It has been 5 months since I last preached and, with fuller lungs after the pneumonia I stepped back into the fray last Sunday. The date had been in my diary for ages because it was part of the 150th. celebrations of Walsworth Road Baptist Church, Hitchin.
The minister, Rev. Andrew Henton-Pusey, was a student at Cambridge in the mid-60's and attended my church becoming heavily involved in its student ministry. Significant things happened like meeting his wife Julie. Sadly, I had forgotten some key specifics. As he introduced me he said that 25 years ago (he gave the exact date) I had invited him (as President of the Robert Hall Society - the Baptist student society) to preach from the Cambridge pulpit. Apparently it was only the third time he had ever preached. In sensing whether he was called into ministry he remembers some of my words like: 'I shall need to put every hurdle in your way!' God's call is so demanding you should only say yes when you have faced its many challenges and have no other choice.
What a delight to see Andrew and Julie 25 years on, and to remember Andrew's parents who were so involved in Carol's early Christian life! But to cap it all, we had lunch with old student friends whom I had not seen for 52 years. Les and Judith Ebdon were members of the London student society and Les became President of the Baptist Student Federation (a body comprising some 30 Baptist groups in universities across the UK). What a wonderful surprise to see them again. I have seen Les's name in the national media over the years owing to his prominence in education issues, having been Vice Chancellor in two universities and latterly Director of Equal Access (something like that!) - promoting fairness for students. He was knighted last year but this seemed to make no difference to him as a deacon, a worker of the power-point, a committed lay preacher and everything else.
This is the wonder of unsought networking in the Christian family when you are surprised by friends from way back who stir deep good memories and are as committed to the Lord as ever! I guess this will be like the heaven experience, only to the nth degree! I hope you have such stories and surprises too.