During the late 60s and early 70s I was a young man who followed the Lord and engaged in both a busy working life and elite sport. Yet, the most exciting part of my life at that time was reading and hearing stories of ordinary people finding eternal Salvation in Jesus Christ.
My local church was the Port Kembla Baptist Church where we regularly had guest "missionary" speakers who relayed the most enthralling stories of those under their spiritual charge - coming to personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Moreover, I was an avid reader of books by missionaries and how they related time and again, how the Spirit of the Lord touched people's lives as they presented the Salvation message of Jesus Christ.
These were very fulfilling youthful years as I dreamed of a future not so much of work or sporting success (although they came to me in some measure through committed dedication to the task), but rather how the Lord Jesus might use my life in similar ways to these wonderful stories that I enjoyed as my constant diet of religious books.
One book I enjoyed immensely in this period was of 5 great Christian leaders of the 17th century, people like preacher William Grimshaw who went to one English village with a wheeled cart. The people, who had never seen such a vehicle, bought out hay to feed it.
Another was of an African SIM doctor missionary who through his medical knowledge and service to the Lord, changed for the better thousands upon thousands of lives both physically and through his missionary endeavours, their eternal destination.
One of my mentor elderly ladies I visited in those years was widow Sylvia Hall who, with her late husband Dick, had been an Open Air Campaigner for 20 years. The remarkable stories that were recounted over a coffee were simply spell-binding and they inspired me to seek the Lord as to my life and destiny.
In those years as a sporting person, I would often wonder why our Australian professional sports did not have Christian pastors serving as team chaplains, as was common in the top sports teams in the USA. I questioned in my heart why Heads of Churches had not sought out such appointments, not realising that the Lord would call me to this task and establish our own faith financed mission in this endeavour.
Throughout my Christian life I've enjoyed reading these Salvation stories and sometimes under very unique circumstances the Lord brings to notice remarkable Salvation experiences.
I recall the 2011 Chilean mine disaster where many of the miners gave their lives to Jesus Christ and months later visited the Holy Land to witness several baptisms in the Jordan River.
In our own ministry we have not only individual people respond to Jesus' Salvation, but also entire families. It is a joy unbounded as God's Spirit touched their lives.
Salvation stories are entwined to 1 John 5 verse 13: " .. that you may know that you have eternal life .."
One of our ministry's young emerging writer's recently conveyed how for the very first time as a teenager, she actually listened to a sermon when I came along as the guest preacher and was greatly moved by the Spirit of the Lord. I was at that time serving as the Australian cricket team chaplain and travelling around the nation and internationally, and engaged in preaching stints in whatever city the cricket team so happened to be.
I explained that those years when touring with the cricket team proved time and again very powerful Gospel presentation opportunities as the preacher was the Australian cricket team chaplain. With the cricket team was in town, my evangelistic preaching always counted, and inevitably it came together through the Holy Spirit's touch. This also included schools and universities.
Humour always plays a part in this. It was 2000 and I was touring with the cricketers on their New Zealand tour. I was preaching in churches and doing men's breakfasts, speaking in high schools and university campus' and one such men's dinner in Hamilton provided much cause for 'gritting moaning laughter'.
At that time the Australian sporting team contests with New Zealand for once in a "blue moon" saw the Aussies on top winning the various Cups - cricket, rugby, rugby league, netball, hockey, soccer. As my lead in at this men's dinner I noted to the audience that we were all drinking our coffee's and tea's in 'mugs'. Oh yes, I exclaimed, "All the Cups are in Australia!"
Now, all these years later, my focus is on mentoring 75 young writers who each contribute a monthly 'Comment' article to Christian Today. This is a whole different kind of evangelism and their enormous readership illustrates the Lord's touch. Many of their articles have 'salvation stories'.
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 mentors young writers and 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 http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html