The Hand of God — A Testimony of Faith
2 February 2023
When I was looking in the wrong place for enlightenment and peace, God gently guided me to Himself and granted me the gift of faith.
I was born in Melbourne, the only sister to my three brothers. My father was a farmer from Cowra, New South Wales, and later moved to Shepparton after being a reconnaissance pilot in World War II. My mother was born in Durban; they met and married in Rhodesia. She came to Australia as a war bride.
No one ever mentioned God in our family, though there was nothing said against Him either. Since I was the only daughter, I was sent to an Anglican church, St Hilary’s, when I was 9 years old and continued attending until I was 15 years old.
I was baptised and confirmed there, but didn’t understand what that really meant. However, during those years, I came to sense a peace when I was at church. I also used to gaze at the mural showing the Risen Christ and angels ascending to God.
At school, we were taught scripture once a week; through studying lessons, I came to understand Jesus walked this earth, gathered disciples, healed the sick, and later died on the cross and rose from the dead. I didn’t actually have a personal faith at that time, just a quiet acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God.
And even though the Anglican Church was giving a clear message of salvation, I somehow missed the fact that I could ask Jesus to forgive me personally, or that I could know Him and talk to Him at any time. Overall, I adopted the values of loving and caring for others and knew God wanted me to be unselfish.
Losing Sight of God: The Radical Monash Years
I completed Year 12 and attended Monash University in the radical days of the late ’60s, where I studied literature and Australian, French and Russian history. By the time I left university, I was really drifting into atheism, as I had read so many books on existentialism by post-World War II writers who believed that life had no meaning.
I also read books about Communism and heard speakers who believed the world would be a better place if we shared all possessions and got rid of materialistic values. Two of my lecturers in Australian History taught these values with great passion.
After four years at university, I ceased to think of God as being alive, and instead attended a play by Samuel Beckett, proclaiming Nietzsche‘s ‘God is dead’, and read Camus’ and Satre’s books on nihilism. (Wikipedia: ‘Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.)
I didn’t really think of God again until I was 22 years old. Instead, I took up yoga at a St Kilda Ashram and followed Eastern thought, which two of my brothers and my mother followed. This meant we ‘looked within’ for peace and answers to life while ‘emptying our minds.’ No one questioned this technique and none of us knew it could allow dark forces into the vacuum it left.
A life-threatening event made me question, ‘Does God exist?’ (December 1971)
In December 1969 I left university and taught in Melbourne. In 1971, I travelled to the Northern Territory to work with children in a Reform school. I then moved to teach preschool at Yirrkala. The SIL workers and church began to pray for me there as I attended the Aboriginal church meetings, but I continued yoga and meditation as well.
After a year in the NT, I hitched a ride home with another teacher as far as Sydney. She then flew to New Zealand and I hitched a lift to Melbourne with a driver who was a businessman, who said he was on the way to see his wife. An hour after I accepted a lift, the driver gave me some coffee which he said his daughter had made… but I soon realised he had drugged the coffee as I began to lose consciousness and had a very parched throat.
Just before I slipped into unconsciousness, I prayed, ‘If there is a God, please spare me,’ as I knew this man could kill me. My life flashed before me and I blacked out. I woke approximately 16 hours later in a dazed state and was back in Sydney. My first thoughts were: ‘My life has been spared. There must be a God.’
I then travelled home to Melbourne feeling extremely depressed but grateful to be alive. My trust in people had been broken. Since I nearly died, I felt I needed to find peace in life and answers to what lay beyond this life. I thank God I was saved from the hands of a possible murderer, as these were the early days of Ivan Milat and the backpacker murders.
Seeking to Serve God in Calcutta to No Avail
I was so restless and broken inside, I decided to fly to India a month later and offer to work with Mother Teresa so my life would have meaning and I could care for others. I had to read the book Something Beautiful for God about her life starting Homes for the Dying in Calcutta.
I travelled there just before Christmas with high hopes of dedicating my life to God. However, these hopes were dashed as Mother Teresa didn’t have room for another trainee, so I travelled on to the ‘holy’ city of Varanasi to see her other home for the dying, but there was no need for trainees there either, so I went on to find peace and truth as a quest.
I attended a Buddhist temple for ten days with 200 Westerners. We meditated in the belief we could learn the rare method of meditation called ‘Anapana’ taught by Goenkaji, the only Buddhist monk who knew that method. I fasted for a further ten days alone in my cell, hoping to reach enlightenment.
Reading the Bible and a Spiritual Awakening: India (1971)
During the last ten days there, I went out to buy a chai tea and was on my way back to the temple when I met an Indian evangelist, Brother John, who ran an orphanage called Pilgrims Mission. I stopped to ask for directions back to the temple.
He in turn asked, ‘Why have you come to India?’ I replied, ‘To find truth,’ and told him I was reading the Dharma, Gita, the Koran and other Eastern books on yoga, and books by Krishnamurti on mysticism. He asked, ‘Have you read the Bible?’ I replied, ‘No,’ and he gave me a Bible to read.
Brother John shared his own life story of how he was born a Hindu and turned to God after falling 10 floors from the place where he worked, as he leant out of a window to save a 100 rupee note he had dropped. He became injured for life, but knew God had spared his life. He read the verse John 3:3, ‘Unless you are born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.’
I went away thinking, “What does he mean?” I understand reincarnation, which can ostensibly take millions of years, but asked myself, “What does it mean to be born again?”
The following week, I returned to the Buddhist temple but read the Bible. I had a dream from the book of Revelation. It was a terrifying war scene of horses and men fighting in the battle of Revelation 19, with God as victor. This nightmare was so vivid, I was alarmed. It was a revelation of the chapter I had just read. I realised that if God had a plan to end this world, then I needed to be ready for the next world and to make a choice about what I believed and who I believed in.
Reincarnation or Resurrection?
I realised I simply could not wait hundreds or thousands of years while meditating and seeking peace, for if there was to be a judgement day, I was not ready. I knew I had to decide whether reincarnation existed, or the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I discussed this with the Buddhist priests, but of course, they did not believe in Jesus Christ and His resurrection, since Buddha was their ‘saviour’.
In the end, I left the Buddhist temple, as I knew deep in my heart I believed Jesus was the Son of God and He had walked this earth, was crucified and rose from the dead. I left behind the temple sanctuary where 200 other Westerners had taken Buddha as their refuge, as a commitment. (I had refrained from making vows.)
Christ, the Son of God, Knocks at the Door of Our Heart
Before I left Varanasi, I went to see Brother John and his wife to ask him about an Indian doctor who had been a Hindu and then become a Christian. He told me that Dr Sheela Gupta worked at Mukti Mission, south of Bombay.
As a result of reading her inspirational testimony, I travelled for two days by train across India to meet her. I arrived at the mission, nervously wondering if I would be accepted there, since it was an orphanage for disadvantaged Indian children and not a place for Westerners seeking truth.
Dr Sheela Gupta graciously welcomed me and arranged that I stay at the mission. She told me how she had been raised as a Hindu, but trained at Vellore Christian Hospital. She heard about Jesus being the Son of God, but didn’t know what it meant.
Then one night, she heard a loud knock on her door. She went to open it, but no one was there. This happened two more times on the following nights. Dr Sheela realised it was Jesus Himself asking to come into her life, and she knelt down to worship Him and ask him into her heart and life.
As she told me this story, she pointed to the William Holman Hunt painting of Christ, standing with a lantern knocking at the door of a home. Revelation 3:20 — ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears My voice, I will come in and sup with him and he with Me.’ Dr Sheela said, ‘Jesus is a gentleman. He waits for us to invite Him into our life.’
At that point, I was grappling with the reality of Dr Gupta’s strange encounter with Christ, but I believed her testimony. It was a total surprise for me to hear that Jesus Christ might want to reach out to individuals on earth.
She had received Jesus Christ into her life and left Hinduism. I could see that she had surrendered her life to God and was now serving as a medical doctor in an orphanage for single mothers, babies and orphans.
I continued to read the Bible day and night and spoke to missionaries who shared Bible verses with me. These verses convicted me. I wrestled with the verse ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, none come unto the Father but by me’ and ‘The way is narrow and few find it…’ Above all, it was the love of God in the mission which spoke very loudly, as they ministered to young women, orphans and myself, even though I was a stranger.
The Light of the World Versus Darkness
I knew I had to accept that Jesus was the only way to God as He said (John 14:6) and let go of the other possible ways to be enlightened. This demanded a radical shift in my thinking. I believed He was a way to God, but now it was a revelation to understand that reincarnation was the opposite of the resurrection.
I realised that the reincarnation belief was founded on man’s false belief of having God within and goodness within, for the Bible said, ‘We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ and that only Jesus can cleanse and forgive us and give His peace that passes all understanding.
I realised that true peace was achieved at the cross when Jesus overcome sin and death, but now belief in the cross and resurrection meant God would come into my life from outside of myself. It was just as the Holman Hunt painting revealed, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world’. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of the word.’ (John 8:12)
I was convicted of pride. I suddenly saw myself as needing to trust God implicitly by faith and to let go of the Eastern religious doctrines about Buddha, Hinduism (the Kali goddess), yoga and New Age beliefs suggesting mankind can be enlightened by trying to meditate and find peace within. Once I deduced that Eastern religion was the opposite of Christian beliefs, I suddenly saw that mankind is sinful and had been since the fall of Adam and Eve.
Surrendering to God
I surrendered my life to God in prayer, saying, “God, if You are there and if Jesus did die on the cross for me, then I want to be forgiven and cleansed and to become Your child.’ I read Genesis and suddenly understood that He had made the universe, created the earth and Heaven, as well as marriage between man and woman, and that He longed to save us like a Shepherd longs to find every sheep He owns.
I knew at that point I was forgiven, and I was ‘born again’ as the Holy Spirit entered my life and I was cleansed by His blood shed on the cross. I received the ‘peace that passeth understanding’ and the gift of eternal life. I felt as though Jesus had taken away the heavy weight of my sin, even though I didn’t know the word ‘sin’ — I knew I was in need of God’s forgiveness.
He also took away any sense of confusion and touched my mind, which was infiltrated by the darkness and Eastern beliefs that led to more darkness. I renounced yoga, Buddhism and the mysticism I had practised, and destroyed any books to do with these beliefs, as I realised they belonged to darkness and evil.
I was overjoyed to have found this answer of truth and peace. I wrote to friends in Australia and my family to tell them, and was surprised no one really wanted to know about the gift of eternal life and to learn God was really there in Heaven and yet reaching out to us. I could not believe it when they showed no excitement or interest, but I now know that the ‘god of this world has blinded their eyes.’
I thank God my younger brother received the Lord Jesus into His life soon after. He followed Christ for four years, but then went back to Buddhism and yoga, and sadly forsook the way of truth. I pray one day he comes back to God.
I travelled with a missionary around Delhi and Kashmir for two months, and for the rest of the year, I attended Bible school in Bangalore, South India, and visited people in the villages during our outreach time.
It was only several months after my conversion that I realised there was a devil and a spirit world. That came to light when I met several demon-possessed Westerners in India who seemingly had lost their mind and were out of touch with reality. I realised it could have been my story. Thankfully, both those young men later came to Christ and were able to return home to the West. Meanwhile, I was so thirsty for the word of God that I could not stop reading it.
I returned to Australia in April 1973 with the hope of preparing to go to India as a missionary. I attended the Melbourne Bible Institute for two years. I wrestled with the implications of my new life in Christ and asked that He would help me stay faithful even though the devil would tempt me more in my home country.
I lost contact with most friends as they knew I was no longer the same, and my family did not understand the change in me. I had to bear the cost of being different and having most friends show no interest in God or the Bible. It made me sad, but I knew it was part of what Jesus warned: ‘You will be hated as I was hated.’ (For me, the reaction was to silence the mention of God in any way in my family.)
I withstood that hurt of being rejected by some of my family, as I knew my name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and I now belonged to Jesus and not to this world. I was safe in His hands. God gave me many new friends at Bible college and at church, and over the years softened the hearts of some in our family. I was comforted knowing that I was part of the wider family of Christ, but I also understood the pain of the persecuted saints.
In 1979, I went to Uganda to work in a school with Africa Inland Mission. I had only been there for four weeks when we were taken out to be shot by rebel soldiers. I prayed, ‘Lord, let it be quick or deliver us.’ By God’s grace and a miracle, the soldiers didn’t shoot us.
I escaped along with two elderly missionaries who had translated the Bible into Idi Amin’s language — Lugbara. We found out later others were praying for us knowing we were in danger. I tried to return to Uganda, but we were evacuated a second time the following year.
I returned to Australia and spent the next five years nursing and reaching out to patients and staff. I visited refugees from Vietnam and many cultures to share my faith, and attended any prayer meetings I could for outreach, and to support the persecuted church and missionaries.
I went to Africa again by faith, and spent a year in Zimbabwe teaching Luke and the Book of Acts to high school students in an all-African village school. Many came to know Christ, but I found out the witch doctors wanted me to leave.
I went home for the holidays but developed Hepatitis A, and then my father died suddenly. I thank God my father came to Christ before he died, and I could see the hand of God in bringing me home in time to see him. I was weakened by Hepatitis A and didn’t recover for some years. I then moved to Darwin.
A Missionary at Home: Darwin (1985-2014)
Instead of being an overseas missionary, I became an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in the Northern Territory after 1986, teaching in primary and secondary government schools. I always remembered my Heavenly Employer was God and that He was the One Who watched over me.
I worked amongst multicultural children for 15 years and later taught for 12 years in Distance Education, visiting remote communities and teenagers who dropped out of school. So instead of being an overseas missionary, I learnt to understand many cultures and our own indigenous people. I prayed for them and witnessed when I could.
God always gave opportunities and more so if I prayed for His leading in the day-to-day work. My greatest challenge was to work for and with God in a way that would win others to Him and to love the staff and students.
I also sought God as to how I could best use my time in His vineyard outside of school, and He showed me that distributing the Challenge Christian newspaper was one of the relevant ways to reach people in Darwin with life stories. These went to cafes, prisons and shopping centres. One main pastor, Peter Ezzy, made sure he covered every opening in Darwin with them.
Prayer Meetings: Darwin Intercessors
I was privileged to lead three prayer groups in Darwin for ten years from 2002 onwards, and to experience wonderful friendship with other faithful and loving intercessors as we prayed for the persecuted church (those suffering in jail for their faith), Darwin and Nation and a Darwin prayer group for Israel.
However, in 2008, I was struck down with Lyme disease and by 2012, I could no longer be a leader as I was far too weak and was losing my memory and speech capacity. I prayed God would help me find a doctor, and I thank Him I did find a doctor in Melbourne who was on the leading edge of treating Lyme. After 4.5 years of herbal treatment and antibiotics, I recovered enough to be functional again, but I knew I could not work full-time and my life would have to change pace.
At that time, my husband was needing me at home more often due to his PTSD (post RAAF years of service), and so I learnt to take on a quieter role as a Christian wife who could work behind the scenes, and yet still find ways to be spread the word and pray in our community. The verse, ‘In my weakness, His strength is made perfect’ was claimed as God helped mould me during my new phase in life.
Seven Years’ Chaplaincy at Townsville Hospital (2014-2021)
My husband and I moved from Darwin to Townsville in 2014. After praying for some years about a desire to do hospital pastoral care, I trained as a chaplain and took up voluntary chaplaincy work during 2014–2021.
I found that ministry a wonderful way to show God’s love and care to others, to pray for them and to share in the sufferings of those who suffer, but also to rejoice with those who are healed or saved or brought back into a relationship with God.
It was a great privilege to share in the journey of life with others, and I consider that a very sacred role. The senior chaplain who trained me said, ‘You’ll only last the distance in chaplaincy if you sense this is a call of God for you.’ How true those words became.
The Canberra Declaration (2021)
Towards the end of 2021, when seeking God’s will for the next phase of my life, I discovered the Canberra Declaration prayer ministry with Warwick Marsh and his team.
I thank God I could join in the nights of prayer three times a week on Zoom and during special months of prayer for our nation, government, schools, hospitals, families, churches and outreach in these years of chaos and change.
This has been a wonderful discovery, a vital way to join with other intercessors, pastors, brothers and sisters and to hear speakers who stand for righteousness, truth and the infallible word of God across our nation.
‘He who seeks me shall find Me.’ We are saved by grace and not by works.
Looking back on my life, I can testify that God found me at a time when I was seeking truth, though I was unaware He truly existed. It was clearly God’s hand that guided me all the way through India and then home to Australia safely, and guided me into work and ministries that I would not have ventured into earlier. Instead, I would have been meditating and waiting for enlightenment, in India — a lost soul.
May God use this story to encourage others to pray for those lost in New Age practices, and to help them find Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. To God be the glory for sending His Son to die in our place on the cross and for raising Him from the dead.
As John wrote in Revelation, we can look forward to Jesus’ second return to earth and the rapture. One day, we will be united with all who believe in Christ’s sacrifice for us, and be singing His praises in heaven around the Throne of grace: ‘Even so, come Lord Jesus. Come.’ Amen.
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi.
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Gail, this is an amazing testimony of seeking and finding the One True God. Thank you so much for sharing your life’s journey – it is inspirational. I called the Territory home for 7 years between 2015-2021; thank you for your loving service to the children and young people there.
Gail, yes indeed as mentioned above Your testimony is so amazing .Revelation of being ‘Born Again’ having relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Delivered out of darkness into His marvellous light’. Thank you so much for sharing your detailed life’s journey -You are a Wonderful Inspiration Bless you .
Thank you so much for this story 🙏🙏 God Bless the Canberra Declaration and all who minister to us through it.
Gail I see your book written chapter by chapter….
I’m reminded of the beautiful books that were decorated and embellished with gold and colourful inks… illuminated manuscripts.
Your life story is His treasure. His superior careful penmanship evident in every stroke.
That is an amazing testimony and it’s wonderful to read how God has used you to witness to others in so many places around the world. Praise God!
Sometimes the hand of God is so tangible so palpable, my only response is silent awe. I stop and breathe Him in, then more able to continue on in this extraordinary journey.
What travelling companions we all have. Thank you Gail.
MARVELOUS testimony of the grace of God and of your dedication – firstly to seek and find, and secondly to persevere in evangelistic work – Praise Jesus.
A wonderful testimony with many aspects that will relate to many people.
Encouraging & inspiring. The truth of ‘seek and you shall surely find’ Matthew 7:7, shows the power & truth of God’s Word, and His pursuing love!
I am so glad you shared your amazing story of your journey to God and with Him … and really He was with you all the time! 🙌
In your bio when you write, in reference to your father“ the impact of the war memories……”you demonstrate understanding both the explosion and the shock waves as they travel through him, down the year’s where they implode into those closest. God in His love , grants us this understanding doesn’t He ?
Praise God for His mercy toward you, His patience and grace in drawing you to Himself. Praise Him to for allowing you to be a blessing to so many. May you continue to be available to HIm.