IMG_5041I was born in Eritrea, a small country in Africa. When I was 2 months old my father left to go to war. After the war ended, he stayed in Ethiopia and later immigrated to Australia as a refugee. Once settled, he met and married another Eritrean woman and they had a son together.

When I was about 6 or 7, he organised for my 2 sisters and I to move to Australia. I remember being really sad about leaving my mother, but she told me not to worry and that she would follow shortly, but that was the last time I ever saw her.

Our life with our father and new mum was hard. Although we all got on well with our little brother, he was the favourite. If there wasn’t enough food, he would get our share and if there were normal childhood fights, we were blamed. We lived in a tight African community and we were not allowed to socialise with any of the white kids at school. We were forbidden to do normal things, like visit friend’s houses or go to the movies.

As a young child I was a good runner and my dad took it upon himself to be my trainer. He wanted me to go to the olympics and would chase me around the track with a stick. Just before I was 16, I made the State Championships and came 2nd. He was so disappointed in my result he wouldn’t allow me to run again.

By the time I was 16, I left school and worked at Woolworths and at a Medical Centre. But I was still not allowed any independence. As soon as I would get home, my father would take my money. The bizarre controlling behaviour continued and we were constantly harassed or threatened and if we did anything wrong he would use his belt on us or lock us in the bathroom or bedroom.

After working for a while, I decided to study nursing and managed to put myself through college. But the abuse at home continued, verbally, physically and on occasion sexually. After my father broke my eldest sister’s rib, she ran away, and I knew I had to as well. So when my father visited Africa, I took my passport, packed my bags and fled to my sister’s. I got a job as a nurse and met guy. By then my little brother had also left home and before I knew it, I was supporting my new boyfriend and my little brother.

With my newfound freedom, I started partying and slowly got myself into debt. I was really struggling to support all 3 of us on a nurses wage, when I met a woman who offered to help. She was an ex-prostitute and I think she saw me as a way of making some easy money. At first I didn’t really understand what was going on. When I came face to face with my first client, my hands were shaking as I phoned her to ask what to do. An hour later I was paid $500, the same as a weeks’s wages, and all of a sudden it didn’t seem so bad.

I eventually moved in with this woman and started working as a prostitute by day and continued nursing at night but I soon paid off my debts and gave up nursing. As time progressed I got heavily into drugs and alcohol. I had always been a happy spirited girl with lots of friends but gradually I didn’t want to see anyone and spent most of my spare time alone.

It was on one lonely evening that I was lying on the trampoline, where I lived, looking at the stars, when I heard a clear voice speaking to me. It said, “You have to stop what you are doing and follow me.” I was shocked but sure I heard the voice. Later that night I saw a youtube video clip that changed my life. In the video there was a train filled with all sorts of people; drug addicts, homeless, old and sick people and there was god or father controlling the train. He stopped the train and the same people got off but they were happy and healthy.

I knew in my heart the video clip was a message for ME and that I was one of those people on the train. I thought if God could heal all those people, then he can heal me too. I went straight in and told the woman I was living with that I didn’t want to work anymore and that I was moving out to start a new life.

It was at this time that Jacob came back into my life. My gay best friend arrived for a visit and never left. It was great to have someone that I could speak with and who completely understood me. Soon after we travelled to Thailand where we fell in love and returned as a couple. After we got back, he took me to his mother’s home in New Zealand, where we spent a year living and healing. His mum didn’t ask any questions, she just fed, loved and nurtured us. We relaxed, exercised, spent time in nature and had to learn to socialise and integrate back into normal society again. If I had to imagine what God on earth would be like, I think it would be Jacob’s mum. She embraced me like a daughter and epitomised grace and kindness.

After 12 months of recuperation, we arrived back in Sydney. Clicking back into city mode, we were busy and working hard, when we bumped into an old friend who offered us drugs again. A crazy night of drinking and drugs followed, that ended up with Jacob being hospitalised with meningitis. From being told the condition was life threatening, Jacob walked out of the hospital one week later fully recovered and we knew our prayers had been answered.

That was a year ago. We are now engaged to get married and live and work on the Gold Coast. I am nursing and Jacob is hairdressing and together we design bespoke jewellery. We have shared our story with our church and are beginning to tell others about our journey. We feel truly blessed to be surrounded by so much good energy and are grateful to be living such a happy and fulfilled life now. After experiencing everything we have been through, we realise that judgement and fear are our own creation, because God and the universe loves and accepts us exactly the way we are.

Lydia, Australia