'I sat up the back and thought, "Get me out of here"'
Warning: Fern’s story refers to trauma from an abusive relationship.
I came to faith in 1993 when I was rock bottom, homeless and with two small children.
I was lecturing at a South Australian University in colonial Indigenous history, and was in a toxic, very abusive relationship.
There had been an Aboriginal and Islander Fellowship in my department and they were praying for me. But I saw Christianity as just imposed colonialism.
When I walked out of that relationship with the two babies and the clothes I had on my back, it was quite a traumatic experience. I went to the Aboriginal women’s refuge in Adelaide, who said, “You’ve got to go back to New South Wales where you came from”, because at that time a white man still could take your children back regardless of if he was abusive. They had organised for me to drive a few hours every day because my daughter was still on the breast. My son was just out of nappies. They gave me the map showing which way to go, and said, “Call into the police station at such and such a town. They’re expecting you, and then they’ll put you up for the night at a refuge.” It took us many days to get across to NSW.
I moved into an Aboriginal Women’s Refuge in Newcastle, and while I was ironing one afternoon, I saw an Aboriginal [Evangelical] Fellowship poster on the wall, but I didn’t really respond.
After I left the refuge, it was very difficult as an Aboriginal person to get a rental, particularly a single mother with two children. I ended up renting a caravan at Caves Beach. The refuge’s lawyers had sorted all the legal paperwork so that I could keep my children and my ex could only have supervised access.
“Oh, we’ve got an emergency here.”
One day I was sitting on Caves Beach with the baby and my little boy, and I heard this voice say, “Thank the Lord for what you have received.” I went back, did the motherly duties at the caravan, feeding them and looking after them.
The second day I took them to play on the beach again, and I heard the voice again: “Thank the Lord for what you have received.” I didn’t understand what was going on.
The third day I went to the beach, and heard the voice again: “Thank the Lord for what you have received.”
I said to myself, “I must be having a nervous breakdown – I will have to get some help.”
Then I remembered seeing the Aboriginal Fellowship poster when I was ironing at the refuge. So the next Saturday night I took my children down to an old rickety hall in Broadmeadow, and told the pastor, an older Aboriginal man, what had been happening. And he said, “Oh, we’ve got an emergency here.”
Very early on the Sunday morning, Pastor Uncle Rex Morgan chugged into the caravan park in a very old Ford station wagon, and took us over to a Foursquare Pentecostal church at Toronto.
Remember, I was a very political animal. So when there was all the hand waving and hallelujahs, I sat up the back and thought, “Get me out of here as fast as you can.” But God had his plan. He had orchestrated an Aboriginal preacher for the day to bring the word. At the end, Pastor Uncle Rex Morgan asked me to come down for prayer. I didn’t feel anything, but was respectful because an elder had asked me, so of course I went.
From that moment on, I was transformed.
They gave me a little tract, and I went home. The next day Uncle Rex turns up with a big thick King James Bible, in black leather, with gold around the trim, brand new; he slams it down on the little kitchen bench in the caravan, and says, “Start reading the Book of John.”
So that evening, when I had put the children to bed, I opened up the Book of John and started to read, and it was spirit speaking to spirit. I’d been born again; I didn’t know. It was an overwhelming, transforming experience. I could understand the spiritual essence of what the word was saying to my spirit. And from that moment on, I was transformed. I had gone out of darkness into the kingdom of light. It was an immediate transformation.
I remember looking into another caravan and seeing a family – a husband and wife sitting with a bottle of bourbon, and there was a child sitting at the table – and my heart broke. I had been drinking before that, but I looked at that and it broke my heart. So he completely had changed my life.
I started to understand the power of forgiveness.
I started attending a Foursquare Church in Swansea, but spent about three years at the back of the church weeping, just bawling – bawled my eyes out. Every time they sang, I would just weep. The baby’s cloth nappies were soaking wet with the healing power of the Holy Spirit.
I just cannot deny Jesus. Some Aboriginal people ask me how could I worship Jesus, given all the things that have happened to us as people. And I can only give them my testimony. I cannot reject Jesus. I just cannot reject him.
I was very involved in politics, and I was a reverse racist. Then God saved me, and he put compassion in my heart for all people. Then I started to understand the power of forgiveness. That’s what Jesus died for. He died for all that. He suffered for all that. And he has given us forgiveness. And we have to forgive.
It’s wonderful to be in Jesus. It’s the only way to live. And it’s the only hope we have. And so I love him very much.