When I had arrived as a new linguistics lecturer in Auckland in February, 1973, I had been a Christian a little over three years. I was beginning to feel I knew something of the faith, but was certainly still very much a beginner.
I quickly became close friends with two younger men (I was just 30), men who had been brought up as Christians, and, therefore, not beginners. Yet I think that for Christian University students, there is a sense in which they are beginners as well. Indeed, both were new graduate students; had been undergraduates for three years; were, thus, in something of the same condition as I.
Ross Jackson was doing his MSc in chemistry; Richard Flinn was working on an MA in political studies. Both were Baptists; both were destined to play central roles in my and Susan's lives.
By the end of the three years - 1973-5 - that we lived in Auckland, and I lectured in linguistics at the University, Ross was a Reformed Christian. Was Richard? He had, in any case, gone to the United States to study theology at the Reformed Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. When he finished his studies, he was Reformed. He returned to Auckland and started the North Shore Reformed Church. Ross, after graduation, had taught high school in Balclutha, and then returned to his home town of Pukekohe, where he taught chemistry.
By June 1980, therefore, Richard was minister of North Shore Reformed Church; Ross was chemistry teacher at Pukekohe High School; and the three of us had been in copious and serious discussions for five years through the exchange of letters and of cassette tapes.
I don't know that I had anything very specific in mind by including Pukekohe and the Jacksons in my itinerary, except that I was very definitely looking for an alternative to what we were doing in Yap, and Auckland was quite definitely the place we (or at least I!) considered home.
I had acquired my first microcomputer in early 1978. Ross was not far behind. When I visited him in June or July, 1980, he had set up a little computer lab at the high school - of, as I recall, Commodore computers - and had, in fact, invented something like Ethernet's Collision Detection scheme for sharing a single floppy drive amongst several computers. Ross and I were very much interested in computing technology by this time.
We had another concern in common. Our oldest children - Johnny and BethAnna, respectively - were born 12 days apart in July, 1975. Each was five years old now - and in each case (his and mine), we were concerned about education.
Richard's church had started a Christian School - this one, I believe. Ross told me that he and Glenys intended to sell their house in Pukekohe and buy a house in Auckland, probably on the North Shore. In this way they would be able to send their children to the school, worship at a Reformed church (the nearest in Pukekohe is St James Presbyterian.
Why, exactly, did this not seem right to me? Perhaps it was because by now Sue and I were very keen on home-schooling. For whatever reason, I urged Ross to stay in Pukekohe, where he had grown up, and where, therefore, he had roots and might have influence. He could home-school, as Sue and I were proposing to do. And, I said, if there is no suitable Reformed or Presbyterian church, one should be started! Why, after all, should Pukekohe be deprived of the benefit of Reformed Christianity?
I was a week at Ross's house. On the day I left to return to Yap (via, I think, Honolulu and Guam), Ross and I had lunch, or, perhaps, afternoon tea, with Richard Flinn. I pressed my idea. Richard was, at first, a little doubtful, and he asked me whether I was ready to be a part of the idea of starting a Reformed church in Pukekohe. He would, he said, support the idea if there were two, or, preferably, three families as the nucleus; he would not do so for one.
I would have to start to look for work in Auckland - and I knew it would have to be computer work.