‘The churches were pretty small. Sometimes four or five people would come’
Tony’s story | An engineering student and the faithfulness of God
“Back in the 1950s, Sydney was running out of water. Only 20 per cent of the city had proper sewerage and it was becoming critical. I was a student engineer at the time, and I was sent to work on the building of Warragamba Dam. There were 2000 of us, working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We formed a large community, living in barracks and about 500 houses on site. Of course, it included quite a few other Christians, particularly some of the engineering students whom I got to know.
In the earlier years, there was only one Anglican minister in the area and he was in charge of seven churches – in Warragamba, Silverdale, Mulgoa, Luddenham, Kemps Creek, Wallacia and Badgerys Creek. It meant that he was pretty busy. And I was just a young engineering student, working at the dam, but I thought he could do with a bit of help. So a few of us Christian students got together and we asked him if we could help with the churches. He said yes. We did some correspondence Bible courses (Old Testament and New Testament) and we used the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. We got qualified as Lay Readers.
Then Sunday came. We got all dressed up in the proper gear – the cassock and surplice, which you had to wear in those days – and we arrived to run the service. The churches were all pretty small back then. Sometimes, four people would come, or five. It was funny. When you put those things on, people look at you differently. It was some kind of awe … whereas in fact, I was just a young engineer at the dam. After church, of course, we’d have a cup of tea. You can’t go anywhere without having a cup of tea!
But then, during that time, it was amazing. The 1957 Billy Graham crusades happened in Sydney. They had an enormous rallying effect and lots of people went. We hired buses from Penrith to the Showground. It was a great time! All of our people went. And afterwards, more and more people started coming to church, which felt like amazing timing! We were actually there to help the minister at exactly the time that God began to do such a great work around us.
It taught me that everything is in God’s hands. He’s in control, all the time, even now. He wants people to know him and he makes it possible through the Lord Jesus. After our time at Warragamba, I found other engineering work in London and Sydney. I worked on projects in Fiji and PNG. Then, in 1983, I found out about a need for a civil engineer in Nepal. They were trying to sink a shaft in a hydroelectric project, and they needed an old engineer who knew how it used to be done in the olden days. I was about 50 at the time!
In those days in Nepal, it was all mud huts – no water or toilets or windows – and you had to cook on kerosene. My wife and I prayed about it and we sought the Lord. She said, ‘Well, I’m not letting you go on your own!’ We went. I kept learning the same truth. God is in control. He has a plan. He wants people to come to know him and put their faith in Jesus.
Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. I’m 87 now. Our son died of a brain tumour ten years ago. My wife died last year while we were in lockdown and we weren’t able to have the kind of funeral that we’d planned for her. But ten people came and we honoured her. We remembered God’s goodness. We sang ‘How Great Thou Art’ and we read Romans 8: ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.’
That’s the truth, today. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God, in Christ. No matter what happens, we hold onto that truth. Everything is in God’s hands!”
Tony’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.