It all began almost as soon as I arrived to take up my placement, eight months ago in the Wimmera.
Next door was a couple with five young daughters and the first of many, many conversations over the back fence quickly led to an offer to mow what then passed for a lawn on our rented property. The weather soon turned hot and the eldest daughter then became the guardian and waterer of my newly planted garden, whenever I was away for more than a day.
The friendship ripened, then conversations which had been friendly and comfortable took a serious turn when, quite out of nowhere came a request from the girls’ mother – would I talk to them, please, about baptism?
It turned out the two oldest girls attend the local Catholic primary school where they receive regular religious instruction. This had piqued their interest in matters of faith, hence the request. We then began a series of discussions on the meaning of baptism, with both parents listening in.
Some weeks down the track, father Josh indicated that he, too, would like to be baptised.
The conversations, by the moving of the Spirit, had persuaded him to make his decision. And so it was that, on 23 April, I had the enormous privilege of baptising five young people and their father, and receiving them into the fellowship of the Donald Uniting Church. The sacrament was performed in front of their friends and relatives, including staff members from the school they attend, and who accepted the invitation to take communion with us.
The family continue to worship with the congregation whenever their circumstances permit it. They are now missionaries to their extended family and friends, even though they would not have used the word.
It all goes to show how the growth of relationships allows the Holy Spirit to work in its wonderfully mysterious ways and has enabled an older congregation to rediscover the joy and the privilege of having youth in their church once again.
Rev David Thompson is a minister with the North Central Living Waters Cluster