There’s a picture I’ve seen of Jesus knocking on a door while holding a light. I’ve always understood that the scene is a picture of a person’s heart. However, it wasn’t until many years later that I noticed and understood a tiny detail—the door in the picture doesn’t have a handle. Jesus can’t invite Himself into our hearts. We have to let Him in.
About six or seven years ago, I got a knock on the door of my home. Looking back, it was almost as though the picture came to life.
Culture and religion
My name is Pauline Ferkula. I’m a Dunghutti Aboriginal woman originally from Kempsey on New South Wales’ mid-north coast. I grew up in a very large family with strong connections to my family members as well as to our cultural ways. In the midst of that, Jesus, Christianity and Adventism were a real part of my childhood. Thinking back, there was always a bit of confusion around believing in our cultural ways as well as in God; understanding how to relate Him to it all.
My uncle was the first Aboriginal pastor in our church and Adventism was widespread in our community—it still is. Looking back, I can see that a seed was being planted in my heart that would sprout many years later. In our Adventist community we took part in many activities like Pathfinders and ATSIM (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries) camps.
My father was Seventh-day Adventist and my mother was from a Catholic family. She later converted to Adventism and had a very strong influence on my Christian experience. They say women are the teachers in the family. Well, as a kid, my mother was the one who let us know what ministry was all about. My mother didn’t have her driver’s licence so walking was a big part of my childhood. I have clear memories of walking for ages with her to the hospital after church to visit people and sing for them.
Although I grew up surrounded by Christianity, the experience and the relationship with Jesus was something I understood in my head but not yet in my heart. As a child, I carried out all of the actions of being a Christian but I didn’t have a true understanding in my heart of what it meant to live Christianity. As I grew older and approached adulthood, I began to drift from my upbringing.
As an adult, several tragic things happened that caused me to not only disconnect from Christianity but also to question God and His love. In 1998, after carrying my son for many months, I gave birth to a stillborn baby. This crushed me. Three months later, my father passed away. He had always been a great confidante for me so this hit me just as hard as the loss of my son.
Around the same time, my sister lost her little one two days after giving birth. The combination of all of these things was really hard for me to deal with. I began to journey through my darkest time ever. I stopped smiling and the anger began to mount. I started shutting myself in my house—I was living in Sydney by then—only leaving to see family members and always carrying around a cloud of anger wherever I went. So it’s understandable that when I heard the knock at my door that day I quickly shushed my children so the knocking would stop.
The knock at the door
I remember the day distinctly. During that time everything I did seemed to happen in slow motion. I sat with a slump. I walked as though I had a big bag filled with rocks resting on my back. It felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, and let me tell you, the weight of the world is pretty heavy! Looking back, I can see that the enemy was tormenting me, though I wasn’t spiritually savvy enough at the time to realise this.
I was so depressed. I’d recently had a car accident that prevented me from looking after my children the way other mothers do. My children had to practically teach themselves to do things I otherwise would have done for them.
So when I heard a knock at the door that day, as I sat under the weight of the world, my immediate reaction was, don’t answer. I wanted to avoid detection from whoever was outside my door.
However, the strangest thing happened. In the midst of not wanting to answer, I felt the strongest urge that I must answer. I felt so strongly compelled to open the door that I did.
Opening the door
That was the first day in a long time that I had let Jesus into my heart, just like I saw in the picture. On the other side of the door was Danuta Stockwell, a literature evangelist. After a conversation she invited me to have Bible studies, which I accepted. That was how my journey to getting baptised began.
Danuta and the local Adventist pastor, Johnny Murison, began visiting regularly and giving us Bible studies. Their love and persistence were the key to me attending church again regularly. Along with that, the ATSIM camps—a strong memory from my childhood, along with things I’d learned in Pathfinders and at church—were crucial to my return.
Initially I found it very hard to be the only Spirit-filled person in my home. I realised that God wanted me to focus first on my family and then to go from there. My husband, though not an Adventist, supports our family spiritually, attends church with us and participates with us in ministry. There’s even a noticeable difference in my son now that he knows Jesus. A year ago, my two older daughters were baptised in Kempsey. This confirmed for me that I’m doing my work as a mum who believes in the truth.
Now my daughters and I do ministry together, just like I used to do with my mum. Though we don’t have the greatest voices, we love to gather in my room and practice songs together. When God prompts us, we go and minister to people in the community. Recently, we sang to a woman admitted to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. We took her a big basket of toiletries from the women’s ministry at Mountain View church (Doonside, Sydney). She later asked us if it was too late to go to church. For us, if we can bring someone to Jesus, that’s what it’s all about.
A mother’s struggle
Ministry has become so fulfilling for me. I’ve seen God work in miraculous ways in the lives of many people around me. God has even entrusted me to share Jesus with various women I meet. One of them is Jenny. Jenny and I have a lot in common and so I’m able to identify with her struggles. Like me, she’s a mum who has been through a lot. Over time I’ve seen her life change so much, which is a testament to the power of Jesus. Jenny is very connected to the community; she knows everyone and how they’re connected to each other. This is brilliant knowledge to have and she’s using it in a good way to reach people. Jenny is now beginning to come to church and has the desire to work for God.
It’s fulfilling to know that God has been right beside me throughout my journey, from childhood until today. He was only waiting for me to invite Him in. Now I see ministry in everything I do. As a family, we minister in the Adventist community and with all of God’s people, wherever He places us.
I was recently appointed as a church elder at Mountain View church. I was thinking, God, do you really want me to do this? There was a bit of doubt there but I know that fear holds us back and fear is of the enemy. With this in mind I thought to myself, I’m going to do this with 110 per cent of my effort and energy. With that resolve and with the conviction of what God has done in my life and in the lives of my family, I’m going to help whoever God puts in my path.