I met my husband Ken (KB) when we were only 15 years old—just children really—and we married in 1953. A couple of years later, we moved to Levin for Ken’s work and we fell in love with the town.
One Sunday, I was walking with our two young sons when I heard a Salvation Army band. My mother had been a corps cadet in the Wellington City Corps (church), and my grandmother was a cadet who studied with Evangeline Booth in London. I had attended Sunday school, learning the stories about Jesus, but that was as deep into God’s love as I understood.
The corps officers invited me to the meeting, and that’s where it all began. For three years I went along, and slipped out quietly at the end. Then, one night, when I heard the same appeal I had heard many times before, I felt like I was being enveloped in a dome. I felt the warmth of oil falling over me. God spoke to me as clearly as if I was talking to you: come follow me and I will make you a fisher of men. I walked to the front, knelt down and accepted Christ. I was enrolled as a soldier on 21 April, 1961.
I felt a strong sense that God was calling me to be the YPSM (Young Person’s Sergeant Major), and I eventually confessed this to the corps officers. They replied that they had been praying about that very thing, but wanted it to come from me. And so began many years of wonderful times with young people at camps, doing performing arts, serving the community and running a Sunday school—and teaching timbrels for over 50 years!
We had four boys, and another two beautiful chosen daughters who came to us, along with a neighbour’s daughter, Belinda, who also became part of our family. We met Brent when he was eight, in a special needs facility. He became part of our family, and at the age of 18 we adopted him. We have fostered 63 children over the years.
Our beloved first son Grant died when a blood clott travelled to his brain, at the age of 40. Every challenge we have been through together has brought our family closer together.
I prayed for 40 years before Ken finally allowed God to touch his life. He nearly died and was helicoptered to Wellington hospital. Dressed all in green, I drove in behind him. When I got there, I heard a woman saying, ‘There’s the lady in green!’ God had told her a lady in green would come and pray for her husband, and she wouldn’t let the surgeons operate until then. I laid hands on his head and prayed, and two weeks later he left hospital completely healed of a brain tumour. It was also in hospital that Ken quietly gave his life to God, and in 1999, he became a soldier.
One time when I was doing the housework, God stopped me in my tracks, telling me to go and see a woman I had only met once. I turned up at her house and asked if I could pray with her. As I prayed, three things I knew nothing about came to mind, and the words flowed out from me. She was in tears, as they were the three things that she was battling. In the Lord’s time, she became a soldier.
As I reflect on my life, I see the Holy Spirit has planned all my paths, and I’ve seen miracles by his hand. I know he isn’t finished yet—there is still more to come!
By Norma Swain