About the same time that I saw Carol for the first time, a friend who I met in my first year at University, invited me home. Paul told me that his father was Principal of a Baptist College. Of course, I had heard of Spurgeon's but it was in fresh territory in South Norwood.
I set off on my Honda C90, which was my first low-powered motorcycle (later to be replaced by more powerful steeds!). Unfortunately it put-putted as far as Tower Bridge but as I was crossing the Thames into South London it gave up. I began pushing it out of the traffic. Its spark plug no longer sparked. I carried emery paper to pep up the plug, for my limited student resources meant I had no spare. I replaced the plug but it kept misfiring allowing only painfully slow progress. At the end I had to push it up S. Norwood Hill, and up the driveway into Spurgeon's. Much later than I hoped I plopped the bike by the columned entrance to this large house. I could see extensive grounds beyond and admit I was mighty impressed.
Paul greeted me and took me up the grand staircase, along the corridor opposite a large stained glass window into the Principal's apartment, which occupied the corner of the big house. We entered the lounge with high ceilings and windows overlooking the grounds. I met his mother and was told his father would be in later. When he did appear much later, he greeted me graciously before throwing himself on the sofa and putting on a vinyl record of Liszt/s Piano Concerto No 1. The image of him in that room with this vibrant loud music has stayed with me ever since. In fact I used it to begin his memorial lecture many years later.
Many of you will know where I am going with this story. In one of God's twists and turns of my journey, in 1993 I found myself becoming Principal of Spurgeon's! Going back to this place remains one of the greatest surprises of my life. By now that room where I had heard the Liszt had become my study. My re-connection seems unbelievable still. I treasure this story - it humbles me and speaks of God's extraordinarily mysterious ways of working.