As a young child, one of my favorite verses was the following:
Acts 10:47—“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
My parents found themselves with no arguments left. I had received the Spirit just as they had. I was clearly a Christian. How could they stop me any longer from being baptized?
I remember the day well. We had a temporary wooden baptistery with a plastic lining. I loved watching the pipes being used to fill and empty it. For some reason that day someone decided it would be kind for me as a youngster not to be first. They started with the oldest and worked down to me the youngest.
I waited for what seemed like an eternity. Finally it was my turn. The water was cold. I remember being pushed under the water and brought back up. Now I was a “proper Christian.” I had told the world I would follow Jesus. It was a solemn moment and yet a great celebration. I felt like it was almost my funeral since I was so determined to die to myself and live for Jesus.
After receiving the Sprit and being baptized, very quickly I began to prophecy regularly in church. At the time we also held open air meetings in the park. My sense of a need to share the gospel grew. I would ask to be allowed to tell my story, and would sometimes be allowed to share a testimony from the microphone.
More than once my parents would discover I had disappeared. I would be found with leaflets I had taken from the adult supply to explain the gospel to someone. I was sure they were trying to hide the leaflets from me, but I would always find them. I would generally choose older people as I figured they had less time left to live. My parents would urge me to only do this with an adult accompanying me. I retorted, “But then the adult doesn’t let me speak!”
At around this time I had an encounter with my grandad, the retired tent evangelist, which was very significant to me. My Uncle was home from New Zealand and we were all visiting my aged grandfather. Suddenly, as we were walking, he became lucid. He turned to me and said, “This will be the last time I see my son.” I mumbled my disagreement, but he had a steely look.
He spoke of the lack of faithfulness of many to the word of God and solemnly passed on a baton to me, saying that when I was older I, too, must preach the Bible in a trustworthy manner.
All was going well for me, and I had a growing sense of God’s hand on me for some form of service as the years progressed. I was happy to be in church and looked forward each year to the Newfrontiers conference, the Downs Bible Week.At the last Downs, a preacher named Henry Tyler, who did a seminar on missions, impressed me. I sat through his talks eagerly taking notes, and at the end Henry told me how encouraging it was having me there. You expect that the listener would thank the hearer, not so with Henry!
Henry told me that he felt a sense that God was at work in me for some service to him in the future. I had already began to feel that myself. He told me to keep in touch, which I did until his death many years later. It was Henry who introduced me to Spurgeon and encouraged me to read biographies of Christian leaders.
Then I was surprised to hear that my world was about to be turned upside down—we were to move to another part of the country where there was no church in the family of churches we were part of. I sensed God saying, “Maintain your links with Newfrontiers,” which I did without formally being a part of the movement over about the next ten years. I continued to find their conferences like Stoneleigh Bible Week and Clear Vision over the New Year to be invaluable, and even attended a week of outreach led by Lex Loizides which had a major impact on me, and reminded me of the passion and enthusiasm for God and sense of belonging I experienced within Newfrontiers that I was missing. Lex gave me a copy of the Soul Winner by Surgeon, which is a book I have read often over the years, whenever I feel that my drive to see others become Christians is waning