I pick up here where I left off last time. It is a Sunday night and Alison and myself attended a service at the Baptist church in Tamworth for the first time. The evening service was a time of joy, singing, praise and worship. I had not felt so close to God for a long time as I did that night. I was impressed by the friendliness and acceptance of the other people in attendance. We were welcomed with open arms and encouraged as we worshiped the Lord together and sang his praises. It was the first time in a long time I had an inkling of what a walk with our Lord was all about.
The pastor David Splitt impressed me greatly with his openness and caring nature. He seemed like a man who had lived and experienced the Lord's presence every moment. I was in time to come to know David as a personal friend and Mentor,someone who has had a great influence on my Christian journey. In those early days I found wholeness and a completeness of the kind missing from my life fora long time. I was eventually to find peace with myself and the world around me, "a peace that passes all understanding".
Over the next few months Alison and I became regular attendee's to the Baptist services each Sunday night. Both of us grew in our relationship with our Lord and we both were able to experience a joy in our hearts, a joy that only comes when one is truly happy.Those heady months of the first year soon passed and we found together what it is to be loved by Jesus. As time progressed both Alison and myself began to understand the true meaning of a Christian walk and the need for baptism. Some might say re-baptism as I had been baptised as child into the Church of England.
This however was my decision nota decision made by others for me but a decision made by myself in my own time with my own understanding and knowledge. It was a very personal decision to be baptised as a believer and go through the waters of baptism. I wanted to profess my undying faith in our Lord Jesus Christ as the son of God and the saviour of man, woman and child. Through the waters of baptism as a believer I began a journey that continues to this present day and will continue for the rest of my life. A journey that I was fortunate enough to have my wife Alison joined me on as we were both baptised as believers on the same day having come to the decision separately and unknowingly together.
It was this decision to undergo the waters of baptism and feel the cleansing power of the holy spirit that broke down the barriers that would eventually enable me to forgive myself for all of my past anger. An anger that had at times consumed me and had caused me great sorrow within. The journey to self forgiveness was to take about six years and it wasn't until I was forced to face the imminent possibility of the death of all three of my children that I came to understand that I needed to forgive myself. Not the easiest thing to do.
So on with the journey, the time between 1988 and 1993 was filled with great joy for the whole family as we came to belong amongst a community of believers. It was this belonging to, that had a profound effect on me personally, because to belong I believe is one of the things that all human beings seek. Certainly on my behalf the concept of belonging to something greater than myself, something with eternal dimensions not just work but faith had a great impact. In those early years under the teaching and guidance of David Splitt I became re-aware of the longings and feelings that I have had as a teenager to follow our Lord as far as he could take me.
I became involved in a program called Evangelism Explosion which enabled me to learn how to share my faith with others. We would go from home to home and share our experiences and our faith with others and see the joy and excitement that this sharing of personal experience and knowledge gave to them. I became more convinced as time went by that the Lord was leading me to full-time ministry just as I had felt as a teenager however this time there was no denying the fact of how real it was.
I can remember the first time that I mention to Alison that I felt the Lord was calling me into the ministry.She was shocked and taken back yet she also understood the impact of the change that had been wrought on my life. The longing to serve was undeniable and as time went on Alison gradually began to understand herself that our future lay in ministry. It was to take until 1992 before Alison finally agreed to follow me into ministry and so we started to seek out how we could serve in a full-time capacity.
Under the guidance of my Mentor Alison and I both travelled to a meeting in Sydney at Baptist House. It was a meeting that was to change our lives for ever, it was the turning point in understanding that if I was to serve our Lord I would first need to go and study his word in a more serious way. We met a most wonderful man who was in charge of ministry placements for the Baptist union of New South Wales and he encouraged us both that the best way to move forward would be to go to college and study full-time. Only then would we be fully prepared and enabled to carry out ministry to others.
At the age of 39 and 40 respectively and with three children Alison and myself moved away from our home in Tamworth to the Baptist College at Eastwood in Sydney. It would be this relocation that would prompt within me a deep mental and physical challenge or crisis. It wouldbe during the Christmas holidays of 1993 after having sold our business in Tamworth and having made ready for our move to Sydney that I was to experience the near death of my three children. It was to be a traumatic influence of me personally over the first year and a half of my time in Sydney causing me anxiety at levels that I had never experienced before.
During the Christmas holidays we travelled to Sawtell on the New South Wales north coast and set up camp in a caravan park for a well earned break. As usual we pitched our tent and set up camp as we usually did. We had always had a great time whenever we visited Sawtell in the past and each Christmas a Christian group would hold a children's Mission with activities for those staying in the park. Our children would always enjoy themselves each time they attended and had the opportunity to meet others of the same age and listen to the teaching given by those involved.
This Christmas however was to be different, unlike the past I was to face the possible loss of all three of my children.