Here the founder of Elida, Lennart “Tarren” Abrahamsson, recalls his encounter with Jesus Christ:
A famous Swedish Christmas song fills the loudspeakers on Elida as we slowly sail toward the last port of this Christmas music tour – our home berth, Stenungsund. Soon I will be able to see our home, extra lit up during the holiday season.
I love Christmas together with my large family, which becomes even larger during these festive days. My wife, Gun, and I love having people around us, especially at Christmas time, when so many people are so lonely.
My mind inescapably goes back to a time when my life was shattered by alcohol and drug abuse, bankruptcy and divorce. My mother had just become a widow with only one son, who sank deeper and deeper into the bog. Everything my father had built up during his life, I managed to tear down in just a few years.
“Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic,” is a famous temperance statement. The desire churned on the inside like a kitchen mixer and drove me to delirium and horrific experiences. My driver’s license was suspended.
The carousel continued until I one day, just before Christmas, ended up at a placed functioning as a rehabilitation centre. On the very Christmas Eve I received a phone call with the greeting, “You’re a pig!”
Everything was hopeless, and there was nothing to live for. I decided to cut off my life and had just managed to get hold of some tablets that, so to speak, wouldn’t fail me.
However, on the way to my room and the suicide attempt, I was struck by a message that totally transformed my life. Just as I passed the library, my eyes locked on an open Gideon’s Bible. I stopped and began to read, at first a somewhat absent-minded.
Suddenly, the words of Psalm 40 struck me: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
Was this really for me?
A little later I found myself in the corner of the dining hall eating Christmas lunch, when a priest showed up to share a little devotion. “Bummer,” I thought, “now I can’t get out.”
I had never much liked religious people – but this was different. I was met by the message that God loves me, that “a Saviour has been born to you, Tarren.” That wasn’t, of course, his exact words; the priest didn’t know me. But the message was so real, so alive and so personal, that it went straight to my heart.
The following morning I went to the early Christmas service in a packed church. “A Saviour has been born to you, Tarren.” Did I hear correctly? Again I was struck by the message.
There were two morning services this Christmas Day, so I stayed for the next one, as well. There were eleven churches in the city, and that day I went from church to church to drink of the living water, for which I had always searched.
The usher in the Pentecostal church greeted me with the words, “Welcome, brother!” I just stared at him – I didn’t have a brother, he must be mistaken. But today I realize I had just become a member of a giant heaven-bound family.
What happened on the inside that remarkable Christmas holiday is hard to explain. It was something supernatural, a miracle. The churning desire was completely gone, and I felt free.
I went to the head physician at the rehab centre and requested to be released, instead of receiving insulin and electric shock treatments. He examined me, looked me deeply into my eyes and said, “A miracle must have happened here.” All my shaking and withdrawal symptoms were gone.
On my way to the train station, I ran into the usher from church. As I thought he might understand what had happened to me, I began to tell him. Suddenly he cried out, for the whole town to hear, “You have been saved, brother!”
I was going home to a complete chaos and should have been worried. But during the whole journey, it was as if the rails were singing, “You have been saved, you have been saved.”
Seven months later I was back on track in my life, all old debts were cleared off and I was debt free – both financially and spiritually.
Some years ago I spoke to a large convention of physicians. They asked exactly what set me free from the drug abuse and desire. When I pondered the response, the lyrics of a song came to me, “By His blood, He has saved me.”
In Jesus I experienced a both chemical and spiritual miracle. I received new blood in my veins, I was given the heavenly blood type, and all my past was gone – something new had come.
Through His death on the cross, Jesus bore all our sins and disease, and through His resurrection, He restored us to become children of God.
(article published in a number of Swedish newspapers in December 1989)