God can use any means, people, or situation to invite others into his family. A chat between a footballer and a netballer at a country pub. A blossoming romance. A footy-umpiring pastor. A family connection. Marriage preparation sessions. An adult baptism. A friendship born out of it all. And, of course, joy on earth and in heaven when the invitation is accepted. 

by Lisa McIntosh

Being baptised as a baby has been traditional for most Lutherans in Australia and New Zealand. But for Luke Horner, along with many others, the journey to joining God’s family has been different.

Now husband to Amy and a father of two young children, Luke went to church occasionally as a child with his mum and attended a Lutheran primary school. But he’d never been baptised.

‘I knew I wasn’t baptised in primary school, especially being a Christian-based school and learning about God’, Luke, from South Australia’s Riverland, says. ‘For my parents, baptism wasn’t something that they thought was essential for me.

‘I knew there was a God but, during my teenage years, I thought God was not as important as my other priorities at the time.’

In 2006, Luke got to know Amy as both were playing sport – football and netball – in Waikerie. They got chatting in the pub one evening after home-ground matches. When they started going out, Amy says, ‘we had no idea that we both held a connection to a belief in God’.

Amy had been baptised as a child, attended church and Sunday school and grew up with a strong Christian influence from her parents. ‘However, during my teenage and early adulthood years, I didn’t go to church as much’, she says. ‘However, I still held my Christian faith and always believed in God.’

When the couple became engaged, they decided on a church wedding. They knew Pastor Richard Fox, who was serving the Waikerie Lutheran parish and umpiring local Aussie Rules football, both through Amy’s parents being active church members and Luke’s sport. They asked Pastor Richard whether he would conduct their 2010 wedding and he offered some pre-marriage preparation sessions.

‘Luke was the vice-captain of the Waikerie Football Club at the time’, Pastor Richard explains. ‘Luke and I didn’t talk about Christianity while at footy, though a few of his teammates suggested I might be better in the pulpit rather than umpiring! I invited them to come and compare! But Luke and I acknowledged each other and said “hi”, which was a big thing between a footy player and an umpire.’

During Luke and Amy’s pre-marriage sessions, Pastor Richard chatted with Luke and the topic of baptism came up.

‘Luke wasn’t baptised but wondered what it was, and I shared about what happens. He seemed surprised about its simplicity but also the great gifts it gives.’

After completing the preparation, the couple was married. But while he remembers the wedding as a wonderful celebration, it was what happened the morning after that also stands out in Pastor Richard’s memory. ‘I think Luke and Amy were the first people at church’, he says. ‘I asked them why they were there, and they explained that they wanted to worship before going on their honeymoon.’

After their wedding, the Horners attended church regularly and Pastor Richard says occasionally he would ask how they were going, and if they had any questions about worship, God and baptism.

‘Some months later after church one Sunday, Luke and Amy waited around to talk with me’, Pastor Richard says. ‘They wanted to know more about baptism and what the options were for Luke. I went through the baptism rite with them and discussed any questions they had.’

Luke was baptised in 2011 in a private service with Pastor Richard and close family.

‘I wanted the baptism to be more intimate and, being a shy sort of guy, didn’t want to do it amongst a crowd of people’, Luke says.

Pastor Richard describes the occasion as ‘wonderful and intimate’. ‘The resulting joy on both of their faces was heart-warming and infectious’, he says.

Luke was happy to be baptised into God’s family. ‘Being baptised for me means that I know God is always there for me and always will be, no matter what happens’, he says. ‘Once baptised it was also a good feeling to know that I could join in holy communion.

‘If you are thinking about getting baptised as an adult or about going to church, look into it, as it’s never too late.’

Amy and Luke say that for them there are many blessings of baptism: ‘God’s love and belonging to his family indefinitely; knowing that God will forgive us for all our sins; knowing that he is always there watching over us and keeping us safe, no matter what life events we are enduring.’

After several years of trying to start a family before Isaac was born, followed by Evie, the Horners say it was ‘extremely important’ to them that their children be baptised. Pastor Lee Kroehn baptised Isaac. When Evie was born, Waikerie was in a pastoral vacancy, so the Horners invited Pastor Richard, who by then was serving as director of Lutheran Media, to baptise her.

‘Pastor Fox has been an inspiration and a great influence on our lives, and we will forever be grateful for this’, Amy says. ‘He continues to be a strong part of our life and now our children’s journey.’

Pastor Richard says, ‘God works in ways beyond our understanding and through people we may not expect. God was already working on Luke and Amy before I arrived, and he used me in a small part on their journey and relationship with Jesus Christ.’

And what do Amy and Luke, who are now members at St Pauls at nearby Ramco, believe are the most important things to remember from their faith journeys so far? ‘That God loves you and he wants you to be a part of his family.’

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