'If the knife had gone in another half an inch, I wouldn't be here'
Richard’s story | What happens when you give God a chance
“I grew up in Phillip Creek [Northern Territory], in an Aboriginal settlement run by the government. I used to drink milk from the goats and eat bush tucker. And my father, he drove the truck. His country was out west – Jipiranpa, out Willowra way. I went to preschool and Grade One there. But there wasn’t much rain, so one day the government put us all in a big truck and they moved us to Warrabri. That was when I heard about the Lord Jesus.”
“I went to Sunday School when I was at Warrabri, and then I went to Christian Endeavour when I was a teenager. I used to lead the singing sometimes. It was good.”
“Then I left school when I was 14. Sometimes I got droving work on big cattle stations out east. We’d sleep on swags and eat rations. Other times, I got work up in Darwin, for the army. But then in 1967, everything changed. Aboriginal people became citizens of Australia. I don’t know what we were before that, but in 1967 we became citizens of Australia. That’s also when I started to drink alcohol.
“I turned away from the Lord because grog was available. I became an alcoholic. I knew that I was doing wrong things, but I couldn’t stop. I tried to give up the drink many times, in my own strength, but I couldn’t do it. I was a slave to alcohol. I had jobs – droving and in the army – but I couldn’t keep them down. It was a big problem.
“Then one night I had a drinking session and I was sleeping in my home. Someone came in through the window and he cut my neck with a knife. When I came to, I was lying in the Alice Springs Hospital. The doctor came to my bed and he said to me, ‘Richard, you’re very lucky to be alive. If the knife had gone in another half an inch, you wouldn’t be here.’
“It sort of scared me. All those things that I’d heard in Sunday school came flooding back to me. I knew I was far away from the Lord. But that was when the Lord began to touch my life. Then when I got home they invited me to the opening of the Australian Inland Mission building in Tennant Creek. That’s when it happened … I went forward right here in this building and I gave my life to the Lord, and everything changed from then – the grog, the work, everything. I had no desire to drink anymore, ever again.
“But then two years later, in 1986, I went blind … I had a brain tumour. I was only 36 years old. And Professor Fred Hollows found the brain tumour and he referred me to another doctor who took it out … but I thought, that’s it. I’m blind. I can’t see anything. I’m no use to the Lord. I can’t preach anymore. It’s all over.
“But I didn’t know what was coming. In the hospital, a friend gave me some cassette tapes of the New Testament recorded by the Bible Society. I listened to them and I discovered that I had a gift for memorising scripture. I began to memorise Romans and then I kept going. I memorised large chunks. I started sharing them at church and in small groups. And then I memorised even longer passages, and it helped people. And now I’ve been sharing the Bible like that at church for 33 years. God gave me an amazing gift.
“It began with the cassette player, but then we had CDs, and then a ‘MegaVoice’. And from the beginning, my favourite Bible verse was Proverbs 3:5-6. It says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.’
“And now I want to tell people about what the Lord can do in your life, if you give him the chance. Sometimes we feel like it’s over and we’re no more use to anyone … but it’s not true, it isn’t over. If we let God work in our lives, he will …”