'God, I know you're there ... Please let the rot stop here'
David’s story | Learning the language of what’s most important
“I grew up in [the Sydney suburb] Willoughby. My dad was a sparkie. My extended family was a network of disasters. It was a time when every kid went to Sunday school and my mother made sure I did. Our local Anglican church was a hub of evangelical ministry at the time, so, by the providence of God, I got great Bible teaching.”
“At the age of seven, it occurred to me that Santa was a lie. That was a bit devastating. But then I wondered, if Santa’s a lie, what about God? I looked around and I didn’t see many adults sitting on Santa’s knee. I didn’t see many kids going to church either. So I started asking questions … and the first place I went to was the Bible.
“We had an old man living with us at the time. He had a Bible with headings at the top of each chapter, so I read some of those. Mum gave me my own King James Version, and that was the beginning of my walk with Christ.
“At 14, I was sent to confirmation classes. It was 1965 and the minister laid out the gospel, thick and hard. He interviewed each of us and answered our questions. That year I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom, reflecting on my extended family … the domestic violence, alcoholism, divorce, broken marriages, rape, you name it. I got on my knees and I said, ‘OK, God, I know you’re there. I know you’re listening. I know you died for me. I’m yours. Please let the rot stop here.’
“God has been at work in my life ever since. I went to Sydney University, where I fell in with a bunch of friends who were doing some serious theology. I passed uni, by the grace of God, and I became an Indonesian teacher.
“They posted me to Broken Hill. I was the only Indonesian teacher in a school of 2,500 kids. I was staying at a hostel for single people. One day, I came home to find the police interviewing everyone. My Pakistani mate came out and told me that one of the Burmese students had committed suicide. After the police left, he came into my room and said, ‘I think he [the Burmese student] did the right thing.’ He was a Muslim, and very lonely. That led to a really long conversation, with me trying to talk him out of killing himself. Part way through the conversation, he saw a Christian book I’d been reading, and he asked about it. He went off to read John’s Gospel. As he left, I found myself wondering [anout] I’d spent four years at uni learning how to teach kids enough Indonesian to enjoy a holiday in Bali, but I didn’t have a clue how to talk to someone about where they might spend eternity.
“I remember (at about that time) reading Psalm 32:8–9a – ‘I will make you wise and teach you the way you will go; I will counsel you with my eye on you. Don’t be like a horse or mule without understanding.’ That’s what I wanted. I ended up at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, USA, where I met my wife. She was from a beautiful Christian family. God loves to work with opposites! We married and have four believing children, and eleven grandchildren. God graciously answered my prayer.
“I’ve spent most of my working life teaching Biblical Studies in a Christian school in Sydney’s south-west. The school has 70 languages on campus in a predominantly working-class community. It has a powerful ministry. I got to teach the Bible for 15 hours a week to students who came from every kind of background. Many hadn’t heard of the Bible. One of my students was doing his Bible homework at the local Islamic Youth Centre. He would send me their questions by email and take back my answers. Our Christian and church schools are powerful mission stations in a world gone mad. There’s a world out there that wants to know!”