I was born almost 70 years ago. I grew up in a large family, on a farm 20 minutes south of Wanganui.
We moved into town when I was 13. I wanted to be ‘Elizabeth Taylor’, like the film star, but my mother didn’t like Elizabeth Taylor’s morals. So I wasn’t allowed to be an Elizabeth. I was Betty.
At 19, I started training as a nurse at Kimberley Hospital in Levin, which was for people with intellectual disabilities. I’d been very involved in the Methodist Church. Jesus was very real to me and I had a good relationship with him. But the staff at Kimberley were into going to hotels and drinking, so I forgot about God and got into that culture. I think a lot of our drinking was to forget about what was going on at the hospital. It was a very harsh environment. I didn’t continue with my training and became a nurse aid.
After that, I was determined to be a missionary. I went to a ‘Boot Camp’ with New Tribes Mission, but decided that while being a missionary was a good idea, it wasn’t for me. It was all about me at this point; it wasn’t about God.
I moved to New Plymouth to live with my sister and brother-in-law, and worked in an old people’s home. Some vaccinations I needed for work seemed odd. The matron said the extra ones were because some nurses went out on the boats to make extra money [as prostitutes]. I thought, ‘I’m not going out on the boats!’ But I did do that a bit. I was still going to the pub a lot, too. My sister told me I needed to settle down because I was a bad influence on her four girls.
One day I was biking when I felt God’s presence. I yelled, ‘Leave me alone!’ That night I was meant to go out with a friend, but when she knocked on the door, I ignored her. Instead, I lay on my bed, and it was as if God showed me everything that was wrong with my life—like a movie. I never went back to drink at the pubs or on the boats after that.
Two men from The Salvation Army were painting my sister’s house. They invited me to church. I told them I wouldn’t be caught dead at The Salvation Army, but after a while I started going.
One Sunday morning, as I went up to put some money in the plate for the missionaries, I found myself on my knees. I was soundly converted that day. I asked Jesus to be my saviour and my friend and to forgive all my sins.
As I got more involved in the Army, I did my best to ignore the call to become an officer (minister), but I couldn’t. I had an interview, got the application forms and did my lessons, but I hadn’t made a real commitment. I was in the sluice room one day at work and said to God, ‘I don’t think I’ll go.’ And I heard an audible voice say, ‘If you don’t go then I’ll send someone else.’
I got on my knees and said to God, ‘Alright then. I’m going!’ I said it was entirely up to him—he’d have to get me through. And God kept on getting me through for the rest of my officership.
By Major Betty Taylor (abridged from War Cry, 30 June 2012, p9)