Earlier this year I was shown some newly arrived documents for the EU archives. The crown in the jewel in this arrival was the copy of a regular newsletter published by the Vet Science school's Post Grad Foundation from the late 1980s. Published by the PGF director Tom, the newsletter was circulated to over 5000 alumni of the vet school to keep them up-to-date with refresher courses and continuing education programs the vet school ran. This was Tom's last newsletter before retirement, and he took the opportunity to tell his story.
"As you know, I am a committed Church of England member, or in scriptural terms, a 'converted Christian'. I have been asked from time to time about this by very many of you, so as a result I am taking the liberty of explaining."Tom was born in 1911. He was baptised and later confirmed, growing up attending church. But he was, at best, a nominal Christian.
Things started to change when Tom was 18:
"In 1930 I started at Sydney University in the Faculty of Veterinary Science. I mixed with persons whose attitude was that no man of science who did a university course could believe in an Almighty, and the Bible was outmoded. No proof or effective evidence to support such views was advanced, but I drifted away in conformity with the majority views of the cultured intelligentsia with whom I had cast in my lot. People who believed that the Bible was the inspired word of God, those who let it rule their lives, came to be regarded by me as somewhat extreme and unbalanced and I preferred to cast in my lot with those who looked to science, to culture, to thought, to reason, to education as their guiding stars.Tom went back for the next two days to hear Howard Guinness talk about reliability and authority of the Bible, and the Jesus' crucifixion.
In 1933 there came to Sydney University a Dr Howard Guinness, invited by the Evangelical Union (which I then regarded as rather an extreme group) to run a mission at the University. I was persuaded to go hear Dr Guinness at the old Union Hall. I sat at the back, anticipating that this extreme speaker might attract flour bombs, dead cats, tomatoes or other symbols of University free thought appreciation. He, Dr Guinness, had an extreme Oxford accent which might well evoke lampooning and pejoratives. He pulled out his Bible and read in his extreme accent the Gospel of John, Chapter 3 [1-7].
He went on to speak. He outlined a normal person leading a normal life, going to church perhaps occasionally, living according to the rules of society and honesty and decency and he described, as it so happened, exactly my position. He summarised by saying if this is your position you haven't yet started. The command and the need is 'ye must be born again'. ..Well I walked out of that meeting knowing clearly that I was not 'a child of God, an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven' as the Church of England catechism had advised me. I was not a Christian. I new one thing, I needed to be born again. I was upset, shocked, suffering psychic [sic] trauma...I was rattled out of the smug complacency of my lifestyle and my conscience screamed that I needed to follow this up."
"After that meeting...I walked down Science Rd to a surgery class knowing every step of the way that I was a sinner, damned and lost for I had not yet come in simple, childlike faith to accept the salvation in Jesus Christ.Tom went on to work as a vet for the NSW Government before spending 18 years at the Director of the Post Graduate Foundation. He was also heavily involved in several churches where he was involved as an active lay leader teaching God's word. And it was through his conversion during the EU's first ever mission that set the course for a life transformed in Christ. As Meredith Lake has pointed out, "Evangelism has been a central focus of the EU's activities since its foundation in 1930" (cf. Proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord, p.63). And in God's mercy, many other people like Tom have met the risen and reigning Lord Jesus at Sydney Uni over the 80 years of the EU's history. As the EU runs another campus-wide mission this year in the spirit of the '33 mission, let's pray that more students will meet Jesus, and move from death to life.
I was not yet ready. This was mo light decision, I shuddered away from the ridicule and contempt of all my friends doing Philosophy , Psychology; of the girl that I was in love with and her friends' criticisms and laughter and contempt of this evangelical group, this 'Are you Saved?' group. I was not ready until I had faced the cost and the soul rattling indecisiveness tore me to pieces day after day. I went to another meeting where Dr Guinness spoke on Revelation 3:20 'Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in'. I saw Christ standing at the door which had been closed for 22 years, no handle on the outside. The door of my life, my heart, my future, my present, my career, everything. I wrestled the thing through and that night at home...I kneeled down the silent loneliness of my bedside and said something like 'Lord Jesus, this is your promise, your promise to come in. I open the door, Lord come in and take over.'