His heart was set on another course in Christian service and he wrote me a lengthy letter setting these out. I then recalled my own situation in 1976 when a fork in the road with two remarkable options, came my way.
This is that story.
In 1976 I was a locomotive engineman (train driver) on the NSW Government Railways – I loved the railways and the big diesels, ever since I was a kid. I'd fired steam engines on the main south but it was the diesels and their designs and livery's that fascinated me.
By this time I had been stationed at Port Kembla Locomotive Depot (Wollongong) for 10 years and had done well in my career and social life. I was heavily involved in the life and ministry of the Port Kembla Baptist Church, I'd done well in and Track & Field and hockey and was writing hockey for the Illawarra Mercury.
Moreover I was engaged to be married to Delma (my now wife of 36 years), with my parent's help I had purchased a Town House in the Wollongong suburb of Fair Meadow, situated near the railway line which offered me much joy watching the trains go bye.
In addition, I had in my pocket my next railway career advancement appointment, to the Electric Depot at Hornsby driving the Sydney suburban trains. But, my heart was set upon Theological College (seminary) for NSW Baptist Ministry as from 1977 including a February wedding to Delma (my wife of 36 years).
Then the unbelievable happened
Yeerongpilly was for many enginemen the most desired NSW Locomotive Depot in the NSW railway system. It was South Brisbane, running the express passenger trains and express freighters to Grafton. (another crew took these trains to Taree, where the crews changed again for the run to Sydney). It was the most difficult depot in the system to get a transfer into.
This depot was deemed "so good" because the NSW locomotive crews were on higher NSW salaries working and living in Brisbane, Queensland. Yeerongpilly crews were working all fast express trains (and only an occasional Shunter). Delma was from Maclean (northern NSW) and living in Brisbane would have been much closer to her parents than Sydney.
Yet, I received a letter from the Railways that Yeerongpilly Depot was now being offered to me "as a transfer". Can anyone imagine this as a temptation. My heart was tearing apart. I desperately wanted Yeerongpilly for the pleasure of my job and as a wonderful career path. But I had to deal with this call of the Lord upon my heart.
On one occasion, I was working on a 48 Class locomotive at North Port Kembla shunting yards "about to haul a passenger train to Thirroul" for the Steelworks workers, late one afternoon. My heart was seriously pondering upon these issues and I heard an audible voice say, "Do you love me more than these (the diesels)?"
Whether it was an actual voice or in my heart, I am now unable to say, but at the time, it was audible, so much so, that I got up off my engineman's seat, walked across the cabin to see who said it, but no one was there, no one was anywhere near the locomotive. It gave me cause to ponder and the rest is history - I followed the Lord's Call upon my heart – the ministry results of that decision are as follows:
Seminary with 1st Class Hons and two Academic Awards
Founded the Sports & Leisure Ministry 150 chaplaincy appointments in professional sport across the nation
Chaplain Australian Cricket Team 17 years, then 2001 Life After Cricket
Young athlete Basil Sellers AIS Respite facilities – Moruya and Tweed Heads
Established two Basil Sellers Art Centres and two Basil Sellers Art Prizes
Founded Well-Being Australia
The Basil Sellers Young Writer Program with Christian Today
A Columnist with Christian Today
Olympic Ministry and the Olympic Ministry Medal
The Basil Sellers Laguna Quays Respite cottage for missionaries
Faith financed missionaries for 31 years and continuing ...
It goes on and on ….
In a strange way
Most of all, the Lord gave me back the Railways for I have now written 16 books on railways with train drivers around Australia sending me their anecdotes for publication.
Yet, in some strange way, had I taken up the Yeerongpilly Locomotive Depot offer, the Lord would have blessed and honoured that decision as well as my heart was focused on - "all that was of the Lord".
Christians are faced with many good-option forks in the road, somehow they each need to seek of the Lord which of those good-options to take knowing the Lord's touch upon their lives regardless. This is verified in Scripture in Solomon's dedication prayer of the new temple (2 Chronicles 6) where it was revealed that his father David was not permitted to build this temple, but because it was upon his heart to do, it was boded well to him for untold blessings.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html