Neil preparing a Sunday address

Neil McIntosh is a retired surgeon and lay preacher who holds that the work of the latter is far more important for temporal and eternal needs than the former. Neil is also part of Hopenet executive which provides preachers and general ministry across our many formally un-pastored churches.

Neil:  I have been asked to tell aspects of my life that I regarded as significant.

Probably the most significant was my first experience of a youth camp, the first youth camp of the Blackwood Methodist Circuit in Adare Victor Harbor in the January long weekend 1955. About 126 youth and leaders from the Circuit assembled at Adare, a well-known Methodist property used for youth events.

The accommodation was a bit rough, but youth not especially known for fussing over buildings, managed to enjoy it greatly. Partly this would have been due to its proximity to the beach, and its location in a town well-known for summer vacations.

The leaders were drawn from the Sunday School teachers from the 3 churches at Blackwood, Belair, and Eden Hills, a Circuit for which one Methodist Minister was appointed. That required some lay preachers to supplement the Minister’s times in the local pulpits, but that was common in those days; some pastorates had up to seven churches.

The leaders designated for the camp met together, some 10-15 of them, to discuss this new venture, and to pray together, once weekly over 3 weeks. My father was the eldest, an engineer from ETSA, the nationalised electricity company in S.A. He was the Sunday School Superintendent from the small Belair Methodist Church, but they were the days of big Sunday Schools. Some of you may remember the Sunday School Anniversaries in those days, hiring the biggest buildings in the town, and construction of large temporary stages!

There was none of the current cynicism in regard to Christianity, families were relatively poor, with little awareness of any class distinction and the Christian standard seemed to be the standard for even the primary and some secondary schools.  Very few children of the village then went to private schools. I was one of five children, one sister and four brothers. I was the proverbial “middle” child, so relatively ignored, with which I was entirely content. I was 15 years old.

The camp caused great excitement in our Sunday School, being a “first” for all  of us youth. Each day started with a swim at the local beach. The meals were noisy and enjoyable, there being a dedicated cook for the camp, and everyone sharing the washing up and bed tidying. There were brief messages from the minister with a few questions to discuss, and moonlight hikes with a “lights out” at 9.00 p.m. In the afternoon, most walked around Granite Island after browsing in the town. On Saturday night there was a camp concert, with a host of imaginative items with minimal preparation, and hugely enjoyable.

On the Sunday there was a short informal church service in the morning and no more than a 10-minute sermon. The afternoon consisted of a trip into Victor Harbor, and the quintessential walk around Granite Island, then a short service again at night.

I remember the Minister preaching on John chapter 20, when after the resurrection, Thomas not being present when Jesus first appeared, and who disbelieved when the other disciples told him that Jesus had risen. He said he would need to see His wounds, and place his finger into the wounds in his hands and side, before he’d believe.  Eight days later they were all together and Jesus appeared to them again with eyes especially for Thomas asking him to put his fingers and hand in His wounds, and be not faithless but believing! Thomas was “undone”! He did none of his stated intentions, being instantly convinced and crying out “My Lord and my God!”

He actually realised at that moment what he had never really known before, that Jesus was more than a good rabbi, but the very Lord of the earth. This cry was the greatest confession in John’s gospel, and the pinnacle of the message of John.

The Minister said to the teenage camp “It is not enough for you to believe Jesus rose from the dead, you have to be able to say “My Lord and my God”!

The program was largely over, but the camp remained strangely quiet. Youths talked quietly, and walked pensively in twos and threes. There was no shouting or the usual pranks. They had been asked to speak to a leader if they wanted any help with becoming a Christian. “Lights out” came and went. Many were quietly going to leaders and asking help in working out the issues put before them that night. It was midnight before the leaders met to compare notes. They found that 26 young people, a quarter of the whole camp, had committed their lives to Christ in prayer with leaders! My father was very excited! He pointed out that this had occurred outside of a meeting; with no pleading by an evangelist,  no prolonged appeals with raised voices, no mood music!

I was one of those who sought out my father along with many others. I was aware of an emptiness in my life, a lack of a purpose for living.  He prayed that I would know Christ as my Lord that night.

My father had been converted visiting England in his late 20s, training in high voltage transmission of electricity. He was the son of a Methodist minister, and the Gospel had never touched him personally until he met a man alive with the joy of being a believer, while in England.

So he believed in “conversion by crisis”. And he believed that the only explanation for that Sunday night camp meeting was a “sovereign move” of the Holy Spirit. None of the leaders had ever experienced an event like that, and none had expected it, despite the prayer times! And I have heard of no similar event in subsequent years.

Our churches were all changed by the experiences of their youth. It fired ‘socials’ and get-togethers within the Circuit for years and the augmenting of a youth choir in the Belair church.  It caused many prayer meetings for the youth in the district. It ‘revolutionised’ the Belair church like no other event had ever done. It was something God did! My father “never got over it”. And I have never got over it either!

This event steered my choice of Medicine as a university course, then later my decision to become a surgeon, and then it also shaped the way I practised surgery for the next 40 years, so it was highly significant. From the clinical years of my medical course onwards, I have shared my faith in churches, and in my last 50 years, I have been a lay preacher!

It was an event where the destiny of many was determined, including loving, stable marriages and all glorifying God over many years.

I was rather surprised to find that this experience occurred 69 years ago!

Let your insights and stories benefit more people:

Amongst our congregations there are rich resources: in ministry, events, conversations with all kinds of folk, humour, sufferings, victories, tears and joys, declinings and yearnings, growing optimism, or opposition even. All sorts of threads woven into the patterns of our Lord’s purposes. And in the miracle of what makes a church congregation. The sort of things we hear when we have those rich participating services!

Let’s communicate them. Whatever – it’s real and comes out of your own or congregation’s life! Pass it on to me using this email address:

From the Archive: Keith Green testimony

Matthew Gretch: Cutting edge composer and worship leader

Matthew Gretch was arrested for giving his testimony. Beautiful clear and bold music.

I hope these testimonies encourage your faith in our Lord God.

If you would like to honour Him by sharing your testimony please send to It may be how you first were found by Jesus or a significant event whereby you learned more of His powerful gospel and goodness to you.

Ian, Ed.
March 2024

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