Fifty Revolutions around the Sun

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fratsthumbI have loved reading memoirs and biographical details of great people. When someone has achieved a lot in life then, in my mind they, or their lives, have much to say that is worth listening to. I easily admire great preachers, great authors and exceptional business leaders, statesmen or sportsmen. Clearly they have worked hard, made the most of their opportunities and added value all round. At the same time, I’m fully aware of the potential for a little surprise, maybe even a rolled eyeball or two, when a comparative nobody thinks that their story is worth telling or that anybody will be half interested.

But as a shepherd of sheep and a preacher of the Word, I am aware of the contemplative theme in the Scriptures, seen also in Paul and in the Saviour, of looking back, summing up, drawing conclusions, evaluating the road travelled and the ground covered. The reality is that anybody who has, by God’s grace, lived in the faith community, fulfilling the roles of husband, father, citizen and friend, does have something to say. I am absolutely convinced that our life stories are indeed worth telling. I know that I have been shaped and helped by knowing the facts that make up the stories of those who have lived around me and slightly ahead of me. I know these stories are seldom told with the desire to boast. On the contrary, God is glorified when the story of His grace to undeserving sinners is recounted. Sometimes, personal blessings can be counted out loud!

When I think back over fifty years, I am thankful for the epochs our lives comprise. We all have a childhood (sort of preschool), followed by primary school years, then high school, then tertiary education, then early work years followed by marriage and family. It is fascinating to consider that, in the amazing grace of God, for so many of us, this is the predictable order of events. God allows things to go pretty smoothly, and so many of us can say with the Psalmist, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places!” Part of my purpose in telling my story is to encourage you to consider yours. What will you say and what is best left unsaid?

It was God’s kindness to me, and to my parents, that I was born eighteen months after my sister. My second sister was born six years later, and so I enjoyed some of the privileges of being the only son and middle child in a stable family of five. My parents are both still alive and have racked up 58 years of marriage. They weren’t always happy and harmonious years, but I am thankful that they were pretty orderly years. My parents feared God and sought to do the right thing. Living in Glendower, having moved from Montgomery Park when I was a toddler, my parents opened a toy and sport shop in Edenvale. This necessitated them sending my older sister and me off to boarding school after only three years at Bedfordview Primary School. So began my nine-year stint as a boarder at St. John’s College in Houghton, Johannesburg.

I loved my boarding school years, although I would never send my own kids off to be raised by someone else. I have many pleasant and precious memories of friendship, mischief and boyhood camaraderie at St. John’s. I represented my school in a number of sports, and enjoyed success in the classroom. I am so thankful for God’s common grace expressed through institutional fraternity schooling like St. John’s, but I am also painfully aware of the negative effects of a privileged upbringing. It was painful for God to humble me and mercifully chip away at the arrogant self-absorbed snob of a young man I had become. Thankfully, I had been converted under the gospel ministry of my uncle at age sixteen, and so I was, and still am, a work of grace in progress.

The threat of being drawn into the border war that raged in the 70s and 80s in South Africa, resulted in me being sent off to WITS. Despite a very definite sense of calling to gospel ministry or missions, I agreed to study law precisely to stay out of the clutches of the military. I finally relented midway through my fifth year and joined the police. My years there were productive, both as a lecturer in Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure at the Police Academy, and in two years of secondment for service in a very different environment of police activity. God brought me through unscathed, and I am thankful! How God works through many adventures and challenges and threats! It was time to settle down.

In order to get married to Maureen, whom I had met at Bedford Chapel (where I had served alongside Eddy and Tina Lear in youth ministry, incidentally), I bought my discharge from the police and entered the plastics manufacturing industry. Four years in a factory environment gave way to another four years in the water treatment industry, while I studied at the Baptist College in Parktown and then in Randburg. Maureen and I—with a four-year old Anton and two-year old Gillian—moved to Springs in order for me to pastor the congregation there. I was consumed and edified by this task for eleven happy years. It was a privilege to return to the mining community in which both my parents had grown up, and where I had been converted seventeen years earlier.

My family and I are so thankful to the Lord for relocating us from the gospel ministry in Springs to a vibrant setting such as we have at BBC here in Alberton. God has kindly allowed Maureen and me to own our own home, to have two children studying at university, and to anticipate celebrating 25 years of marriage next year. We value His grace in growing us through the process of caring for aged parents. We both look back to the various epochs of our lives and the significant people God has used to shape us. We just love parenting, and in turn being shaped by two adult children. We value the deep friendships God has called us to here and feel humbled by being placed in such a dynamic faith community with all the challenges and privileges of nurturing the bride of Christ.

Fifty years have passed by so quickly! Please pray for us as we seek to add value, and bring glory to God by being effective and consistently godly examples for the years He still has in store for us.

Thank you for the part you are currently playing in this unfolding story of grace.

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