TESTIMONY: ‘Wrong number’ was right number for connecting couple with Jesus

Pastors Graeme and Daphne Smith with their children, from the left, Yael, Caleb and Gabriel

I have the privilege of sharing many God testimonies — and some of them are quite crazy in a good way. I must say, when I asked Graeme Smith, 51, to tell me a little bit about his journey with Jesus I wasn’t expecting to hear a story that was right up at the top of the crazy scale.

I was doing a telephone interview with Graeme last week about planned Christian events at his old school, Muir College, Kariega (Uitenhage), during its 200th anniversary celebration this week. He was bringing a ministry team from Hillside Church in Hillcrest, Durban, where he is a pastor.

The story that follows is what Graeme shared when I asked him about his background. He says he recalls that as a young boy he was “one of the most enthusiastic, energetic, full-of-life, happiest kids I’ve ever known”. But from about the age of six to 13 he was the victim of regular sexual abuse “which comes with a whole lot of stuff that gets released through that dynamic”.

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During one school holiday, at the age of about 12, a local Methodist Church was hosting a holiday club. Graeme says he was “bored out of my skull” at the time and decided to “go along and hang out because some of my mates from school were going to be there”.

“I certainly didn’t think I was looking for for Jesus in any way, shape or form. And we had a great weekend and at the end of the week some young girl from the Riebeek College SCA asked if anyone wanted Jesus to come and live in their hearts.

Greatest encounter
“I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea and I prayed a sinner’s prayer and I had the the greatest encounter with God that I’ve had in my life to this day.

“I mean. the best way I can describe it is I was physically in Heaven and I was there for a long time and my life was never the same after that. So, in the natural I was probably slain in the spirit for about 45 minutes but in the Spirit it was like I was in Heaven for about a week to 10 days and I just had the wildest conversations — met the most incredible people — and yeah, that’s the best way I can describe it,” he said.

Graeme recalls that after his encounter he was “on fire for Jesus”. “I just wanted to tell the whole world about how amazing He was. I can remember sitting in my parents’ house and looking out the window and if I saw anyone walk past the house I’d sprint outside to go and give them a hug and tell them how much Jesus loved them.

“But it was an incredible high but not followed up with any real connection or healthy plugging into a local church or discipleship. Actually, it was an emotional high that lasted for a few months and then the wheels started to spin because I met this incredible God, I met this incredible Jesus, but I truthfully couldn’t equate this God I’d met with the representation of Church that I knew.”

Graeme says he backslid for “many, many years”, during which time he knew that God was real because he had met him, but he didn’t know which was the best path to follow in order to find “this God”.

“So, I got involved in all sorts of philosophies and religions, trying to figure things out on my own and it was a crazy journey for for many years. And the problem, I realised in retrospect, is that I was trying to replicate that emotional high that I encountered when I encountered Jesus rather than just being the person of Jesus,”

In that season his life followed “a colourful, rocky road” with “some alcohol issues and drug issues”.

Hare Krishna
Then, in his early 20s, somebody invited his to a Hare Krishna meeting. Graeme says he was very arrogant and intellectually proud at the time and the Hare Krishna philosophy made sense to him. His conviction that he had found his spiritual path was reinforced by books he read and later he went to Durban to attend a big Hare Krishna festival and to seek his personal “spiritual master”.

He says there were strict protocols at the festival. When a guru walked into the room devotees were supposed to lie, face-down on the ground, and there should be no eye contact or touch between the seekers and the masters. But the guru that he wanted to be his master put his arm on his shoulder, looked him in the eye, and walked him to the gate, saying: “Graeme, run. This is not for you. This is a path that would to lead to your death and destruction and Jesus is calling you home.”

Now, he believes it was an angelic intervention that steered him away from what he had thought was his calling. But at the time the experience in Durban left him feeling disillusioned and directionless and he threw himself “the world’s largest pity party”. Thereafter he drifted into a destructive lifestyle filled with alcohol and drugs — until God intervened again.

One day, in his early 30s, when he was living and working in Port Elizabeth, a woman called Daphne in Barberton, Mpumalanga, sent an sms to a wrong number. That wrong number happened to belong to Graeme’s personal assistant. And Graeme happened to have his PA’s phone at the time. And he and Daphne started chatting.

Graeme said at the time he had no idea where Barberton was. But when he looked at his business itinerary he discovered he was scheduled to attend a business conference in Barberton the next weekend. So he and Daphne arranged to meet. They met on a Friday and he proposed to her on the Saturday morning. Graeme and Daphne have been married for 20 years, have three children and are both pastors at Hillside Church. But there was a lot more craziness along the way.

Graeme says right from the start he and Daphne were a most unlikely couple. He had encountered Jesus as a child, gone on a spiritual search, slipped into substance abuse and at the time they met was trying to get his life back on track in his own strength. Meanwhile, she had been involved in wicca and witchcraft. In their very first conversation they had spoken about how they were going to do incredible things for God together.

Six months later, his company experienced financial problems, forcing him and his new wife Daphne to live with his father, Frans and his new wife, Babette, mother of the late prophet Kim Clement.

Uncomfortable space
“So, we were immersed in this household with prayer and worship and prayer meetings and gatherings and this that and the other. And given where we had come from, it was an incredibly uncomfortable space for both my wife and I to be in,” said Graeme.

But he says that it was also a space where the Holy Spirit started to woo him. He responded by praying: “Dear God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna — whatever your name is: help!”

He says he systematically eliminated most of those names and got to the point where on alternate days he was praying to Jesus and Krishna, trying to make sense of all he was experiencing. Finally he reached a point where he said there were two many differences between the two for him to marry them together and he cried out to know the right path to find God.

In that moment, he says the Holy Spirit reminded him of a brief encounter, several years previously, with an old schoolfriend, he had bumped into outside a PE supermarket. It was a time when his life was unravelling and his friend, Grant Baker, who pastored the Fountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship, said to him: “Graeme, if you can get your head around the truth of who Jesus really is, your life will never be the same again.”

Divine connection
Graeme says Grant’s words had stuck with him and he decided to look him up. “I phoned him and said: ‘Hey Grant, it’s Graeme from school. God’s told me I’m going into the ministry, so I guess I need to know what being a Christian is, first. Can we meet for coffee?”

He says Daphne accompanied him when he met Grant for coffee. She thought the meeting was a bad idea but she came along “to kind of protect her husband”.

For Grant, the meeting was a time during which it felt like pieces of a puzzle were coming together and beginning to make sense.

“My wife was feeling a conviction of the Holy Spirit, and not knowing what it was, felt very uncomfortable. She sort of verbally attacked him and in the midst of telling him a bit of his past, the fire of God hit her in the Walmer Park shopping complex and she couldn’t speak and couldn’t move,” he says.

Later Daphne told Graeme that he was free to pursue Jesus if that was what was on his heart. But she said he should not try and involve her and warned that it may become a deal breaker in their marriage.

Graeme had a few further meetings with Grant and quickly knew that he wanted to commit his life to Jesus and he wanted to be baptised.

With trepidation he told Daphne he knew she was not keen on the path he had decided to follow but he had decided to be baptised and would love it she could be there for the occasion.

“She looked at me and she said: ‘I haven’t been saying anything because while you were meeting with Grant, I’ve been meeting with Jesus and I would like to get baptised too.”

Soon afterwards they were baptised in the ocean at Sardinia Bay. When Daphne went under the water she was taken by a rip current and popped up about 60m away and had to be rescued by a lifesaver.

Afterwards, Grant told Graeme that he and his wife Lorna were moving to Cape Town, to plant a church there. He said before they left in two weeks time he would introduce Graeme and Daphne to some churches in PE.

But as things turned out, Graeme and Daphne went to Cape Town with the Bakers and helped to plant an independent church called Our Father’s House for the Nations, in Table View.

Simple faith
“Because we were very unchurched we literally just took the Bible at face value as we read it. So, we spent our days out on the streets ministering to people and we expected that if we prayed for people to get healed they would and we expected that if we told people about Jesus they would give their lives to Him. And they did!

“So, we had an incredible time there for many many years. Beautiful church, great friendships and relationships, a real evangelism culture of being out and about rather than being in the building.

But he says after about 10 years Grant said he and Lorna wanted to take a sabbatical for an indefinite time. So, they stepped down as the leaders. And surprisingly, the leadership team left behind felt God was telling them to close the church, which they did, after a period of assisting members to find new church families.

Graeme and Daphne were invited to be part of a ministry in the United States but they felt they wanted a break before making a fresh start. On a whim they moved to Durban where neither of them knew anybody.

They spent a year resting, keeping a low profile at a church in Pinetown before they found themselves linking up at Hillside Church. “After three or four years they were invited onto the pastoral team to look after what they called freedom ministries. So, it’s kind of deliverance and healing and sozo — any of the ministries related to bringing freedom to someone,” he says.

Worldwide revival
Then about two and a half years ago God started speaking to Graeme, asking him if he was prepared to be “a Noah generation”. He asked the Lord to explain and He said that as He asked Noah to build an ark in the desert during a drought, He was asking Graeme to prepare for worldwide revival in the middle of worldwide lockdown.

“Then He spoke separately to Daphne and He gave her a prophetic word saying He’s not a polygamist — He’s not coming back for thousands of little bridelets. He’s coming back for one unified Bride.

“We literally felt that He gave us a mantle to start declaring and proclaiming revival and to start connecting churches together. And as we said ‘Yes’ to that, that’s when a lot of things happened. There’s been lots of acceleration and favour and God’s been moving and doing incredible things,” he says.

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  1. What an amazing testimony!
    And what favor from God!
    Iris wonderful how the Lord kept pursuing them!!
    And I believe it was because their hearts were genuinely towards the Truth and therefore towards Him!

  2. Wow, what a journey with God! I appreciate you sharing your story & life with me / us.

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