Two weeks ago I attended the funeral of an old friend. I hadn’t seen Bazza for many years, but my memories were fond. I met Barry when I was the youth pastor at Caringbah Baptist Church and he starting seeing one of the women whose daughters were in the youth group. I had long had a soft spot for Lyn and her three daughters. For many years Lyn had been a single mother who knew some tough times but met them with courage, a raucous laugh, and who was always helping out in the youth ministry. Barry and Lyn would go on to marry and it was my honour to perform the ceremony.

Barry was a rough diamond, one of those people for whom the phrase “schooled in the university of hard knocks” was true. I enjoyed his company and felt humbled to be part of his journey to faith. But it wasn’t until the funeral that I really understood how profound a change Christ brought to Barry.

I had never pried much into Barry’s past. At the funeral Barry’s son gave us a glimpse of a man with many admirable qualities, but for whom life had been difficult and who could be difficult. After Barry and his first wife split up Barry disappeared for a number of years and it took some time for his relationship with his son to mend.

Barry’s son, who is not a follower of Jesus, then went on to describe how his dad changed dramatically and for the better when he met Lyn, discovered Jesus and got involved in Caringbah Baptist Church. He noted that the change was permanent and that he was very grateful for it.

I do not think I have ever heard a more powerful witness to the power of faith than the words delivered by Barry’s son. In an era when religion is often maligned, and often justly maligned, it reminded me that when faith functions as it ought it can make us into better people than we might otherwise be. It certainly did that for Barry. Knowing the love, grace and forgiveness of God was deeply and permanently transformational for Barry. In Christ he found nothing less than the reality of a new life. I am thankful that I knew him and for the legacy he left.

RIP old friend.

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