40 Stories: Forgiveness sets you free

Loretta George, a health worker and sport and recreation worker from Beswick in the Northern Territory, is from the Marra and Wandarang tribes. Her story explores themes and questions about life after death and the reality of Jesus. Her husband Ray died and experienced hell. “He was in a dark place, people crying and yelling…” Loretta shares how Ray was forgiven, set free and forever changed.

My partner and I were living in Maningrida (Northern Territory) for 10 years. Too much grog, too much smoking, too much ganja. And that’s when he had a big fall. We had to rush to Darwin Hospital. I told my family to pray for my husband. I went to the chapel in Darwin Hospital and prayed and cried, “God, bring my husband back.” My daughter was only five years old when he left us.

When he was in ICU, eventually he died. He said he was in this dark place where he didn’t like being there. He felt this heat and people crying and yelling and singing out for help.

Ray Larangai, from the Rembargna and Kune Tribe, teaches LOC (learning on country)

“Ray, Ray, help us, help us!” I wanted to turn back, see, I wanted to walk straight ahead, you see. I’m walking, walking. Whenever they’re grabbing me by my shirt and everything, grabbing me there to stop me there, but I said “No, I want to go straight to that little light there.” I see a little light there.


When we were was praying this light just shined in this dark place. As he was walking, he saw this light and he found Jesus. And Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” He didn’t know who this Jesus was.

He reached that light, that light is like a vacuum. It swallowed him back and brought him back to his normal body. They were pushing him back to the morgue. He was in that body bag, ready to be in the cooler.


When I woke up in that body bag, I was moving around trying to open that zipper. I said, “Hey, someone open that zip so I can come outside.” I was (deep) breathing. I wanted to call out to get me out of the body bag. One of the nurses heard me and then “He’s awake, he’s awake!” and then they opened the zip and I got up.


That’s when God answered our prayer and brought my husband back to life.


“He’s alive!” they said. “He’s alive! Put him on that thing”. And they put me on that machine to make me breathe good way.


And now he’s really gentle and God uses him to witness to other men, too, in our community.


I’ll follow the Lord, I’ll keep on following the Lord. I won’t turn this way or that way. I’ll just go straight ahead.


I thank God because only God can do that when we pray and we seek him, you know.


But I was a heavy drinker and a heavy smoker – I smoked a lot of ganja – and I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m going straight to the Lord, straight ahead.


I originally come from Ngukurr, my grandfather, grandmother, and mother and father are from Ngukurr. From the 80s, I’ve been living with my partner in Beswick. I have three brothers and one sister. My kids, I’ve got three boys and one girl and five grandchildren. And I got one adopted daughter, but also I’ve been like a mother and a grandmother looking after kids who have no mother and father, be their mum, be their grandmother, be their aunty.

I used to work as a senior health worker in Beswick and now I work as an assistant teacher in Sport and Rec. And I play the keyboard. I sing, I lead the church and sometimes I do see women come to me or women with babies or their partner. And they just say, “Can you come and pray for my family who is sick?” And I do sometimes go to their camp or sometimes I used to pray from my camp.

And then I ask that person the next day “Is your husband or your baby all right?” And they say, “Yeah.” That’s through the prayer because prayer is powerful and I’m happy with what God is doing in my life.

Through all my sadness, I just kept asking God to bring peace, to bring love and bring joy. And he never leaves or forsakes me.

Jesus changed my life by hearing the elders and learning from them when they teach RE and Sunday school. Michael Gumbuli [significant Aboriginal pastor from Ngukurr] and some of the elders planted that seed inside of me, the word of God, how to know who this Jesus was in our life. But I didn’t really have him in my heart. The Holy Spirit teaches me to learn more and then teaches me how to accept this person in my life. And I did find Jesus.

Without him, I wouldn’t be here today. I’ve been through many sorrows. Like my mum, my eldest brother, my younger sister, my youngest brother, they’ve all been taken away. And I haven’t got a reason why they were gone, only God knows, but through all my sadness, I just kept asking God to bring peace, to bring love and bring joy. And he never leaves or forsakes me.

A Scripture verse always comes to me in Psalm 23, God is saying, you know, the Lord is my shepherd. He leads me to that quiet place. And I go and relax because that’s where I can hear the birds. You can see the river, the flowers. I can’t hardly describe how much God really loves us, so I’m just thankful and grateful to the One.

When my father died, my mum abandoned me and my little sister – that was when we were left without a mother, without a father. My eldest brother was only 10 years old and my sister was six or five. I felt this hurt when I was growing up and when I was older with my own kids. They were growing up without knowing who their grandmother was, it was only their father’s side, so it was hard for me.

I was praying and asking God, you know, “Where’s my mum?” God was leading me back to Beswick. She was praying too; life was showing her a road to go to Beswick. And that’s where I was at that time when she was praying and searching, searching for many years; you know, I couldn’t find her till God brought her back.

I was happy, but not really because I still had anger, bitterness – only the outside appearance I had that love and smile. But inside I didn’t have that real love for my mum because she left me and she was supposed to be there for me and my little sister and my brother. I didn’t really know the meaning of forgiveness. I didn’t really know about the meaning of love.

But the Lord was speaking to me, “Pray for your mum and forgive her, do it in action.” So I had to take the first step and say, “Mummy, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for you leaving me and for me hating you. I didn’t want you back in my life, but God is telling me to say sorry and forgive.”

Even though she was sick, she would get up and dance and praise God.

And then she turned around and said the same thing. “Forgive me for not being there for you and your sister. I was out drinking and drowning my sorrows, but now I’m here. God brought us together to forgive one another and to share that burden.” I was really happy and released.

When she gave her heart to the Lord, she used to get up and dance. Even though she was sick, she would get up and dance and praise God. And she became a well-known artist. She won four Telstra [National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art] Awards. God just brought all these amazing things to her life and both of us were connected through God’s grace. My youngest daughter was the carer for my mother when she got sick. She poured out her love and cried for her when she passed away.

God is a good God. Whenever we get hurt, we get blamed, sadness, we can have that sorrow and we don’t want to forgive that person, but deep inside what God is really telling us is to show that love and forgiveness. You are releasing that person and you are releasing yourself from all that burden, because if you don’t forgive, you will be carrying that burden for the rest of your life.

Love covers a multitude of sins. And when we forgive, you know, God releases that forgiveness upon yourself and upon the enemy that we have – it sets you free. It sets your enemy free. God is love.

Loretta George, from Beswick, NT, by 40 Stories is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.