming down from the sky. And it just reached out its right hand, and said, “Ben, come back.” I didn’t know what to think. I was almost crying. I was just shocked.’
Ben had no idea what to do. He’d literally just been making fun of kids for believing in something he’d now seen with his own eyes. He went home and started researching, but this time he was looking for proof that what he’d seen could be true. ‘I started finding a lot of evidence I didn’t think was actually there. I think I’d just ignored it in the first place.’
A couple of nights later, Ben had a dream. ‘I was looking in a bathroom mirror, and through the reflection, I saw Christ on the other side of the mirror. He was just sitting there. Didn’t say a word. And He just pointed to the top right corner of the mirror.’
Written there was Jeremiah 33:3. He knew this was a Bible verse, but he had no idea what it said. When he woke up, he rushed to look it up, and of course, the words he read were exactly what he needed to hear. ‘Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
There’s so much we can’t know about how God will work out His plans. Who could have guessed that a passionate atheist would end up playing in a band honouring Christ? Ben and Stephen felt sometimes that their work wasn’t making a difference. But they stayed faithful and kept praying, and now we’ve seen God move through a lot of people in a big way.
The song they sang says: ‘Bear your cross while you wait for the crown, tell the world of the treasure you found.’
Being that ray of light isn’t always easy, but whether you’re trying to help out a friend, or your whole school, don’t give up. God can do amazing things through you.