Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It was a cunning bit of misdirection.

I was to spend the weekend at Willow Park Christian Camp and Convention Centre, off Eastern Beach in Howick, at my church's annual retreat. On the plus side I'd been kindly given a substantial discount due to my current unemployment. On the negative side, everyone had to bring their own bedding.

Sure, I had bedding. But it was about 10,000 miles away.

Of course, the youth hostel had lent me some bedding, but that was presumably for use on their premises, and I reckoned that they might not take kindly to my asking if I could borrow some to take away with me for a few days. What to do?

I turned this over in my mind at the hostel yesterday while I was making my bed with clean sheets before leaving. It would be so easy to just rip these sheets and quilt off of the bed and stuff them in my bag, but anyone who spotted my bed's nakedness while I was away would quickly put two and two together. There was nothing else for it.

Leaving my bed neatly made, I closed the door behind me, and caught my lift with Dean to Howick.

Once there, obviously, I opened my rucksack and unpacked the duplicate sheets that I had stripped from my hostel bed immediately prior to making it with clean ones.

Heh heh heh, the perfect crime...

It was great to have a weekend away, even though, technically, every day of my life was spent away now.

And yet, as I lay on my newly made bed in Howick just relaxing in the daylight, (daylight! In my bedroom!) I discerned a pattern in the differences between British and kiwi cultures: one or two people here didn't understand that I was happy just lying on my bed relaxing. There was the assumption that that meant that something was wrong with me.

Like the recent weekend down in Hamilton, these two days were another great chance to spend some time getting to know my friends better, and I had to reflect on God's grace in providing me with people to be my friends while I was so alone on this side of the world.

And there would be tons to do here. Crazy golf, tennis...

... table-tennis...

... football...

... table-football...

... pétanque...

... the list goes on, even though there was sadly no table-pétanque.

After the evening service, Trev the ice cream salesman and I headed out through the darkened streets to Howick town centre, where we located the local Pizza Hut. Trev has a ton of stories, some of them about punching people. But hey – that's why he's the tough-talking no-nonsense ice-cream salesmen with a heart of gold, right?


Slept in my bedding. Ahhh...

This afternoon, being on the coast, people were getting baptised. They'd taken preparation courses and things, and so for at least some of them, this day had been a long time in coming.

I gotta say, baptism is one of those things that I've never quite 'got'. In fact, I don't think many people quite 'get' it. In my experience, everyone I've met says that Christians should get baptised, but that they don't have to, but that they should. Whoa - which?

I guess I've always assumed that I myself would get baptised one day, but I figured you'd want your public declaration of your faith to be done properly, y'know, with your family there and all.

But I knew that, if I was waiting for those circumstances, I would simply never ever get onto to it. I also knew that I had thrown my lot in with God, for better for worse, so I should really get baptised. To not do so, I felt, was backing away from embracing that.

So I sat on the shore, watching all those who'd prepared for this afternoon, wading into the sea, getting dunked, exchanging words with the leadership team, and wading out again as live music was played and singing floated across the sand from the assembled church standing around. It looked like this:

I wanted to go in and get baptised too, but I hadn't taken the course, which of course no-one in the Bible seemed to have taken either. I guess I was hoping that someone would invite me. I even had my towel with me, just on the off-chance.

Then they finished. The last person had been 'done.' So that was that.

And then one of the team in the sea called to the crowd, "Does anyone else want to get baptised?"

I seized my moment.

I thrust my camera into a stranger's hands and asked them to take a picture.

I strode into the sea. Mike looked at me in surprise. I said, "I've been a Christian all my life, but I've never been baptised. But hey – I'm here, you're here, let's do it."

So they got me to place my arms across my chest in a cross, as they took hold of me on each side, ready to lower me down.

Mike asked me, "Do you acknowledge your need for Jesus Christ in every part of your life?"

I think I replied, "Yes, I do."

At this, they dunked me under the surface, my hair floated briefly up in that way that it always does when your head goes under the water, and then they lifted me straight back up again.

Mike and the others prayed for me, a thrilled Mike saying "Lord, you've brought him all the way around the world, just to be baptised!"

Then suddenly I was one of those people striding out of the sea to the cheering crowd.

Afterwards I showered all the sand away, and actually did feel kind of energised, but this may well be just because of the shower.

I didn't know where my camera was.

Later that afternoon, Nathan (who's a window-cleaner by trade) had some ropes strung-up the side of one of the buildings, and was giving guests the chance to try to climb the side of the brick building. So of course, I had a go.

The 2-storey building was made out of big bricks and cement, and had an abseiling rope attached to it, me and Nathan, who was on the ground taking the strain at the other end in case I fell.

The first few steps up the sheer drop were quite easy, but as I got higher, I found that there were fewer and fewer gaps in the mortar for me to place my feet and hands. Grimly hanging on, I found that I had blood running out of my finger-tips and down my hands, but I kept on going. I got most of the way to the top, certainly above the second set of windows, before deciding that the remaining stretch was just too smooth, so I decided to call it a day there.

Way below, Nathan yelled up to me what a great job I'd done. So I yelled down that he'd done all the work taking my weight at the other end of the rope. At this, he flicked the slack rope at me to prove that I'd climbed the whole building without him supporting me at all.


I mean, if I had fallen, then the rope would have caught me, but I thought the rope had been taking my weight the whole time, but it hadn't. The rope had done nothing. So I could actually have climbed it with no rope at all.

The rope just enabled me to have faith that I could do it.

Was this an analogy for my baptism?


Found my abandoned camera again.

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