I was Only Nine Years Old When I Made the Decision to be Baptised

I still remember very clearly what prompted me to be baptised. I was attending a baptism service for the church that my mother attended. It was less than a year after the raid on the farm we were living on.

The Baptism service was being held in the open air on the bank of the river that runs through the farm and several people were getting baptised. I was standing next to my mother, enjoying the spectacle and the songs. The sound of Zambian voices singing songs of worship unaccompanied is quite something. It was a very spiritual moment.

Overcome by what I was witnessing and experiencing, I turned to my mother and said that I’d like to be baptised. She practically burst into tears of joy there and then. After a brief discussion with a few other adults, I was given the option of joining those being baptised there and then. My nerves got the better of me and I turned that down.

So arrangements were made, and some time later I was baptised, in the same river, in a more private service, where close family friends were invited. I can’t remember exactly how long later it was, whether it was weeks, or a whole school term. I am sure it felt longer that it really was. My mother gave me a copy of Pilgrims Progress, which she had written inside a small note of encouragement, and I still have as a one of my childhood treasures, it reminds me of times more happy.

Of course my father was there with his new woman and since he had travelled some distance to be there, he wanted some time with me. That’s the earliest memory I have of there being a battle for my attention. It made me feel horrid, being with my father would often do this. That’s why I always much preferred being with mum, her attention was always out of love and devotion for her offspring while dad’s seemed like it was to score points over mum. I hated that, hated it with a passion, and it would eventually become a hate towards dad and that woman.

Those First Weeks and Months after Baptism.

My first week back at boarding school I was given a small piece of paper by the headmaster with some key bible verses on it. This I placed in my first bible, an RSV. Its a bible I had owned for some time. I can’t remember exactly when I was given it, but I had already marked several verses on it by that time. I’ve owned several bibles since, but this bible is by far the most battered and scribbled in, and that small piece of paper with the key verses on is still there in the front cover.

I read the verses on that piece of paper many times in the following year. I knew my time at this school in Zambia was coming to an end. I knew my parents marriage was also going to end, I struggled massively with the denial of it. Even now the memories of that torment bring me to tears. I could not understand how or why my once wonderful childhood could be crumbling like this. Life used to be so wonderful and carefree. Since dad had introduced this new woman it had all gone to pot. That’s how I continued to see it anyway. It would be several years before I’d learn more of the truth, but until then all I had was what I saw and what I saw caused me immense upset on a regular basis. Being away at boarding school, with my little piece of paper tucked inside my bible, was my refuge from the turmoil, the hurt and the broken heart.

So I was sustained by the bible and I put a lot of effort into studying it. It was my distraction because talking about my family was, and still is at times, too painful. As my respect and admiration for my father diminished, so my devotion to a heavenly God increased.

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Coming Close to Being an Orphan

In this blog I am trying to step through major events in my life in a chronological order. The next big event after becoming a Christian, was an event in the late 70’s which is a major factor in any history that involves my family. It not only concerns my family but several others too, its been written about in at least one book, featured in several international and UK newspapers at the time, as well as numerous radio and TV news broadcasts. Its impossible to tell my story without reference to this event, it has defined many things, both directly and indirectly.

In Brief

The event in question was raid on the farm on which my family lived. The raid was by Joshua Nkomo’s Rhodesian ‘freedom fighters’ and was one of several in the area. Despite being in Zambia, many miles away from the Zambia / Rhodesia border, we were not safe. In the months previous a neighbouring farm had been invaded and an elderly lady who lived there disappeared, never to be seen again.

During the raid, 3 people were taken captive, one of whom was my mother; they were all subjected to prolonged unpleasantness.

I and one of my brothers were safely away at boarding school and so all I would know of the event was a letter from my father telling me that Mum had had an accident and had suffered 2 broken ribs. The next school holiday, it seemed that all that was spoken about on the farm was this raid and the various circumstances that saved more people from getting caught up.

The couple who owned the farm were away so they were spared; my father was in town and was stopped on his return by one of the owners and told to turn around. Some other ladies on the farm were mistaken for younger children and left alone. My youngest brother was visiting a school friend so was not around to see anything.

The aftermath

I still remember today some of the many discussions and stories that were told about this event. There was much thanking of God that no one was killed and that the injuries to those captured were not as deadly as they might have been. Yet, some of those who I remember being about at the time I would never see again. The trauma having been too great and they would never set foot there again, some even left Zambia, never to return. So despite the relative ‘good fortune’ that day, the trauma went deep and lasted a long time.

Punishment for Sin?

There is no question that not everything was rosy at that time. There were a couple of families on the farm where one or both parents were having an affair. One adult speculated to me that maybe the raid could have been a punishment for the sin that was going on.

Even as a youngster, I found this idea difficult to fathom. The most critical element being that the people who suffered most during the raid were not those who were sinning most. If the raid was punishment for sin, why weren’t those who most deserved punishment the ones who suffered? Of course I am not saying that anyone deserved to be caught up in that raid, nobody did, it was an horrific experience which I dearly wish I could erase from history.

I will never know just how close I came to becoming an orphan that day and its not especially something that want to dwell on. Its how we hold ourselves after such events that define us.

My family stayed in Zambia. This must have been hard for my grandparents, since my mother was an only child. Despite discussing this event with my grandmother years later when I was a teenager, I do wish I had asked them more pointed questions about it when I had the chance, because now I can’t.

At my mother’s funeral, several people made reference to her dignity in the aftermath of this event. It would be afterwards that I would find an account that she wrote of her experience, it was dated 10 years after the raid. It would be a truly emotional read.

How does it define my Christian life?

To be honest in and of its own it doesn’t define anything in my Christian life. However, the life on the farm was a very Christian life with the majority of people being Christians and Christian passing through. The farm owner was an elder at the main Baptist church in town and we all went every Sunday.

As a child, growing up on the farm was wonderful, it was a fabulous place to explore and my most treasured memories are from those years.

This all changed after the raid. My parents separated and so we spent less time on the farm. As the affects of an unpleasant divorce sunk in, life became less happy and the farm became a symbol of the joy that once was. The raid became the full stop that marks the end of a chapter.

Life would definitely not be the same again.