I grew up in the 1930s, in a family where you did not talk about politics or religion. Until I was seven, I had never seen a Bible and didn’t even know what it was until I attended a local Catholic school for five months.
I didn’t have a happy childhood. Rather, I had a sadistic father who used to stand me against a wall with a shotgun pointed at me. He would also lock me in a cupboard without any food, and my mother had to sneak sandwiches to me at night.
When my father finally deserted our family, I became preoccupied with learning music. Shortly after that, I studied and became a nurse. At the age of 21, I was sent to work in a small country town.
One day, I was feeling really down, thinking about the terrible home life I had and also being so far away from whatever family I did have. Being off-duty, I went for a walk along a bush track and in the middle of the scrub, I came across a little wooden church that looked like it had been built in the seventeenth century.
I went in, sat down on one of the pews and began to cry. My time in the Catholic school had given me some concept of God. I decided to talk to Him.
“God, please help me,” I said. “Please give me someone who I can call my own, who will look after me, be kind to me and never hurt me, but love me and protect me for the rest of my life. And also, Father, if I ever get married, could I please have four children—two girls and two boys—to give them all that I did not have?”
A while later, I was transferred back home. While on the long train ride, I met a young man named Bert who was on his way home on six weeks leave from the army.
Amazingly, we discovered he lived only five streets away from me and as our train was pulling into the station, he asked if he could take me out the next day. I agreed, but never thought another thing about it. The next day, he was knocking at the door, asking for me! And the first place he took me to was to meet his parents!
We saw a lot of each other in those three weeks in February, and one morning he turned up at my house with an engagement ring. Within three weeks, we were married—just before he was due to return to base.
Bert and I were married for more than 50 years until he passed away six years ago. He never laid his hands on me or our children in anger. He was such a caring, loving person and he didn’t know the meaning of the word No. It was a happy and loving union.
Together, we have four children—two girls and two boys— and from them, I now have six grandsons and six granddaughters, and two great-grandsons and two great-granddaughters.
My mind often returns to the little church where I said that prayer to God. Even though I didn’t really believe in Him, even though I had never read the Bible, He had answered my prayer.
There was another event in my life that would change it forever. This occurred after I was married. One night, I had a dream. I saw poor people lying on our kitchen floor, dead. I began to walk away from the house with my husband and children, but then I turned around and realised I was looking at us!
Before I could react, my husband took my hand and said, “We have to keep walking.” Where were we going? I didn’t know, but we walked for kilometres on the most beautiful green lawn, with a little rippling river on one side of it. It was so peaceful and lovely. As we came to a bridge, I looked across it and saw a forest that had been burned. It was dark, ugly and very frightening. My husband said we had to cross the bridge, but I didn’t want to. So he took my hand and we went across it together and then through the forest. I felt extremely fearful, but it didn’t seem to worry anybody except me.
Thankfully, I could see something bright shining at the other end of the forest and we kept walking toward the light. We got through the forest and as it disappeared behind us, the green lawn and little rippling brook returned, but now there was the light—like the sun was rising straight in front of us! I had to put my hands over my eyes to stop them from burning.
“Come on, we’ll walk toward the light,” my husband urged. I agreed, thinking it was the rising sun, but as we got closer, it got brighter and as my eyes became accustomed, I saw a large, golden city. Its pavement was gold, and there were monstrous golden gates with a Roman soldier standing on either side of them.
We peered through the gates and saw people dressed in white. There were children and animals and everybody was so happy. In the middle of the pavement was a beautiful, huge fountain with people sitting around it; it was such a lovely scene.
Then the gates opened. I was so amazed, taking it all in, I didn’t realise my husband and children had entered. As I started to follow them into the golden city, the gates slammed shut in front of me!
“This is not for you,” a voice said. The two soldiers at the gates took my arms, turned me around and then in front of me, I saw the ground open up. For a long time after, I could smell molten sulphur and hear the same voice saying, “This is for you, if you do not do what you must do.”
I woke up screaming and crying, thinking I was going to be thrown into a sulphur pit. My husband was trying to wake me—shaking me, telling me I was dreaming—but I felt like I was really there.
I carried that dream with me for a number of years. I couldn’t shake it and I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that I had to do something. It was so frightening, it was so real; that voice telling me I had to do what I had to do. But what did I have to do? I didn’t have a clue, but I knew it had to do with religion.
At that time, I didn’t go to church and I never read the Bible, and so my quest began.
A place to belong
I went to the churches of a number of faiths—the Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, Methodists, Cathoiics, Church of England—to see if I could find the answer, but I always ended up with absolutely nothing. I was an empty shell.
After my husband died, I decided I couldn’t stay in the family home as it was too big for me. So I found a one-bedroom unit in a suburb about 10–15 minutes away. I had moved in not quite five months when there was a knock at the door.
“Hello. I’m the new Bible worker in your area and I’m delivering a free magazine to your home,” the lady at the door said, handing me a copy of Signs of the Times magazine. We started talking. The Bible worker, Joan, then asked if she could call again and I agreed.
Joan did visit again and when she did, she invited me to attend a baptism at a Seventh-day Adventist Church. I had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists before and didn’t even know they existed! Which was amazing, as the church was just across the road from my home!
I went with Joan to the church that Saturday and sat there with my eyes wide open. I took in everything that went on, thinking, There’s something here; I can feel there’s something here.
The “something” felt like an awakening and I was so comfortable, a feeling I had never had with the other churches, but I had to continue attending to be sure. I undertook a year-and-a-half of Bible study, and then I was absolutely certain I was home.
The day I was baptised in the ocean into the Seventh-day Adventist Church was when I felt complete and knew I had reached the end of my journey. Today, I no longer have that dream haunting me. I believe I’ve done what I’m supposed to do, that I’ve still got work to do and I’m doing it now!
Every evening, I thank God for seeing me through another beautiful and blessed day, and I ask that He allows me to see another day to enable me to work for Him. I’m living on my own, but I’m not on my own.