As a young man I always had a strong desire for adventure. At the age of fourteen I ran away from home to join the merchant navy but my attempt met with failure. I later forfeited a university bursary to spend some time in the Air Force, still without really determining what to do with my life. I was restless and unfulfilled. I longed for travel and adventure but was not sure how to accomplish it. When certain events transpired that brought me to faith in Christ and the prospect of becoming a Christian and possibly beginning a ministerial life, I thought my opportunity for adventure and travel had been lost forever. How wrong that proved to be!
Several experiences in the Air Force brought me face to face with death and caused me to think seriously about what lay beyond the grave. I attended a number of plane crashes and helped to extricate several persons and a number of bodies from the wreckage. I saw some young men blown into tiny pieces. The only remains we found of one young pilot, fitted into a small cardboard box which I carried back to the base. On another occasion I helped to rescue a young pilot who had suffered multiple fractured bones. During the months of his recovery we became very close friends.
However, it was with a young amateur boxer in the R.A.F that I experienced the most poignant feelings. He was a young man with whom I had frequently sparred and trained. This particular night he was fighting in a tournament and I was in his corner. Towards the end of the second round he took a powerful right hand to the jaw and the back of his head hit the canvas with a sickening thud. When he got back to his corner he was obviously very groggy but was able to converse with his seconds and he said that he wanted to fight on. However, in the third round it became obvious that all was not well and the referee stopped the fight. Soon after he got back to his corner he lost consciousness and in this condition he was admitted to the Base Hospital about 10 p.m. that night. By 2 a.m. the following morning he was having severe seizures and it had become obvious that his condition was far too serious for the small Base hospital to handle. It was decided to transfer him to a much larger and better military hospital some twenty miles away. I sat in the back of the ambulance with him on the journey and after a while he became extremely restless. Of course he was not conscious but he began to writhe around, lashing out with hands and feet and trying to get off the cot. I could not tie him down but had to wrestle with him to try to save him from more bodily harm and injury. Arriving at the hospital a doctor and orderlies met us as soon as the ambulance door opened. Seeing his condition they immediately decided to bore into his skull to relieve the intense pressure that had obviously built up inside it. Unfortunately every effort was in vain and my friend soon died in my arms, still struggling. His death and subsequent funeral were both very emotional experiences for me sobering my mind considerably and causing me to think very seriously about the fragile nature of life.
It was actually during my term in the Air Force that I came to “know” Jesus. I had been hospitalised in a military hospital having suffered severe corneal damage to my eyes. Receiving expert attention from very fine doctors, my head was swathed in bandages and I tensely awaited their removal to test my sight afterwards. My spirits were very low as I lay in bed for some weeks. I was heavily sedated with morphine against the intense pain. At this time I “knew” something about Jesus having heard about him as a very young boy but had never met Him experientially.
Then, late one evening, as I lay in a state of mental depression, I “sensed” someone near my bed. Not being able to see, I quietly asked, “Who is there?” A calm voice responded within me, “I am Jesus! What do you want me to do for you?” My surprised response was, “If you could just ease the pain and let me sleep properly for one night I would be grateful!” In reply He said, “I can do more than that. I can heal you!” I evidently fell asleep right away for the next thing I knew it was the following morning. Although my eyes were still covered, I knew within that all would be well and that when the bandages were removed my sight would be restored. And so it was, though it was not perfectly restored right away. Initially, as I looked across the ward, I could see a white blur where each bed was though I could not distinguish who was in each bed. Nevertheless, I “knew” with that inner knowing that I would recover perfect sight in God’s good time. I felt somewhat like Job when he said. “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ears but now mine eyes see you.” I did not know about this scripture until some time later but when I eventually read it, the application was clear to me.