‘It was probably the most conservative church in all of Sydney'
Bridget’s story | An ocean cry and God’s reply
“After finishing high school in Surrey (UK), I took a gap year. I went to New York City and worked as a nanny. Back then, I was always looking for meaning in life, and I thought that travel might be the way. After NYC, I studied in Yorkshire, and then I got a job in Papua New Guinea, as a chef. I was still looking for meaning and purpose, but I didn’t know where it was. After my time in PNG, I applied for residency in Australia and I found work as a diet technician at a large Sydney hospital.
Early on in my time there, I became friends with a girl called Alison. One day she said, “I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about God …”
Presumably, she thought that I hadn’t, by the way I described my expat lifestyle in PNG. I said to her, ‘Well, actually, I have been thinking about life and death and meaning, quite a lot.’
While I’d been in PNG, I’d actually had a scuba diving accident and nearly drowned. When I was alone in the ocean, I cried out, ‘If there is a God, save me.’ He did, physically, at the time.
Also, prior to the conversation with Alison, I’d been on a bus and overheard some older ladies talking about their friend who’d recently died. They really cared for him. I immediately thought, well, where is he now? What is this all about? Why do we live? Why do we die? What’s the point of these feelings of love and friendship, if it comes to nothing and we rot in the ground?
So, when Alison asked me that question and invited me to church, I said, ‘Okay, I’ll come.’
It was probably the most conservative church in all of Sydney. The sermon was long, the seat was hard, the ladies wore hats and they sang Psalms. But I looked around me and the people didn’t seem gullible. They were listening. I thought there might be something in it. I was fascinated. I kept going to church.
One day, the pastor spoke on Matthew 7:13-14: ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’
I realised there was a way to life, through Jesus. God was inviting me! Jesus was the way. Also, it was a bit like trying to go through a turnstile with your backpack on. The bag gets caught … but you can take it off. It was amazing. I could lay my burdens and sin down. I had to lay them down. There was hope! It was a narrow way, but it was better by far. God was offering me life for now and forever.
That was 30 years ago now. I stayed in Australia, which was hard for my family in the UK. For years, I had an ongoing burden to share my faith with them. Amazingly, though, my brother got saved a few years ago. He was diagnosed with cancer and a local UK pastor invited him to an Alpha (evangelistic) course. My brother knew he was facing death and it drew him in. After he got saved, he changed dramatically, and he insisted that the rest of the family look into the claims of Jesus. He died two years after his diagnosis. It showed me that God doesn’t work in the way we expect. For me, being able to be with him at the end, and care for him, was a wonderful privilege.
Since then, God has led me to work in aged care as a chaplain, as well as in general and mental health hospitals. I find that people are much more open when their resources are stripped away or when they’re facing death. I’ve had so many opportunities, it’s been wonderful. Looking back, I find it amazing that God took me all the way to Australia and saved me here. He answered my cry in the ocean in PNG – spiritually, as well as physically. And he showed me that his plan is always right. I found my ultimate answers in God himself, who wonderfully saves us from suffering and death.”
Bridget’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.