One thing my parents instilled in me from a young age was a strong work ethic. I loved my parents and they did the best they could, but it was an abusive and alcoholic home.
From the age of seven, I had a paper run. I would be at the paper depot, have two paper runs, and be in and out before anyone else turned up. Then I would get home, fill the kerosene heaters, empty ashes from the fireplace, and put the rubbish bins out before school.
I worked hard, and all the money I earned went to my parents. It didn’t bother me because I would do anything for my parents, I loved them so much.
When I was 10, I started going to church and praying for my family to get better and be healed. But I eventually gave up, because my prayers weren’t fixing my family. I thought I must be bad, and this was was why bad things kept happening to me.
I started an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer when I was 15 years old. Six months into my apprenticeship, I got home to find my clothes folded at the end of my bed, and everything else gone. My family had moved away to another town and left me. They thought that it would go more smoothly if they didn’t tell me.
That really messed me up. I became a street kid with nowhere to go. I still went to work every day, but I couldn’t always wash and stay clean. I was starving—for weeks at a time I was only living on a carrot a day, and my body was shutting down.
I dropped all contact with my family for 10 years, but still put $100 in my mother’s letterbox most months. I had a spiritual yearning, but refused to accept God because he had let me down in the past.
After a while, I got into bikie gangs because they gave me the sense of family I longed for. I was in and out of jail during this time—once more thinking, ‘Yep, it’s cos I’m bad.’
By the age of 20, I had become a successful engineer, and I absorbed myself in Hinduism, transcendental meditation, Theravada and Buddhism. I built up my own company in the seafood industry, with 15 staff. I had everything, but I had nothing.
I battled with God, knowing that I really needed him in my life, but still rejecting him. Finally, I came to a place where I was ready to have God in my life, but I didn’t know how. That’s when I met the (former) corps officer at Winton, Shane Healey, who walked closely with me daily, helping to heal the wretched soul I was and showing me the way to salvation.
It was 50 years in the making, but I finally gave myself and my life to God and Jesus Christ. They were always with me, but I didn’t know it.
I was recently collecting for the Red Shield Appeal. As a gentleman came up to give a donation, a monarch butterfly landed on my shoulder and stayed there. I gave the man a card with a verse on it, and he gave me a startled look and gave it straight back to me. The card read: ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time …’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God makes the lowly caterpillar a beautiful butterfly, and I believe he is making something beautiful of me.
By Ray O' Hara