December, 1969


The sun burned on my skin, as I lay on that beach at Nelson Bay, north of Sydney.  There were people all around me, but I might as well have been the only person there. My mind raced with unformed thoughts, and I was overcome with an unaccountable restlessness.  I liked sunbaking and had the right skin for it - I knew from experience that I could burn bright red, peel a week later and be bronze underneath for the rest of the season. Not exactly something recommended today, but nevertheless common practice in those days. So why couldn't I relax and lie there for a couple of hours? Five minutes, and I'd had enough.  I drove away to try another place.

I was twenty years old, had got my driver's licence as soon as I could after turning seventeen. From then on, each year I had gone off with a mate in summer, to drive up the coast, to body surf and sleep on the beaches, play guitar and sing songs around a campfire, even cook experimental rice dishes by gas light. This year no one could get the time off, so I decided to go on my own. I had four weeks. Day one seemed to be the longest and loneliest day of my entire life.

I had books, and I liked reading, but concentration was impossible.  I had a Bible and an exercise book my sister had given me, filled with Bible quotes, but it was boring and didn't speak to me at all.  She had found Jesus while she was in America and was ready to convert all of us.  I did my duty, and read all the verses, but they just seemed like mumbo-jumbo to me. I put them away and drove on.

I had been brought up in a 'Christian' home, where Mum had a relationship with God and Dad supported Christian values.  We came to Australia from Holland in 1961 on an assisted passage via the Panama Canal, Mum, Dad, me and two sisters. I was thirteen and had just discovered testosterone. I dreamed of intimacy with the girl who was my soul mate, but hadn't yet materialised.  And then suddenly she was everywhere.  Sometimes she would be a blonde, and other times a redhead. Then she had black hair, or brown. She would wear boots and mini skirts, or tight jeans and a loose jumper.  I longed to get to know her and to communicate with her, but I didn't know what to say, or even how I felt about things.  And while the hormones had a field day, I questioned the meaning of life and the existence of a higher being. I attended church because it was encouraged by my parents and because there were girls there. By the time I turned seventeen, I had turned into an agnostic, sorely disappointed by what I saw at church. Mates and I would find out about parties happening on the weekends and crash them. I found out girls liked my singing and so I would bring my twenty dollar guitar and sing them folk songs, songs with a message that appealed to me in my search for meaning. We would drink too much and generally cause mayhem.  But my upbringing had instilled certain values which were hard to abandon. So I struggled to maintain my rebellion.

I went to university and failed. I couldn't pay attention to the lecturers, as too many potential soul mates kept my mind and imagination occupied. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or what job was right for me, and when university didn't come off, I became a Survey Draftsman, just because the job was there for the taking.  Life was controlling me, instead of the other way around. And I continued searching for something that would make sense of it all.

When my sister came home from the USA, she seemed to be different from the way she was when she left. There was a light in her eyes and a noticeable peace in her heart, things that I admired and wanted for myself. But the way she told me to get them didn't make any sense.  I had a reasonable grounding in Christian doctrine from attending church, but the idea of God dying a human death to save mankind seemed ridiculous. Anyway, I had done the right thing and kept my promise to read all those scriptures, and now I had other business to attend to. Maybe, just maybe, the girl of my dreams was waiting just around the corner.

I found a deserted beach, parked my Morris Mini and made camp. I had no tent and slept under a cloudy sky.  Soon it started raining and I gathered my belongings and went back to the car. Morris Minis weren't exactly designed for sleeping in. The backs of the seats didn't even fold. They were hinged at the bottom-front to allow the entire seat to tip forward to give access to the back seat.  I ended up draping one leg over the back of the passenger seat and the other between the two front seats, trying to get as comfortable as possible in the back. I can't say I tossed and turned all night, there was no room for turning in the tiny vehicle.  Needless to say I got very little sleep, and got up the next morning aching all over. 

I set up the gas stove to make a cup of coffee.  It wasn't sweet enough so I put in more sugar, but that made it taste worse. More sugar went in and I wondered what on earth I was drinking.  I had been adding salt, not sugar!!   I had another try, had some breakfast, and drove off again, not knowing whether I was going towards something or trying to get away from it. 

The restlessness became even stronger, my heart ached, my brain was buzzing with anxiety and ill-defined fears.  I didn't know it then, but the Holy Spirit was working on me! I desperately needed to resolve my life direction, I needed to know that there was meaning to creation, that there was something to give purpose to it all. 

I have tried in vain to find that road again, years later. The road I found myself on ran along the beach with only glimpses of water peeking through low brush.  I was headed south and on the inland side there was much higher vegetation, gums and acacias and what have you. On the shore the wind always seems to be coming from the ocean, into your face, no matter where the weather bureau says it is coming from, rattling leaves like the breath of God making its omnipresence known. There were no houses or development, only that straight and lonely road.   And as I drove slowly along it, my heart seemed to explode.

I pulled over by the side of the road and promptly burst into tears, great howling sobs that erupted from deep inside somewhere, surging up from a part of me that wasn't even made of flesh. I begged God to take away the pain, the doubt, the fear, the restlessness.  More tears cascaded in a torrent. I told Him I was sorry for the way I had been, and asked Him to forgive me. Tears and more tears and in the midst of repentance I asked Jesus to take over, to fill up my heart and be Lord of my life.  

And then an amazing thing happened.  It started at the top of my head, like cold electricity moving through me, earthing at my feet inside that little car. As it moved through, it took with it all the anxiety, the doubts and fears, all the negative feelings, and replaced them with peace and love and still waters.

I started the car and decided to drive home. I recall picking up a hitchhiker, but being unable to find words to explain what had happened. He must have thought he had been picked up by a madman, who was laughing and crying and singing all at the same time.  If I remember right, he asked to be dropped off fairly soon, but I can't be sure. But I got home and spent the next two weeks playing games with my little sister.  The peace in my heart asked for nothing.  It was just wonderful to be able to relax, be free of pressure, and to have an assurance in my mind and heart that someone new was in charge.


I handed over to the Lord my desire to find a soul mate. I recall sitting at lunchtime in a plaza, with gorgeous girls parading all around me and wondering how on earth I could meet even a small percentage of them, let alone decide which one would turn out to be my one-and-only.  The task was impossible, and deference to His wisdom seemed highly advisable. Suddenly, that desire was shifted to second place, and for the time being hardly occupied my mind. The main change was a turn-around, where instead of looking, I left the provision to Him.  

My love for my new-found Saviour was overwhelming. I was ready to proclaim Him to all and sundry. I wanted to shout out my love for Him from the rooftops. I spent my time absorbed in His word and sharing my testimony with everyone within earshot. I prayed that He would bring one person a day into my company with whom I could share and asked He would have me invited to at least one gathering per week where I could testify.  That prayer was answered beyond all expectation. Invitations to speak and sing often numbered two or three every weekend, churches of all denominations, youth groups of all kinds, and I shared my experience with strangers on the train, friends and relatives, work colleagues and anyone else who would listen.  Within six months people at work started giving me a wide berth, sick of the earbashing they received every time I spoke to them! But in Christian gatherings my popularity grew.  To groups sometimes numbering hundreds, I would sing the message songs I used to sing to girls, but followed them up by explaining the message as I understood it, and how it impacted on life and meaning and how it related to the Gospel.  There were wonderful messages in so many of the songs of that baby-boomer era.  All of that generation was going through a transformation, questioning traditional values and searching for Truth.  And I sincerely believed I had found the answers they were looking for!

Wednesday nights we went to St Andrews Cathedral in the centre of Sydney, for a healing service. Afterwards, a group of us would go into King's Cross, at that time Sydney's hub of drug abuse and prostitution, to share the Gospel. We went anywhere the Spirit led, and visited witch's dens and places which served as a cover for the drug trade.  One of those, called the "Ballpants", I will mention in a later testimony. 

Too many names and too many people would be implicated to share with you the details of my marriage, so I will paint the picture using only broad strokes of my brush. Suffice it to say that, what I took to be unmistakeable divine guidance, had input from a variety of people, all well-intentioned, but nevertheless motivated by human interests.  They succeeded by touching that place of my greatest vulnerability - the deep desire to find my soul mate, who, at that time, I still believed was a single person, waiting somewhere in this world to meet up with me.  In the exuberance of youthful inexperience, we embarked on a journey that would prove to be full of potholes and hurdles, about a year after my rebirth. 


There are many lessons that, in hindsight, we wish we had learned before we made life-changing decisions.  But in the never-ending process of growing through exposure to new things and experiences, that is an unachievable ideal. Right now, rapidly approaching my sixties, I am still learning new stuff every day, and constantly amazed at how little I really know. But more than that, it is amazing how hard it is to truly know yourself.

What I have learned about God from all this are timeless lessons that apply to anyone.  What I have learned about myself is something that still applies today, seen through much older eyes.  From my salvation experience I found out:


  • God will honour any genuine approach we make to reach Him.
  • God wants to occupy first place in our heart, whether we have a soul-mate or not.
  • Understanding is not a prerequisite to receiving a touch from God.
  • Salvation is a real, spiritual experience, involving repentance.
  • I am not afraid of commitment to the right relationship, and can give it my all.
  • Warning: I can get swept away by the euphoria of falling in love, and no matter how close I feel to the Lord, if He is not in absolute first place, I canstill be deceived.

These are all very important lessons, and things that enrich life wonderfully.