A car accident, a chaplain’s words and the constant presence of a cross confirmed the indisputable truth for Sandeep
While his highly religious Indian family worshipped an unknown god, Sandeep Dhaliwal felt unsettled with a deep inward sense that his Creator was knowable both personally and physically.
"As a young boy I was so devout I would walk bare foot 10km to the temple to pray to an unknown God," Sandeep recalls.
"When I asked my brothers who God was, they always said, 'God is one'. I always replied, 'I know God is one, but who is He?'
"Nobody, not even the writings of this religion's gurus could tell me who God was. Everyone was simply following a religion of traditions and culture, but not having a relationship with God."
Sandeep investigated the multitude of gods of other religious systems, but was unimpressed by the lack of physical evidence for their existence.
"These religious stories seemed fanciful and mythical, because they were not grounded in any archaeological facts or a geographical location. The realm of the gods was always separate from our physical existence."
Sandeep decided to dismiss all religion and soon turned to excessive partying at university but was kicked out for poor academic performance.
He later collided head-on with a truck after drink-driving and as blood pooled around him in his crumbled car he was gripped with fear that he was about to die.
He remembers crying out, "Whatever God is real, save me!" Immediately two men pulled him out of his car. Hanging on the mirror of their car was a cross, a symbol of Christianity.
“Prayers were answered before my eyes”Still more interested in partying than God, Sandeep took his father's offer to study in Australia, so he could party even harder. The first day he arrived in Perth, a street evangelist handed him a Bible which he tossed aside.
Despite his religious indifference, Sandeep remembers feeling drawn to Notre Dame, the only religious university in Perth, and chose their highly-rated nursing degree so he could help people.
"You can also imagine my surprise at seeing a cross in every classroom and throughout the university," he says.
Sandeep was immediately drinking with fellow students but encountered more of Christianity when he became friends with a Christian student at his first nursing lab.
"He was a Christian pastor and he spoke of his God, Jesus Christ, as if he knew Him and had a personal relationship. He would pray before exams and include me in the prayer. I definitely felt anxiety disappear each time and amazingly passed every single exam, whilst so many people failed.
"As his prayers were answered before my eyes, I realised that Jesus is real – not a myth nor a religion but a real living God you could interact with."
As he struggled with an assignment and his own beliefs, in the university library Sandeep uttered his first genuine prayer to Jesus: "If you are real help me with this assignment."
"Again, immediately I felt a hand on my shoulder and a staff member asked, 'Can I help you?' I was shocked, it was instant answer to prayer."
Despite receiving another Bible from his student friend, Sandeep did not read it until a chaplain gave him another one during his nursing practical at a nursing home.
The chaplain told him, "God has chosen you and is reaching out to you."
"I was amazed," Sandeep says. "This was God, the God who died for my rebellion against Him on a cross, the God who saved me from a car accident reaching out to me once again.
"I started to read the Bible, and within three months I understood what Jesus had done for me and gave Him my life in a flood of tears."
Sandeep has now finished nursing studies, with credits and distinctions despite English being his second language.
"I no longer drink or smoke," he says gladly, "and for the past year I have volunteered as a Street Chaplain in Perth. This street ministry sends people out on the street at night with a first aid kit to 'nurse' people in need and show the love of Jesus.
"It was Jesus who opened the door in that car crash and it is Jesus who I asked to save me from my failure.
"My search is over. I know God is the one and same God who revealed Himself to us in His son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I now know who God is.
"As Jesus said, 'Seek and you will, find knock and the door will open, ask and you will receive."