‘God simply overwhelmed me – a sudden sense that he was absolutely present and personal’

Dale’s story | Solo hitch-hiking and the grace of God

“As a young person, I was heavily into sport and fishing, especially trout. I always loved the natural world – the intricacy of insects, flowers, underwater life. I’d been fascinated since I was very young and loved my back creek. As a child, I went with my parents to church, but stopped in my teens. I didn’t hear the fullness of the Gospel there.

Then when I was 19, I went solo hitch-hiking and fishing in the Snowy Mountains. It was 1969. I didn’t even have a tent. I lay out under the stars in my sleeping bag. One night by Lake Eucumbene I was looking at the stars. I could see the silhouette of the mountain range against the sky. And God simply overwhelmed me. It was this sudden sense that he was absolutely present and personal. It was humbling. God was not only the creator of all that grandeur, but he was present in it. He was upholding all of creation! I fell on my knees and I prayed, acknowledging God – his Lordship. It was an overwhelming feeling of his care and power and presence. It can still make me tear up, 50 years later!

At the time, I didn’t have anyone to explain the Gospel to me. I was working in an architect’s office, as a draftsperson. I loved it and I’d been given three raises that year, but God seemed to be saying to me, “Go to Ag College.” It didn’t make sense, but I went… and it was there that I heard the ‘rest’ of the Gospel. God brought me in contact with other agriculture students who loved the Lord, and it was through them that I understood the fullness of God’s grace. One young Wagga family took me into their lives and I really saw the Gospel lived out in a family. It was beautiful to see. Then I went to a ‘Youth for Christ’ event and I heard that God was not only Creator of the world, but he was Saviour. I recognised my sin and knew that Jesus died for me.

The passage in 1 John 1:8-9 has stayed with me since that night “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We are cleansed! Since then, I’ve been more and more aware of God’s gifts of grace. One time, we were living in an isolated village in Nigeria. We had no radio contact, and our well went dry. It was the dry season, and we had two small children. The Spirit compelled us to pray… and in hours out of nowhere, a storm came. We put out every conceivable container on the dry ground, and we collected enough water for three whole weeks. Another time, more recently, I’d been in Malawi and I was having serious trouble with my back. I had little control of one leg for four months. So I went to South Africa for a back operation, which was good, but afterwards I was in severe pain. I couldn’t sleep with the pain.

That same week, I’d heard a sermon on ‘grace gifts’. We need to ask God for his surprising intervention. It doesn’t mean that God will always heal. There is so much struggle. But if we don’t ask, we miss out. So my wife said, “Let’s pray.” We prayed and the pain stopped! There have been other times like that in my life. This life has its pains for all of us, some much more than others. Yet, in his grace, God has given me experiences of healing, provision and protection, way out of the ordinary. But the most important thing is not the healings themselves (or the miracles, or the signs and certainly not about me)… it’s what God is saying through them. He’s saying to us, “I’m here. I’m real.” He wants us to know him, to be dependent on him. He wants us to be humble, to be open and expectant. As we ask for God’s interventions, he shows us his goodness, sometimes in really unusual ways. The beautiful thing is that in all those grace moments, it’s a taste of what is to come, when the kingdom is ushered in, in all its fullness!”

Dale’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.