One day, I was travelling by car with a very close friend of mine from the city of Calicut to Bangalore, when we met with an accident. A truck came and crashed straight into our car, the car turned and tumbled, and we went straight through the windscreen. I thought we would die in that very moment. The car was totalled, but we had only a few wounds; in fact, there was more damage on the car than there was on the both of us together. It was as if someone or something was out to get me. Trials in my life were never-ending, and I felt like life as I knew it meandered through sickness, debt or accidents. I just didn’t know what to do with my life.

Sometime after the accident, my friend that was in the car with me went for a charismatic retreat and the counsellor came up to him and told him about the car accident. The counsellor told him it was God that had saved him from the accident, and this was particularly odd because we hadn’t told anybody about the accident. My friend wasn’t even meant to go to the meeting; he was going to get married in three months and he was only there at the time because he was travelling to Bangalore for his wedding shopping. When he heard this he was shocked that someone else knew about the car accident, and he then gave his life to the Lord because he knew this was authentic and he wanted to change.

So he called me and said, ‘Why don’t you go for this retreat? It will change your life.’ I said I didn’t mind going anywhere if it would give me some peace, because I couldn’t live like this any longer. But these retreats were for seven days, from 6am to 10pm, and I couldn’t even sit in a church for one hour – I could barely sit in my lessons at school! How could I attend a seven-day retreat where I had to stay overnight? My parents were starting to pray, as were my aunts and uncles. I thought to myself, ‘Anyway your life is gone, you have nothing more to lose, so you may as well go for this.’

I went for the retreat, which was in Cochin. My wife, Preethy, was also at the same retreat but I didn’t know her then. I met some friends there and we sat at the back and were having fun, so the first day went by quickly. There were people who were attending this kind of retreat for the second and third time, so I asked them what it was like. They said it was awesome, but it changed them for two or three months and then they went back to their old ways and so have come back again (like a de-addiction centre!). On the second day, the preacher said, ‘In any case you have decided to attend the retreat, so you may as well receive, you have nothing to lose.’ So I decided to do what he had said. I listened and did what he asked us to do, because he was right: my life was in such bad shape I had nothing to lose. I did everything the preacher said on that day, but I didn’t experience anything. When I look back it was purely by the grace of God that I stayed for that long – previously I couldn’t even stay at a church for one hour, and I was already here for two full days.

On the second night, during the time of worship, I just felt something shift and I started worshipping, and that was the first time in my life that I was worshipping. I said to myself, ‘if I don’t get touched tonight, I will leave the retreat’. As the worship was going on, the preacher on the stage said, ‘God is calling someone by the name of Rakesh.’ As he said that and released the word, I just felt something come and touch me saying, ‘Son, I have called you.’ I could feel it my spirit. So I decided that I would sit there for the next five days and hear what they had to say. From the third day, every word that the preachers preached was as if it were directed right to me. During the first two days I couldn’t hear or receive half of what they said because I was blinded and deafened. But after I had received a touch of the Spirit, something broke and I could hear the word. Everything I heard from the third day was so real. I started getting convicted of sins. They gave us a list of 128 sins and we had to mark every sin we had committed. I started counting the sins I had committed and I had committed 116 out of the 128. It was tough, but I was really crying and repenting. I became so open, and I knew this was the truth: I had found the reason for all my problems. The Word started revealing to me why I was going through what I was going through. This was a Catholic charismatic retreat, so on the fourth day we had to go the priest to confess our sins. I was very genuine and I started confessing my sins and the priest was looking at me in disbelief because the list was endless and kept going on. So I confessed 116 sins! As I started confessing my sins, there was a peace that came over me and I felt the Lord open up things in my heart.

The fifth day was the day of deliverance. I was aware that a lot of demons had come into me because I had gone for parrot fortune telling and for astrology and numerology. These were serious demons because they were connected to witchcraft, and this was what was putting me in bondage and making me feel suffocated. As the deliverance was going on, everyone around me was having experiences. I was sitting in a chair and then suddenly my chair started turning and I could literally feel things leaving me. In the end I was thrown out of my chair and I just felt complete freedom. On the sixth day they had Holy Spirit infilling, and if I am being honest, I didn’t feel anything great on that night, but I still felt so free.

After the seventh day, when I came out of the retreat centre – this was 26th October 1996 – for the first time in my life I felt as though I were able to live. I looked up and the sky was blue, I could finally breathe, I felt like a child and I was so excited about life! I was so excited that I would tell anyone I could, ‘I’ve met Jesus.’ I remember going back home and telling my mother and father that I’d met Jesus, and my dad immediately turned around and said that I was running away from my problems, away from my debts. But I was so excited that my mother was excited for me and said she wanted to go for this retreat. I started convincing everybody that they needed to go for the retreat! I became like an evangelist. I travelled back to Chennai from Calicut in an AC compartment of a train, reading the notes I had taken from the retreat and hundreds of scriptures, listening to my Walkman and just having such a great time. That night I slept like a baby and it felt so good. That was the best thing that happened. I never thought I would be able to travel in an AC compartment of a train because of the claustrophobia, let alone sleep in one! But I slept so well. When you come to Jesus you can sleep! I had finally experienced complete freedom!

So with my life completely changed, I went back to Chennai and started doing my MBA and attended Catholic charismatic meetings. In the next year my life completely changed. I felt a new level of freedom, but the Catholic charismatic meetings I went to were very dry and didn’t have the fire. It was tough to sustain, but I was so hungry for God. Within a year I got a lot of breakthroughs, but also a lot of my friends left me, saying that I had gone crazy; even my family started saying I’d gone mad. The priest of my local church in Calicut had never had a problem with me because I didn’t attend church, until the day I got saved and my dad told him about it. Then he called me for a special meeting to tell me that I was making a mistake. I told the priest that I’d been partying and drinking but I’d left that and now I loved Jesus, and it seemed he didn’t have a problem with the partying and drinking but he had a problem that I’d come to Jesus. They were nice people, but they wanted to have control over people and didn’t want people to be free. I was quoting scripture to the priest, and eventually they let me be, saying there was no hope for me.

After one year, I was still not seeing any breakthrough in my finances and people were still after me for my debt. I knew I needed to seek a breakthrough in my finances from God. If this didn’t happen, I wasn’t going to solve my problems, because my dad kept saying I was running away from everything. I decided to fast and pray for a week. I wanted a book on the Holy Spirit, and the only author I knew at the time was Billy Graham. But as I was in the bookstore looking for it, a man came up to me and said I should get a book by Benny Hinn called Good Morning, Holy Spirit and another book called Anointing. He also gave me a cassette and said he had a hundred churches, but I didn’t know who he was. It was like he was the Angel of the Lord sent to tell me which book to buy. As I was going home after buying the books, the presence of the Lord started hitting me and I hadn’t even started reading the books! I went to my room and started reading Good Morning, Holy Spirit. I read it for the next seven days and started playing the audio tape on repeat, and the presence of the Lord started coming into my room in such a strong way. One night as I was in my room, kneeling down and listening to this tape. I could feel the wind blowing and I came to understand that the Holy Spirit is so real. I started crying and the room was so full of the presence of God; the sense of the love of God was amazing. In the book, Benny Hinn says God will speak to you from the Bible, and I said, ‘God, if you can speak to Benny, can you speak to me?’ The Lord said, ‘Open the Bible, I’m going to speak to you.’ As I started opening my Bible, the Lord said, ‘Turn to Jeremiah 1,’ and I started reading where it says: ‘I called you to be a prophet and I knew you from when you were in your mother’s womb.’

I started crying as I read this and I said, ‘Lord, I don’t know anything.’ But through the scriptures He said He would put His words in my mouth, I would go to places, I would speak for Him, and for me it was so real. Reading Benny Hinn’s book was like a fairy-tale because I hadn’t been to any Pentecostal meetings or met anybody who was moving this way. Benny Hinn talks about how he would go to meetings and the Holy Spirit would go before him. It was amazing that you could have the Holy Spirit with you all the time, and knowing that I could have it just like he had it changed my life. I told the Lord in that seven days that I was willing to serve Him and go to the streets to preach for Him, I was willing to do anything, and the only thing I wanted the Lord to do for me was to solve my debt because the debt was the biggest mountain for me. The Lord said that He would solve everything. That encounter which I had in my room changed my life, it changed everything, it changed how I looked at life, and to cut a long story short, I got a breakthrough in my business.

The Lord asked me to sell my business. Until now the Lord had spoken to me through dreams, but now I could hear His audible voice. He asked me to sell my business and I wondered who would buy it. I went into the office the next day, and a man walked in and asked if I was willing to sell the business. I hadn’t advertised I was selling – I hadn’t told anyone. It was completely supernatural. I sold the business and sold my debts in Chennai. But coming back to Calicut I found out my family had over £100,000 in debt and every month there was a loss in business. It came to a point where I had to leave my country, not because I wanted to but because I had to. So I went to Dubai and started my career as a clerk in a company there.

It was 1998 when I arrived at Dubai airport and passed immigration. As I was picking up my luggage, the Lord said, ‘Son, if you are obedient, I’m going to prosper you, I’m going to exalt you.’ Things were tough, but it was an amazing journey where God started building me up. I started as a clerk, and everyone used to shout at me. Then I became an assistant manager, then branch manager, and then product manager in that company. The Lord even moved me to Hong Kong, and then from there to Bahrain and from there to the UK. It has been an amazing story of how God started exalting me.

This is just the foundation, and over the next few chapters I will tell you about everything that God has shown me and how he started teaching me different things. Today as I write this, God has taken us to at least forty-nine countries and we’ve seen amazing breakthroughs, but we’re still only in the beginning of one of the greatest movements that God wants to do. It all started in the first two years of my life after I came to the Lord.