When people ask me how I became a Christian, my usual reply is to say, 'Let me tell you about my Dad.'
Karl Faase says “Jesus radically changed my dad’s life.”
My Dad, Hans Faase, was born in Neumunster Germany on 12th September 1932.
He was the second of 5 children. His early years were lived under the rule of Adolf Hitler and a childhood spent in Germany during World War II.
Dad was in the Hitler Youth movement, though not by choice. Fear became a way of life. He saw a family member and neighbour taken away, never to be seen again. In both cases, they had spoken up against Hitler.
Dad was lucky enough to survive the war through sheer determination and thanks to a mother who fought hard to protect her children. On one of these occasions, close to the end of the war and when he was only 11 years old, the young Hans was put on a train with other children to be taken away to fight in the war. His mother bravely pulled him from the train – if they had been caught, they would have both been killed.
My Dad’s father went off to war and returned after the conflict was over. His father was violent towards his wife and they divorced in 1947. Dad’s recollections of his father were completely negative and that left a lasting impression. The last memory he had of his father was seeing him on the streets of his hometown some years after his parents had divorced. His dad completely ignored him. As a teenager, this was devastating.
After the war, life in Germany was tough – there was no food and little work. Dad would sneak out at night to steal potatoes from the fields to feed the family. He was the oldest son and now the provider for the family. His mother pushed him hard to complete his schooling and was firm in her expectations. Dad went on to complete study in social work.
In 1955, Dad boarded a boat from Genoa in Italy bound for Australia. He had promised his mother and older sister, Martha (who had immigrated earlier) that he would make a new life in Australia. He arrived in Sydney in June 1955 at the present location of the Sydney Opera House. He was offered work in northern NSW, just out of Tambar Springs where he worked on a property owned by Colin Strang. This was a connection made through Dad’s sister Martha.
In 1956, Dad moved to Sydney where he started a new job, learnt English and met my mother, Florence. They married and moved back to the Tambar Springs where he continued to work on the Strang’s farm.
In this period of life, work on the farm was stable but Dad struggled with internal turmoil. The prospect of Florence being pregnant with a child frightened him. He struggled with the thought that he may be just like his own father.
On one of his first days on the job he was told to go out and muster sheep. He turned to his brother-in-law, who also worked on the farm and asked, “what is a sheep?”
In his memoirs, which he wrote over the past few years, he recollected his thoughts from that period:
“I wanted to do the right thing. But I found that the dark spots always came in. Dark because the right example has not always been part of my life experience. Not part of my growth from the cradle…my experiences …had been limited due to my family dysfunction and my country’s (doctrine).”
Dad’s life experience was one of brokenness and dysfunction. The relationships of his family of origin, from childhood and right through his adult life were marked by interpersonal tension. He watched this dysfunction in those around him and was fearful that he was destined to repeat it. He wrote:
“I guess, deep down, my real fear was – will I act like my dad?”
At the time Dad was struggling with these thoughts and fears, a new minister had arrived at St Marks Anglican Church in Tambar Springs. Daryl Robinson was a graduate from Moore College in Sydney and was the first evangelical minister to take over the leadership of this tiny country church. Motivated by his training, belief in the Gospel and the fact that his wife had come to faith at the 1959 Billy Graham crusade, Daryl Robinson organised an evangelistic mission for Tambar Springs. Two evangelists came to speak at the mission, John Turner and John Chapman.
My Dad had little experience and no understanding of the Christian church or faith. In fact he knew as much about Christian faith as he did about farming! On one of his first days on the job he was told to go out and muster sheep. He turned to his brother-in-law, who also worked on the farm and asked, “What is a sheep?”
Dad was invited to the mission and was enthralled by the message even though he did not fully understand the content. He went back the next day and spoke with the evangelist John Turner. In that conversation, John Turner asked Dad if he would like him to pray. Dad said yes but was not really sure what prayer was. That prayer changed his life.
“Things just seemed to be different and a pleasure to be in. But the truth was, at that moment, I had no idea what it was about or the reason for it.”
As he left the meeting and drove the 10 kilometres back to the farm, he realised something was different. He wrote:
“On the way home I had a strange feeling which I had never experienced before. It was like being completely relaxed…When I laid down (in bed) Florence asked how was it? “Good” I replied “But I have a different feeling I cannot explain. Things seem to be different and I can’t explain how, I don’t know what it is.”
He spent the next day working on the farm and then as he returned back to their home on the property, he wrote:
“Going home that night seemed to be something special. The two boys (my older brother and myself) came running to meet me and hand in hand we walked home. Florence seemed to have a different aura about her too. Things just seemed to be different and a pleasure to be in. But the truth was, at that moment, I had no idea what it was about or the reason for it.”
Over the next months and years, my Dad would discover what had happened. He found faith and new life in Jesus. He was discipled by Daryl Robinson and started to lead in church ministries like the CEBS (Church of England Boys Society) and opened himself to future ministry.
It’s worth asking a question here: Did this conversion make my dad perfect, complete? No, it did not. But as C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity, the question is not whether Christians are better than everyone else or the loveliest person in the neighbourhood. The question is what that person would have been like if not for Jesus. I am convinced that without this change in my Dad’s life, he would have lived out the dysfunction and relationship failure of his family of origin.
Jesus changed his life and changed the future of our family.
In 1968 my parents were asked by Bishop Clive Kerle, Bishop of the Armidale Diocese, to manage a Children’s Home in Armidale, Coventry Home. Through the next 13 years they led Coventry Home and over that time, dozens of children passed through its doors and were impacted by my parent’s care and faith.
After Coventry, Dad was asked to manage another Anglican children’s home in Lismore. Following Lismore, Hans and Florence moved to Sydney with the youngest of their four children.
Through the next few years, Dad worked a variety of social work jobs and was a large part of Haberfield Anglican Church. They eventually retired to Merrylands and joined St Anne’s Parish Merrylands. Dad continued to volunteer at the Bible Society bookstore in Sydney’s CBD.
The choice he made in 1962 was just as real in his last days in 2020.
Dad led a prayer ministry in his unit for Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted church, and was passionate about the ministry of FEBC (Far East Broadcasting Company, an evangelistic radio ministry). My father would talk about Jesus whenever he could. He would give out books and evangelistic material to anyone who was interested and on plenty of occasions to those who were not.
Early in 2020 my father received bad news about cancer that was evident across his abdomen. When Dad’s medical condition worsened and the prognosis wasn’t good, people wondered how he would cope with the loss of his health and strength, which had been so evident throughout his life. They were concerned how he would deal with the news of his imminent death. In my conversations with Dad over the last couple of months and weeks of his life, he made it clear that he believed his future was held securely in Jesus’ hands. The choice he made in 1962 was just as real in his last days in 2020.
In that context, over the past few months I read these words from Romans 8 to my parents:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
My father passed away on 20th December 2020. His funeral service was a wonderful yet painful experience. It was wonderful to celebrate his life. It was a privilege for me to fulfill his request and talk about the difference Jesus had made in his life. It was painful to recognise that no one will take his place. Those who love us most, and those whom we love, leave a hole that no one else can fill. My siblings and I did not just lose our Dad but our greatest fan and most ardent supporter. My book sales will reduce greatly now that he is gone!
Jesus radically changed my Dad’s life, and the ripple effect of that decision is being felt across the generations of our family. When people ask me how I became a Christian, my usual reply is to say – let me tell you about my Dad.
Karl Faase is CEO of Olive Tree Media.