Running the small, hard race
When I started going to Bible College three years ago, I thought it was impossible for a little uneducated traveller to last even one day in a Bible College with the academic standards of Harvest. It would be a miracle: with no academic writing skills, how could I do this? To my surprise, I finished the first seven-week unit with a high distinction: the same with the next two classes. The highest grade! There was only one way this was possible—by God’s grace and power, and because of God’s calling.
Four months after starting college, my son became ill, and my unborn daughter was diagnosed with a terminal condition. My wife was in and out of hospital every week; sometimes I had nights away in Brisbane while she was in hospital, then I would go home, and back to work “alone”, with no help except from God and our friends at Life Church in Wollongong.
From our Markeena life group raising $50 to help pay for hospital parking, to friends from the church bringing hot meals to my trailer, to daily phone calls and visits; this is called “the love of God lived out” through the church. This is true Christian love, and I have witnessed it firsthand.
But then I had to face the reality of our daughter passing away. How do you still push on to finish Bible College and go through this? Only God can provide the strength and love to do it. I can say this is true, after 75 major assignments, 18 units, an average of 10 hours’ study a week—in some terms up to 20 hours per week. And after 850 hours of studies with in-class and online lectures, and assignments combined part-time over three years; after countless cups of coffee and Red Bulls, and after thousands of sweets and sugar (and gaining 9kg thanks to Starbursts and every other sweet known to mankind).
After all-night assignments, and all-night studies, I can now finally say my last assignment has just been submitted.
I have finished the course, I have run this small hard race, and I have finished what God commissioned me to do. As I reflect and look back, I see that the past three years has been three years of sacrifice and self-discipline in the areas of work, money, family, and travelling. I have had to discipline myself in quitting smoking, drinking, and everything that a Christian leader should not do. The Holy Spirit has used this time to humble me and start a time of shaping and moulding me—preparing me for a life of ministry.
It has been an amazing time, but with no straight road, from the miracles that I have witnessed to the brutal attacks I have had to endure from the enemy. He has tried so hard to rob me of the call of God on my life, but with power and great courage, we still stand and we hold fast to the anchor of God. My relationship with Him has miraculously grown in the time I have spent in this College. These were the hardest days of my life, especially when I found out that Luke was sick and almost at a stage where we could have lost him. We were told he would need four operations a year for 10 years, but after three months he was completely healed, which left the senior doctors speechless.
Then, we were told we were having a baby girl, but in the same breath, told that her quality of life would not be good. When I heard this news, it was also one of the hardest days of my life, because that was not what we wanted for her. Her ‘miracle’ was going to be going to Heaven. Only a month before she was born, we were told that she was not compatible with living on earth. We were blessed with spending nine days with her. Then, we had to decide to turn off Tiffany’s life support, and my wife and I held her in our arms while Jesus stepped into the room that night and took her to Heaven. Two years later we found out with joy that we were having a set of identical, perfect twin girls. I never knew what it was like to cry tears of joy, but it happened that day.
I have been through hard times but I have had the best, most joyful days of my life in these three years at Bible College. Now the real battle begins with my ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit: taking up the sword of the Spirit, cutting chains and setting people free with God’s sharp living and active word, preaching the gospel and making disciples from all cultures and of all nations from the city where we live, to the ends of the earth. I want to work in advancing the Kingdom of God for His glory, leading people to encounter the risen Christ, Jesus, the King of all!
This journey could not have been completed without the support of my wife. I love you and thank you so much for holding to the faith on this journey. I thank my son, who I pray will know and have a relationship with Jesus all the days of his life. I thank Pastor Ashley Goode and Alison Goode; David Becker; my favourite preacher, teacher, and worship leader Pastor Ricky Emmerson; and his wife Christina Emmerson, my old college buddy.
I thank James Robert Schleusener; and my dearest brothers and sisters and all my family in Christ at Life Church and at Life and Light Missions Australia. A special thank you also to David Leembruggen and Kerrianne Leembruggen, my two life group leaders, and Callum Brady. Also, I give a big thank you to Katrina Kickbush for being there for me 24 hours a day, and to Joel Archer.
To the elders and workers at Life and Light in Wollongong, and Ham and Sam Conners, Charlie Askew, and Alex Gervais, my college buddies, I thank you.
Also, a big thank you to Uncle Harry and Uncle Sam for giving me the opportunity to minister, teach and preach, and lead meetings and worship. It has been a God-given opportunity.
To all the amazing staff and teachers at Harvest: thank you for your obedience to train effective ministries worldwide. Thanks so much to Andrew Groza, Amelia Pickering, Jeremy Weetman, Shane Brigg, Grant Buchanan, Brendan Roach, Michael Paynter, and Sandra Godde. All praise and thanks to God for his grace and his love and everything he does.