My father worked with the British Protectorate Government of Palestine in the 1930s. Like many British government workers, he and his wife were killed by those who opposed the government’s management of the 1917 Balfour Declaration (which allowed Jews to go and live in Palestine). I was about six months old at the time so I never knew my parents.
Being in Palestine meant that there were no relatives to care for me. The government placed me in a Palestinian orphanage. The matron of this orphanage was German and with the developing World War, all Germans in Palestine were interned. This meant that the orphanage had to be closed down.
Lora, a missionary woman from Australia, was working with the government as a social worker and was given the job of distributing the orphans to their extended families. Government records about me had been destroyed in one of the bombings of government buildings, so my family background was unknown. When Lora realized that this now four-year-old boy was British and had no extended family, she felt challenged to care for him.
Lora’s job with the government ended when she completed her task at the orphanage, so she accepted a request from the Emperor of Ethiopia to run a school for him. Lora left me with another missionary family before she left. They were kind, but the only sense of love came from their daughter who was two years older than me and liked caring for her little “adopted brother.”
During my time with this family I contracted measles and was placed in the children’s ward of the hospital where this missionary family worked. The father was one of two doctors who ran the Church Mission to the Jews hospital. On Sundays, a person visited the ward and showed lantern slides depicting some stories about Jesus. The story of the lost lamb caught my attention. I thought to myself that if Jesus could care for a lamb, he would therefore care for me. After that, the awareness that Jesus loved me started to develop in my thinking.
Lora reappeared in the following years, and after another five years in Palestine, the government placed us on a troop ship and sent us to Australia. In Australia I stayed in various institutions and guest houses during my school years. I am certain Lora was concerned about me, but she lacked the capacity to show love and returned to missionary work in India.
I was on my own throughout most of my high school days. I worked during the holidays as well as after school each day, and with a scholarship I had just enough to live on. By my last year of school (now 15 years old) I had developed a deep sense of loneliness. I was so caught up in this lonely state that I was unable to study for my final exams. Every evening I cried until I went to sleep.
At that time, I was staying in the old holiday home which belonged to Lora’s family. This holiday home was in the mountains where it was very cold at night. I kept thinking of other students who would go home and have a family and perhaps a dog to cuddle in front of a fire. Every evening I went down to the railway station waiting room where there was a coal fire where I could warm up before going home to bed.
In the midst of this loneliness I kept recalling the story of Jesus and the lost lamb from Matthew 18:10–14. With this story in mind I sang to myself the chorus, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Each night I said to myself: “I may not have anyone else to love me, but I do have Jesus who is always with me and who does love me.”
One of the greatest evidences of Jesus’ love for me was a family who invited me to spend the weekends with them. They had twin boys my age and we became life-long friends. Every weekend I would hitch-hike 30 miles to their home, and then early on Monday morning would hitch-hike back to school. The way they welcomed me into their family and showed me unconditional love was so important to me at that time and is a wonderful example of how loving Christian people can embrace a lonely person.
Jesus’ care of me was further shown by a scholarship I received for University, where I was able to stay at a church university residence for overseas students. My friendships at this residence have continued ever since, giving me a ring of close friends scattered across Asia. People often asked me about my background and I was unable to tell them without tears overwhelming me.
When I graduated and started teaching economics, I joined the youth group of a missionary organisation. That’s when I met Robyn, and what a great relationship this grew to be! We were married about three years later. Ever since then, we have enjoyed the love and respect we have for each other, the encouragement we have given each other for using our gifts, and the mutuality we experience as we minister together. Robyn also helped me to work though my grief and to tell my story in a way which would encourage others to realize that God does care for us.
It was wonderful now to have my own family to love and be loved by, and then to have the great joy of having a daughter. Her love for me and Robyn has continued through her family such that we now have a son-in-law and two grandchildren whose lives we very much enjoy.
My association with Muslims in my childhood days and at university helped me to see that if God communicated only in word (e.g. via the Koran), then our relationship with God is a legal one. But God has communicated with us in the person of His Son, the Word incarnate, and he is a God of relationship. Thus, it has been so clear to me that God is the One who always loves us.
A study of the Gospels makes it clear that Jesus’ love and care was not only for one category of people. He was caring not only for Synagogue-attending males. He cared for women, he cared for those who were regarded by all as “outside” the community (such as tax collectors) or who were known to be adulterers, as well as those who were beggars or were ill. Thus we have no grounds for categorizing people and determining that some, according to their category, have a unique gift of teaching or of leadership, while others, according to their category, are not allowed to exercise their gifts.
My parents were killed because they were deemed to be in a certain category (namely British government). By placing people in a category we develop the capacity to marginalize, dehumanize, or even kill. Yet we are clearly told that men and women are created in the image of God. He does not have two images and we have no right to regard some as having something less than his image.
It was a woman, working on her own and without the proper resources, who chose to care for me. While her capacity to care and to love was limited, nevertheless, she rescued me from the streets of Jerusalem and found ways of getting me to a country where others could assist me. God has used women wonderfully in pioneering missionary work and also in teaching young men and women at home. I can see so clearly the contrast between the Islamic theological stance, which is totally legal and which categorizes a range of people, and the Biblical stance, which is one of relationships. Men and women are empowered equally by God’s Holy Spirit such that if the church maximizes the use of these gifts the Kingdom will be further extended.
I have met with orphans in other countries in recent years. Though I can assure them of God’s ever present love, I long for others to welcome them into their family and to embrace them with a love which men and women can show in God’s strength and love.