Pentecost

Pentecost

This month of May brings us the Day of Pentecost when we will celebrate and marvel at the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples. “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that

separated and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues.” (Acts 2:3,4)

 

Such was the drama for those first apostles. It was high octane drama from the Holy Spirit but He doesn’t always show Himself in such a way. History records the Holy Spirit

working in people in a multitude of ways and their reactions. In some people He seems to have to keep knocking over a long period of time to gain entrance. With me it was a mixture of knocking and a dramatic event.

 

My church life began with Mum taking me there where I graduated through the Sunday School to become a founder member of the Church Youth Fellowship in my teenage years. I was also a member of the Choir from 8 to nearly18. All of this was good pasture for the Holy Spirit. However, just before my 18th birthday, Her Majesty the Queen requested my company in the Army and I discovered new ways of living which could be described from a

secular point of view as “the good life”. Now there was much resistance to the Holy Spirit. So now as well as the “knocking” there needed to be a bit of drama. This came 60 years ago on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

 

At 23, I was now a Lieutenant in the Army, a raw commander of a troop of Royal Engineers. My regiment was on Christmas Island, together with the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and scientists for Hydrogen Bomb testing. In 1958 the nuclear nations had decided to draw up a Test Ban Treaty to come into effect on 31st October of that year. Thus there was a requirement to get in as many tests before that date. On one of these final tests my troop was assigned to assist the scientists on the seashore nearest to ground zero. Their instruments had to be set in steel shelters dug into the ground. An airstrip had to be made to bring those instruments from the Main Camp and Port. The roads were so bad that the

instruments would not have survived a van journey.

 

On the day of the ‘drop’ our job was to sandbag the entrances to the shelters once the scientists had left and get out ourselves. There was not time for us to reach the main assembly area at the other side of the island so we had to make for a dugout half way

across. Here we waited for the action to happen. We were in radio contact and could hear of the progress of the aircraft as it approached the ‘drop zone’. Then the countdown! At zero,

despite being underground, we experienced an increase in light followed some seconds later by a vigorous shaking of the earth. Surprisingly we were soon allowed out of our bunker.

 

As we emerged the sight before us was one of great beauty. A cooling ball of fire was moving through reds and oranges whilst a pure white cloud was forming round it and from the sea a white column of steam was rising to meet the cloud which eventually made a mushroom formation. The experience of beauty was not to last but, in fact, be transformed into horror as we drove through the devastation in order to remove the sandbags from the shelters

and let the scientists in. “Filey would have disappeared completely if it had been here,” was the thought that almost immediately entered my head. We got on with the work but that thought dogged and troubled me and stayed with me overnight.

 

The next day was a rest day. I took myself off to a little bay not far from camp, to think. Although small, I noted that it had a similar shape to that of Filey Bay and my thoughts returned to the previous day and its horrors. Filey was so uppermost in my mind and my thoughts returned to my days growing up, to Sunday School, CYF, choir and suddenly a thought hit me. “I must go to Church!” There was a church on the island made out of packing

cases, gradually being replaced with lumps of coral. I went, found comfort and strength and the beginning of a real commitment to Jesus Christ.

 

It was to be a long process from there, through a career in education, to eventual ordination but my regular attendance at church was established. Was I converted by an H bomb? No!

It shook me to my roots but fortunately those roots had been firmly planted by the children’s and young people’s work in the church here in Filey. I suppose it could be said that, for me, Christmas Island became Pentecost Island.

 

Revd Robert Hall