'I sensed the word Afghanistan, which came as a surprise!'

Marion’s story | Astonished by grace

“From childhood I was raised to believe in Jesus. I still recall my Sunday school teacher giving us small cards with a text from scripture. They were kept in a tiny tin to bring out and practice. I was a devoted lover of Jesus. In my teen years, I sang on Christian radio and at public youth events.

Sadly, in my early adult years, I turned away from what I understood as conservative, legalistic teaching. My heart was for the poor and challenged, and in immaturity and lack of understanding of God’s word, I threw out Jesus as their prime model of faith. I became rebellious.

One day, in angst and rejection of Christ, I threw away my Bible. I saw so much injustice, and I didn’t want to be part of it.

The following 14 years of scorn and unbelief brought hardship in my relationships and deep sadness and confusion. I had a complete mental breakdown. It was terrible. I was so perplexed and despairing of life. Everything seemed faceless and empty.

But all through those 14 years, my faithful father prayed daily, “Bring my girl back, Lord! Bring her back!”

“The mercy of God in Christ staggered me.” – Marion

In my mid-thirties, I reached out to God – the God I did not know. I decided to go back to church. My first morning, I remember setting off, wheeling my baby in a grand Cyclops pram. I stopped in front of the church, and said to God, “This time I am not turning back. Whatever anyone says to me, I am not turning back!”

I went to the women’s Bible study, and Ephesians was the book to study. I was astonished by the word ‘grace’. I don’t ever remember hearing it before, but I melted. My independent defiance and my failed ability to endure in relationships utterly broke.

The mercy of God in Christ staggered me. I just wept. Salvation was not up to me. Jesus died on my behalf and welcomed me into his beloved family. I read in wonder from Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”

I wept in repentance over days and weeks. A hunger for more of God’s Word quickened in me. I got up early each morning to read my Bible and talk to God. The tiny texts I had learned as a child took on life and joy in me.

“I saw the deep furrowed scars in his hands.” – Marion

Three years on, sitting in my kitchen, I was reading the book of Romans, when I sensed someone in the room. I immediately sensed it was Jesus. I threw myself at his feet! He said, “Get up.” I looked into his face, and his eyes spoke love. A fire seemed to radiate from his forehead. His left arm was outstretched to me, and I saw the deep furrowed scars in his hands. It seemed he was composed of love. I knew then that Jesus was alive!

It’s been almost 30 years since that beautiful encounter with Jesus. I’m a happy grandmother. In 2006, I retired from my work, and I sought the Lord for his leading. Within my heart, I sensed his words, “Women, casualties of war. Afghanistan.” It came as a surprise!

Truly, I have seen that God cares for the widows and the fatherless.” – Marion

This led me to train as a Teacher of English to speakers of Foreign Languages (TEFOL), and I taught Afghan refugee women in Sydney. They became my friends, and it was so special.

Following that, I went to Pakistan, where there were many Afghan refugees. In 2010, the catastrophic flood intervened, and 20 million people were displaced. I’d never seen suffering on that scale. Grief works a weary face. I was able to live with Muslim people and love them and pray. We saw an incredible move of the Holy Spirit. It was beautiful.

Finally, at age 71, I went into Afghanistan and taught English to young women in a college. The following year, I took a young Afghan refugee into my home in Sydney. This led to me being invited to live with his Muslim family in Pakistan in a refugee town. Truly, I have seen that God cares for the widows and the fatherless. He has compassion for those in the valley of grief. He is always present. Sometimes, he chooses the weak and the foolish to show his glory. He says, “Go and tell them I’m alive!””

Marion’s book, Tell Them I’m Alive, is available here.

Marion shares this story as part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click to read more Faith Stories.

Ephesians 2:8 for Marion

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