Wassili Bijl (known to most as Vic) lived a "reasonably good and relatively simple" life as a production tree faller in forestry operations. He admits he may have been a little cold with others, lacking in compassion, and sometimes harbouring a strong aggression and desire for revenge against those who offended him, but basically he was "good". He did feel a profound loneliness though.
Looking at the trees and working outside in nature, Vic had a strong sense that there was a God but he didn't really know what else to do with that "gut feeling". Neither church nor other religious traditions appealed to him. The Bible didn't seem to make sense when he tried to read it and, although various types of door-knocking evangelists fascinated him, Vic wasn't persuaded by their content.
Then one day a new colleague started working with Vic and very soon made it clear that he was a "born-again Christian". Vic asked this man many questions about his faith and was impressed by his matter-of-fact answers. This man seemed very clear about what he believed and why.
Vic's new friend emphasised the need to be "born again" or "saved" and that this was a deliberate decision that didn't require good works but was an act of faith based on God's freely given grace. He said Vic only needed faith as small as a mustard seed and that he didn't need to understand every piece of teaching on Christianity to be able to embrace a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This man invited Vic to church, where he heard the message and was invited to respond, but didn't. An hour later though, over lunch, Vic's friend took him through the message of eternal salvation in the book of Romans in the Bible, which explains man's situation vis-à-vis God and sin and eternity.
This time, when Vic was asked if he wanted to respond, he said yes and knelt with the man right there at the table and prayed.
"I acknowledged that I was a sinner, that I believed in Jesus Christ and that God had raised him from the dead. I asked Him to come into my life to be my Lord and personal Saviour.
"This was on 24 October 1983."
Since that decision, Vic says his life has been profoundly changed, even though it wasn't a particularly sinful life, by most standards, before his conversion.
Firstly, suddenly the lights came on in understanding what the Bible meant. Now when Vic read it, it made perfect sense and in turn it explained all sorts of things about society and the world around him.
Secondly, Vic didn't feel as isolated any more but always felt the presence of God with him, which he realised was maintained by his regular disciplines of reading the Bible and prayer.
Thirdly, Vic found enormous satisfaction in being able to tell others about the truths he had discovered, and in sharing the love of Jesus Christ with them. He regularly goes on overseas missions to speak to prisoners and others about God.
He is also actively involved in ministry in Australia, especially in the area of biblical creation as Vic believes this is the number one intellectual barrier that people in Western culture have to accepting the Bible as truthful and wholly inspired.
And finally, Vic says that his natural disinterest in others has been replaced with compassion and interest in their circumstances.
In addition, ironically, now that Vic has been washed clean from his sins by Jesus Christ, he has become profoundly aware of just how vulnerable he is to toward certain sins and how he needs to stay close to Jesus and seek forgiveness when he makes mistakes.
"It is critical to know your weaknesses and deliberately stay away from those things, before they become temptations that draw you away and distract you from your Christian walk," he warns.
Thirty-six years since his first prayer and now in his sixties, Vic is married with stepchildren and grandchildren, and profoundly grateful that God took his isolated, not-so-bad life and made it satisfying and purposeful, with the promise of eternal life to come.•