Irene – Put on the new self

 Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness Eph 4:24

My childhood was not what you would call wholesome and caring. I had an abusive father. Until the age of nine I was physically, mentally and spiritually tormented by him. I was removed from my father at nine years old, police came to the house, it was me who called them. My mother took my father’s side and  shook me violently in front of the police accusing me of  what I had done? This was traumatic to say the least.

An addictive personality disorder formed quickly.

I ended up with every kind of addiction; drugs, alcohol, sex, food.  The abuse from my father had caused great fear, anguish and anger to grow inside me, thus my addictions were a type of escape from the pain of it all.

I went into Foster Care and ended up in yet another unhealthy situation. My view of the world was growing more distorted. I ran away from home (if you could call it that) and went off to explore, hitchhiked, and travelled around Australia when I was all of fourteen! Looking back I can see God was developing my independence. Eventually I would become a missionary… to India.

At sixteen a young Messianic Jewish girl came to me and told me about Jesus. We went to a church meeting and I saw a passionate Scottish preacher. I gave my life to the Lord there and then. My understanding and knowledge of God’s word was minimal however and so I did not follow Jesus or anything, I simply kept living my life on my own terms. Pain was deep inside me and it had not come out, and so I slipped back into the world and forgot about God.

At 18 I got married for a whole 6 months, fell into drugs and ran with the wrong crowd. When I was 23 I got remarried to a miner in a country town, I wasn’t in love but respected him. He was a good man, hard working and had scruples. I got involved with the local Anglican church and was drawn back to God and even started working in the kid’s ministry. This was a time of spiritual formation and some grounding in God’s word started to occur.

After having two kids it seemed I was leading the white picket fence life. I got nominated as Australian of the Year for my children’s work in the town and everything seemed rosy.

One night I felt God’s hand touch me, and heard a voice say will you let me touch the piece in your heart that hasn’t been touched? I agreed…

Three months later I had a nervous breakdown, and within a couple of years my mother and father had died. Then my husband was killed in a horrific mining accident. The grief was unbearable. At that stage I turned my back on God during my darkest hour. I literally hated him. I shut down emotionally and was in the deepest pit of depression and grief. I went back to drugs and ended up running with bikers! They became a surrogate family and I actually felt loved and protected. In reality it was simply exploitation.

Amazingly some Christians were praying for me and I visited  a little church one day, drunk and stoned with some of my dogs. The Door person turned me away because of the dogs, however the Lady pastor welcomed me in. A Pastor was preaching Ephesians 4 –  to put on the new man in Christ and take off the old. Again I gave Jesus my life, however this time I meant it. I clearly heard God say He was sending me to Bible college. The Pastor found this a bit hard to swallow coming from a drugged and drunk woman with two rough looking dogs in her hand.

At the time I weighed 189 kgs. My life was a mess and completely out of control.  God started the long process of healing and detoxing me. Meanwhile the head of the bikers came and visited. He offered me drugs and money to come back and work with them. I refused and chose God instead. I kept telling him a higher power has called me. In disgust he turned away and sneered “Jesus is the higher power calling you!”

I remember saying to God “Take me on a ride that I will never forget and – One where nothing but death will stop me“..

I went to bible college. It took my  seven years (uneducated and unschooled) to obtain my Bachelor’s degree.  During this time I shed many tears and 89 kilos! I also had a vision of a man in darkness who told me to come help him and that he was one of the ‘untouchables’. I did some research to discover that meant India! Somewhere I had never been let alone go on mission to.

I travelled to the brothels of Calcutta, working with the Sisters of Mercy. I was looking for the man in the darkness. He turned out to be my first interpreter.  His brother took me to a place called BIhar, which was a village in great darkness and poverty. This is where God was calling me to.

At the beginning of the ministry we faced extreme persecution, death threats even human faeces thrown at us. God overcame and eventually we saw Pastors raised, ministries started to release people in prostitution and even women given leadership roles. Barriers were broken down culturally and spiritually.

Irene - A New Creation

The struggle continues and God gives me the strength to persevere. So far I have visited India twelve times over thirteen years. Usually six months on six months off. India has become my second home. I can converse in limited in Hindu, however I actually sing about ten gospel songs in the language with my little ukulele. The experiences in India have gone beyond all my expectations.

God has answered my request to Him over and over. The journey has been the ride of my life and death has not stopped me. My life is now one big adventure. God is still working on me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I am still losing weight. My Indian friends  thought the Australian doctors were literally cutting fat off my body each time I returned!

Walking with Jesus through India is not for the feint hearted. It can be downright dangerous and often requires shrewdness. I suppose God prepared me for this in my past. Yet, if anyone is an example of God being able to use the most broken to shine His glory in –  it is me. I still feel the least equipped and the most unworthy. Yet He chooses to use me all the same.

He can use you to.