Vicar's letter for November

Vicar's letter for November, 2014

                        

 

Vicar’s Letter – November 2014

‘Sowing for Eternity’

 

Dear friends

As the British Army’s involvement in Afghanistan draws to a close after 14 gruelling years and Remembrance Day draws near next weekend, my thoughts turn to Darren.

Darren would regularly sit at the back of our Garrison church in Cyprus along with his mate, Fred. Fred was an Arsenal supporter and Darren a loyal Spurs devotee, so there was plenty of friendly banter between them. Over a period of time Darren started to come along to the homegroup we ran each Wednesday evening in the Vicarage. He became more and more interested in faith. He learnt about Jesus and the sacrifice he had made for him on the cross.

One day Darren came up to me and asked if he could be baptised. I was delighted. I had seen him starting to flourish in his faith. He was becoming more aware of his language, his attitudes were changing and he demonstrated a more loving concern for others such that it was clear the work of the Spirit in his life was becoming more and more apparent.

It was not often that a soldier would come up to me and ask to be baptised so this request was the more special because of it. We decided to have a service on the beach, just below the Garrison Church with our small congregation in attendance. Darren declared his repentance and his decision to follow Jesus as his Lord and Saviour for the rest of his life. None of us knew at that time, of course, how short the rest of his life would be. Fred and I then plunged Darren beneath the waters of the warm Mediterranean sea, baptising him in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amidst great applause and celebrations we then concluded our service and headed off to the nearby café for breakfast altogether.

It was a memorable and wonderful occasion. A few months later Darren’s unit left Cyprus and he was posted back to Chepstow. We parted ways as is so often the case in service life. I bumped in to Darren on one further occasion when our paths crossed at a military training camp a year or so later and we enjoyed a brief catch up.      

I then heard nothing more until that day in May 2007 when a friend called me to say Darren had been killed in Afghanistan and because I had baptised him when he was in Cyprus would I take his funeral in London once his body had been repatriated?

As well as great sadness at hearing this news I felt great pride that my friend had done his duty, but more than that had continued with his faith after we had parted ways. Darren’s death was front page news, as the 50th soldier to die in Helmand province was at that time something of a landmark. But the newspapers also commented on his active and vibrant Christian faith.

‘Darren was a devout Christian and had taken the lead in organising a memorial for a recent fatality in A Company. He would regularly give up his time for others, teaching ‘Football in the Community’, or mentoring Army Cadets near his home town in Gorleston, Norfolk. He was also an avid Spurs fan, and made sure that everyone who met him was appraised of the fact.

Darren exuded energy and charisma; he always had a joke to tell or a story to recount, ensuring he was extremely popular with his wealth of friends. The night before his death he was seen reading the bible by his friends, drawing strength before facing the known dangers of the operation’.

As I reflect on the brief period of time during which our paths crossed, it reminds me that we are investing for eternity. Where our lives intersect with others in our places of work or recreation, whether we know it or not we are investing the seeds of faith, the life of the Spirit into the lives of others. We might never see the fruit of that investment in this life, but one day we will know the true impact our life and witness has had on others.

Every day we need to have a mindset in which we ask Jesus: ‘In whom do you want me to invest your life today?’ and then pray for the Spirit to do his work. May we make every day count for Jesus and live lives worthy of our calling.                         

 With love in Jesus,   

Stephen