We do not know the identity of Luke’s Theophilus (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1), but we do know God must have loved him a great deal to prompt Luke to write two books for his benefit.1 This is a story about God’s love for a modern-day Theophilus. Let me introduce him to you.
In fact, you might have already met him in one form or another. Perhaps you were at Reach2016 and saw Upside Down, or maybe you watched online or through DVD. The actor playing the part of Theophilus was Austin Hunter, a talented singer/actor who played his role in the musical with distinction. A few months later, he stepped onto a plane to move to Cardiff, Wales to begin a three-year degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Once in Cardiff, he connected with the church in Bristol, began attending, and getting to know the brothers.
Austin began his spiritual search some years earlier. His parents, Alex and Patti Hunter, are disciples in Atlanta, Georgia. Austin grew up going to church and had been studying the Bible before leaving for Wales. Although he was seeking, the time did not seem quite right for a full commitment to discipleship. He would have the leave the foundation of his family and begin God’s journey to find him and start his own quest to become a man.
The move to the UK helped open his heart a little further. He played his part in church life by helping to lead singing (always good to see someone using their gifts to God’s glory), and took his Bible studies seriously. The journey from Cardiff to Bristol each week was challenging, given the distance involved, but Austin was not to be deterred. God’s love captured his heart piece by piece, and he gradually grew towards the decision that was to change his life forever.
Mark Abril, who works for the Thames Valley Church of Christ based in Bristol, and who led Austin's Bible studies, said this,
“I drive to Cardiff at least once a week (an hour each way) on Mondays or Wednesdays just to see Austin. Most of the time it has been exciting and fun. We have studied the Bible, watched films, and explored the beautiful city of Cardiff. But there were times I didn’t want to make that journey. Those were the times when he wasn’t making any noticeable progress with his walk with God – or, frankly, I was just really tired! But I persevered because he kept on wanting to meet up. What helped me continue making the drive to Cardiff every week was that Austin held on to his faith that God had placed him in Cardiff just so that he might find him.”
Receiving good news of Austin's decision to follow Jesus, his parents rushed to the airport, flew in from the States, and joined the members of the Bristol church in Clevedon on the shores of the Bristol channel. There, Austin the performer became Austin the brother. Theophilus waded into the waters of baptism and bonded with the blood of Jesus.
The glory is God’s and the joy is ours, especially for his mother and father. The men who helped teach Austin (Mark Abril, Heinrich Koorts, Tim Dannatt and others) testified to Austin’s faith and transformation.
We will see Austin on stage again, but his priority is not to be in the spotlight, but a witness to the light.
1The name means, “loved of God” or “friend of God.”