by Linda Macqueen

Judging by the photo, Sunday, 12 September 1943 was a sunny day in the country town of Appila, South Australia. Cool, though, more than likely. Spring mornings are still nippy in these parts.

Not that Lorraine would remember anything about the day. She was a babe in her mother’s arms. Maybe she was a bit grizzly, having been woken and bathed earlier than usual, and pulled and poked into the lacy white gown her mother had lovingly sewn. It was Lorraine’s baptism day.

As was the tradition in those days, this was the first time her mother would have been to church since her baby’s birth. Baptism day was an exciting day for young mothers—arriving at church dressed in their best (and probably new) dress, glowing with pride and joy as the other women hurried over to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the lace-and-satin bundle.

What matters is that God made me his child that day, long, long before I even knew him

All the regular Trinity Lutheran folk were at Appila church that day. Lorraine’s sponsors—two aunts and an uncle— were there too, of course, dressed in their finest for this red-letter day. The young pastor, Bill Stolz, three days shy of his 28th birthday, was glancing through the rite of baptism one more time, making sure he wouldn’t stumble at a critical moment, or forget the baby’s name. Not that he was nervous; he’d already baptised 54 babies during his short pastoral ministry. ‘People made a lot more babies in those days’, he says cheekily.

‘I can’t remember my parents telling me anything about my baptism day’, says 71-year-old Lorraine Kempf (nee Pech, formerly Waack). ‘Not that the details matter. What matters is that God made me his child that day, long, long before I even knew him. I can thankfully say that God chose me, and has kept me in my baptismal faith. I love this Bible verse: “But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvellous grace” (Galatians 1:15).

‘Years later, in my confirmation lessons, I learnt what God had done for me on that Sunday morning, 12 September 1943. All the things Jesus Christ won for me through his death and resurrection were given to me, no strings attached: forgiveness of my sins, deliverance from death, and eternal life.’

Over the years, every time Lorraine would run into Pastor Stolz, she would remind him (not that he needed reminding, she says) that he was the pastor who baptised her. She had always felt a special bond with him.

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