When I wrote yesterday's post I had no idea how much joy it would give me. I hadn't really thought about the circumstances of how I became friends with Noel for years. Maybe never. Not properly. Now I see more clearly that it was one of those wonderful moments when God gifted me in quite a remarkable way. I hope that you can look back to the beginning of some friendship which became a vital part of your life.
Immediately we met, Noel and I clicked. Of course I was intrigued by this significant BWA figure on my doorstep but none of that mattered. His biography speaks of his humility and goodness. I love that definition of a Christian: 'Someone with whom it is easy to be good." Even though he was 24 years older, was Western Australian through and through, he became a close friend to the whole family. Our teenage boys loved him and so, eventually, did their wives. While he studied for a term in Cambridge his wife, Heather was studying in Paris. This gifted couple had begun lives as Baptist pastor and wife, with pastoral experiences I could easily identify with.
In 1959 he was appointed as the Founding Principal of the proposed Baptist Theological College of W. Australia and the adventure of building a college from scratch began in 1963. By the time I met him, his role and influence was well established but, honestly, he wore these credentials with such modesty they were invisible. All we saw was a loving man of God who was willing to share love with us. And I know this may sound over the top but he remained a dear friend in our story right up until his death in 2016.
That following Christmas, 1980, I sent him our annual letter which playfully summarized some of our family happenings through another year. He wrote in appreciation and said how every year he invited a group of neighbours after Christmas to share in breakfast. Though some were not believers he wanted to give thanks for the season with them. Hospitality and evangelism were two of his big themes. However, he began a tradition which continued the next three decades of reading aloud our Christmas letter!
It's impossible to do justice to the difference Noel made to my subsequent life and ministry but I must write at least another post.