Melissa’s Story – Moving Forward
I grew up in a family that was fractured and dysfunctional. My earliest memories are of my parents’ fighting. My father had a gambling addiction and both my parents struggled with drugs and alcohol. We never seemed to have any money. I remember my grandmother regularly giving my mother money to buy groceries. I became a surrogate mum to my younger brother as parenting was very low on the priority list for my mum and dad.
When I was six years old my father went to prison. That was the last time I saw him for almost five years. My mother was a mess. We moved from where we were living on the South Coast, NSW to a very small regional town in western NSW, to be closer to her mother. Unfortunately, life did not improve for my brother and me. We were basically left to look after ourselves as my mother continued to struggle with alcohol and drug abuse. I had a lot of problems at school and by Grade Two was still unable to read or write. By the time I was in Grade Six I had been in 13 different schools and found it difficult to fit in or make lasting friendships.
When my father was released from prison my parents reconciled and my youngest brother was born. My parents stayed together for another few years but as their relationship deteriorated things became even worse for me at home. I took on the role of protector for my siblings and did my best to shield them from the mental, verbal and physical abuse that I was subjected to. By the time my parents split up for the second time I was empty, depressed and had no interest in being at school.
My mum’s drinking got even worse and my brothers and I were left to raise ourselves. I dropped out of school and spent the next couple of years doing whatever I wanted to. When I was 16 I became pregnant. My boyfriend was only a year older than me and felt totally overwhelmed, he disappeared and left me to deal with the situation on my own. My mother made it clear that if I continued with the pregnancy that she would kick me out of home. She took me to get a termination and had no sympathy or compassion for how I felt.
Once again, it was up to me, to look after me!
My relationship with my mum went from bad to worse after this. We barely spoke to each other. Fortunately, my father had started to get his life on track and had begun a relationship with a woman who was a more supportive influence in my life. Through her example I went to TAFE and started studying to get a Certificate III in Individual Support. It was hard work but I was beginning to get control of my life.\
After disappearing for a few months my boyfriend came back on the scene and we began seeing each other again. It was not very stable but we persisted; I have never experienced a relationship any other way. In 2018, he was sent to prison for a year. I was devastated and felt totally lost and betrayed by him. He had not been honest with me but I promised to stand by him.
I sent letters to him every week, answered every phone call and supported him in any way I could. Every second Saturday I made the trip to Sydney with his mum to visit him. It was so good to see him but then heart breaking to say goodbye. It was during the long car trips with his mum that she began talking to me about God. She was a Christian and regularly invited me to church. I had been baptised as a baby and occasionally attended a church youth group when I was younger but I had no interest in God or church. After almost a year of these God conversations I finally agreed to attend church with her.
My first time at church was the week before Christmas. I enjoyed it but was still not sure how I felt about God. I went back the following week and then the week after that. It was during that third visit that I felt God stirring my heart. I felt it in my heart, my stomach and my throat. I cried through most of the service and when the pastor asked if anyone wanted to give their life to God I raised my hand.
It was all so new to me but after a few weeks I knew that I needed to write a prayer for my partner in prison. I opened up the Bible and took a few verses and made them into a prayer. Every night before I went to bed I prayed this prayer for him.
To you O Lord I offer my prayer
I trust in you to save him from the shame he feels and to forgive him for the sins and errors he made in his youth.
In your constant love and goodness remember him Lord
Save him from danger, be merciful and save his soul from all the trouble, distress, struggles and suffering.
Protect him in your name Jesus.
On 8 March 2019, I attended an International Women’s Day event at a local church. While I was there I heard Linda speak about the power of sharing our stories. I bought a copy of her book Keep Walking and when I got home I started reading it. When I read this verse, I felt like God was speaking straight to me.
But Jesus spoke to them at once.
‘It’s all right’ he said. ‘I am here! Don’t be afraid’
A week later God answered my prayers about my partner. He was released from prison, he was safe and free again. On Easter Sunday, he and his mum were with me when I got water baptised.
Becoming a Christian, getting to know God and being a part of a church family has changed my life. After a lifetime of uncertainty, chaos and fear I finally feel safe. I know that I’m one of God’s children and I know that Jesus is with me every day. I know that God is writing a new story in my life and I want others to know that too.