Russell’s Story… a local Shire boy

After over thirty years of being self-employed and running a local sign business, one thing I can say about myself is that I am no longer “gullible” or “stupid.”  As a matter of fact, I have discovered the empty nature of the big bad world out there and the false promise of business activity, even when financially successful.

So why in February this year (2009), at the tender age (some say ripe age) of 54, was I officially baptised as a Christian?

My baptism took place at the “President  Avenue Community Church” at Kirrawee. The Rev George Capsis, who is a local counsellor, Baptist minister, director of Community Outreach Ministries Inc. (which assists some of the Shire’s most needy people), and recent and close personal friend of myself and the Church, kindly performed the baptism at my invitation.  Along with the advent of life with my wife of over 20 years and each of my own 3 kids, I consider my baptism to be the most significant moment in my life so far. In order to try and explain why I feel this way, let me share with you, what I now consider to be God’s story as well as mine, (at least as it relates to my particular case.)

I was the eldest of three kids.  At the age of 15 my father died.  In spiritual terms, even though I accepted that there must be a God out there somewhere and agreed with  those values, I soon moved in a very independent direction.  Over all the years that followed, I experienced a few major accidents and close calls but no chronic injury problems or moments that  brought me any closer to God, personally.

That was until the day after Christmas 2004.

The Boxing Day Tsunami in Indonesia and Thailand ultimately killed hundreds of thousands of people. On that day my daughter was working right at a Thai beach resort.  She ran for her life to the hills and survived, while many others did not.  However, our Australian news indicated that the place she had been working in was wiped out.  We waited to hear….  and I prayed some desperate prayers.  Later, when we learned she had survived, they seemed to have been answered.  Naturally, I was extremely thankful and imagined the control that I foolishly thought I had over the lives of my family had been restored.

Eleven months later, through a series of circumstances, the Cronulla riots put our family in grave danger once again. As I was about to pray again for the first time since the Tsunami, I suddenly realised how fraudulent and self-centred my approach had been with God.  What a pathetic piece of work I was in spiritual terms. I only prayed when I had a desperate need.

I became ashamed of my arrogance, amongst other things, as it became obvious how patient and gracious God had been to me over the years by contrast to myself.

So I decided to get fair dinkum…  to humble myself and actually give God the benefit of the doubt. Somehow I prayed the right way for once, awkwardly but truthfully acknowledging my faults and acknowledging I had absolutely nothing to bring to the table.  Finally, realising I needed God in everything, I asked Him to take charge.

God has never spoken in words to me, or anyone else that I know, but he then went on to show me in so many other ways that he cares and that I’m not alone in the universe. I even found out it’s possible to get to know Him on a daily basis, whilst facing all of life’s battles together.  In addition to this I went on to heavily examine the historical evidence and other worldviews until I was happy I was not just engaging in wishful thinking or being overly vulnerable.

I have come to understand more and more how real and unique Christianity was.  Through faith in what Jesus has done, God has set up the way for anyone willing to come back home (so to speak) and to be made right with him again by His grace.

So if you’re still suspicious and dismissive about it, as I was for so many years, why not just  ”give God the benefit of the doubt.“  Do it, if not for your own sake, for your family’s sake. Try to get past any pre-conceived ideas; overlook the freaky stereotypes and take another open-minded look at it.

I can tell you, from the moment I walked through the door of the President Ave Community Church I have become, and am still, ever more grateful for what I have learned.