by Lisa McIntosh

When Barbara Metzger welcomed new client Helen to her Adelaide Hills bed and breakfast 15 years ago, little did she know the meeting would lead to an enduring friendship and a life-changing spiritual journey for the two women. Australian-born Helen, who lived in Germany for approximately 40 years, stayed at Barbara’s holiday accommodation most years since that first visit for at least four to six weeks.

A member of Grace Lutheran congregation in Bridgewater, Barbara would speak to her friend about her love of going to church, something that wasn’t part of Helen’s own life experience.

When Helen was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer while at home in Germany, she said she wanted to come back and die in Australia and she would like her funeral to be at Grace, Barbara explains. ‘Her family are not churchgoers and she said she would like it if our pastor could do her service’, Barbara says.

Helen returned to Australia in March, living with her sister. Barbara asked whether Helen minded if the Grace congregation prayed for her. Helen agreed and expressed a desire to attend a service but was too weak, so the pair watched worship together on Zoom. Pastor Michael Dutschke, who serves at Grace, also visited Helen. When Helen’s health declined further and she went into hospice care, Barbara visited often and, having discovered that her friend wasn’t baptised, asked whether she would like to be. Some days later, Helen asked to be baptised.

‘I thought this was a wonderful chance, we didn’t know how long she had left, but I didn’t know whether I could organise this’, Barbara says. Unable to contact Pastor Michael, who was interstate, or local retired pastor Alex Stevenson, Barbara asked Alex’s wife Gill to help her through an emergency baptism. Barbara prepared water, while Gill, over speakerphone, took Helen through an affirmation of her faith, read the Bible, and prayed, guiding Barbara through the baptismal rite. Gill says she ‘felt led by God’ through the situation.

‘Helen was really happy about it’, Barbara says of the baptism. ‘I believe that she is now Jesus’ child. She was very comfortable knowing that there is life after this life.’

Pastor Michael says when he phoned Barbara back, she told him ‘the great news’ about Helen’s baptism. ‘I was excited that Helen had received Jesus as her Lord and Saviour, and also excited that the “body of Christ” had done its work without me!’

Although she misses Helen, whose funeral was held at Grace last month, Barbara says she is ‘elated’ that her friend is saved, by having come to faith. ‘If we are called to do something, the power of God will take us through it. Helen was supposed to be saved’, she says.

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