The Desperado

Both as a child and as a teenager Michael Ferri always wanted more than he had. He was never satisfied with the good, he only wanted the best. He says,

The words of the Eagles’ song ‘Desperado’ described me perfectly,

Now it seems to me some fine things have been laid upon your table, but you only want the ones that you can’t get

I didn’t value the blessings of life and family; worse, I consciously ignored what I knew of God’s plan, and embraced the deception that I could obtain the abundant life by myself. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael had been a regular church-goer with his mother and younger sister until his early teens. But, he says, the time came when he would have to fully accept Jesus’ claims about himself and turn his life over to Christ completely.

It was to my great loss that I found it too daunting a decision, and instead I chose to let my ‘self’ rule. I was determined to maintain my own kingdom, despite the growing evidence of its state of poverty, and despite the increasing misery in my own life and the pain being caused to others.

Needing to know the reason for his existence, Michael set course on what he calls ‘a self-directed plan of salvation.’

Science, Philosophy, Witchcraft and LSD

Knowledge would be my guide. By understanding all I could about the world, particularly the intricacies of the atom and the mysteries of the universe, I would surely find the meaning of life. I was never one to accept advice, but Solomon’s wisdom so clearly foretold why my quest was destined to fail:

‘He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet … men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.’ ”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11 Amplified Bible)

But Michael hadn’t yet read Ecclesiastes. He began his search which initially led him to Waikato University in Hamilton, New Zealand, where he studied quantum physics and cosmology.  However, long before graduation Michael knew that he had failed to find the answers to his questions through science. Instead, he began to look to philosophies, witchcraft and drugs. He read all he could on these three topics, which he now sees as “tools of the devil.” He adds,

While they offered a mirage of hope, they led me as they have so many others, to a most hopeless place.  The moments of light were a fleeting illusion, while the times of darkness were totally real. I was like an alcoholic, who knows that his addiction is killing him, but whose only relief is found in having another drink.  Although I had no knowledge of him at the time, I experienced the literal meaning of Paul’s words,

O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ (Romans 7:24)

Who indeed.

Searching for God in a Commune

Over the years Michael had kept in contact with Lewis, a good friend from school. From time to time Lewis would again share his faith with his old classmate. Michael was still not ready to accept Christ, but he did agree to read the gospel tracts he was given.

I was challenged, as I had been in earlier years, by the message of a Saviour who bridged the gap between God and a lost mankind; but still I stubbornly wanted to find my own god on my own terms. When my studies were completed in 1975, and it was time to begin a career, I chose instead to seek my identity by investigating life in a commune. I drove through the small coastal town of Coromandel, and followed the winding road for many kilometres. I passed the beaches at which I had spent numerous holidays fishing and collecting gemstones. They had been good times; but ‘good’ has never been a substitute for ‘fulfilling’. I parked my car and for some hours tramped along the coast, over hills and through the bush. For all my effort I spent less than an hour at the commune; it wasn’t for me. What next?”

Michael spent the night sleeping under some bushes. In the morning he took some LSD, again hoping it would pave the way for some revelation of God. It was a last ditch attempt. He says,

The Audible Voice of God

If I failed to find him I could see no future for my life; I had run out of options. It was cold at dawn as I took the powerful drug and waited for its effect. There was none; I just had an overwhelming sense of emptiness and failure. My life was at a dead end – at the dead end. Then I heard a voice that said twelve words with the most audible clarity possible, twelve words that still ring in my being

‘Michael, you can only come to me through my Son Jesus Christ.’

I didn’t have to look around; I knew who was speaking, it was the Creator of the universe. My initial response was one of total inadequacy; how could I be accepted by the One whom I had rejected for so long? God couldn’t want me; I wasn’t worthy.

But the Bible says that no one is ‘worthy’. That is precisely why Jesus came to save us, and this crystal clear revelation came to Michael on a cool morning after spending a night in the open countryside. He adds,

“Christ didn’t die for us because we are good, he died for us because we are selfish, helpless and lost; whether we know it or not. He calls each of us to repentance, offering a totally fresh start,

“… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 New King James Version)

“And from the instant I accepted Jesus into my heart, my life did indeed become brand new. I found in Christ all that I had ever wanted, a relationship with the Father, which led to all the other issues of life falling into their right place. Jesus proved to me, just as he will prove to anyone, the absolute truth of John 14:6;

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6, New International Version)

Marriage and Missions Work

Believing God had called him to use his skills and knowledge to teach science, Michael spent several years in the 70’s and 80’s at Tokoroa High School, where he led the Christian Fellowship Group, and was involved in street evangelism and youth drop in centres. He organised ministry events including the itinerary of a YWAM (Youth With a Mission) group called ‘Island Breeze’. He recounts:

“I was sweeping the floor after one of the team’s ministry evenings when I noticed a member of the group sitting quietly by herself. I was tired but I made the effort to engage her in conversation. A month or so later we were engaged by letter; with our wedding taking place after a year of separation, during which Malia was a missionary around the Pacific including the most far-flung corners of Borneo and Communist China, into which she smuggled Bibles. She was one zealous follower of Christ; and she was as wonderful a wife as God could possibly have given me.”

Over the following decades Michael and Malia moved back and forth between New Zealand and Malia’s home country of American Samoa. During that time their sons Andrew & Matthew were born, and as a family they were involved in numerous areas of Christian ministry. More recently,  Michael led an Anglican-Methodist Cooperating Parish in Hamilton, while Malia used her gifts as a worship leader. 

Terminal Cancer and Perfect Peace

In 2017, Malia was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Following two years of unsuccessful treatment, God called her home to be with him heaven in 2019. Never one to wallow in her own hardship she spent her final months encouraging and inspiring those who thought to comfort her! Michael says:

“The same God who gave my wife perfect peace transferred it to me; just as He gave Elijah’s anointing to Elisha. We read in God’s Word that “You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on you, because they trust you.” (Isaiah 26:3 New Century Version) And there is the key word – trust. God calls each of us to trust Him; to have faith in who He says He is, and to have faith in His commitment to forgive our sins and to give us new life. We are all called to serve, but that service is an outcome of our salvation, which is solely by grace – God’s unmerited favour. When Jesus was asked the question: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” His response was both simple and profound: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29). And that is the Gospel in a single phrase: to “believe in Him whom He sent”.

In the book of Acts chapter four, Paul records the same message that Michael heard on that mountain top: 

“Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. 

As a scientist, he realised there is absolute truth in this universe, and that there is a purpose for each person’s life. Michael found both. His words to us are profound, 

Let those of us who have found the same be tireless in sharing the Good News that there is hope, that there is a God who cares, and that there is a Saviour who saves to the uttermost. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in the first century AD,

‘Therefore, my dear brothers  and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV)



Story by Ralph Burden and Michael Ferri

Photos supplied my Michael Ferri

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