This is the story of a broken and insecure person transformed to become a loving and confident husband and father. It is my journey of restoration by the love and mercy of God.
I was raised in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where my dad was a high school headmaster and my mother was a housewife who looked after me and my two younger brothers. Growing up, I remember that my parents fought and argued a lot, and my coping mechanism was to retreat and hide away. My dad was generally cheerful and had a good heart, but there was an element of anger to him also. Sometimes, possibly due to stress, he would come home in a foul mood. There were verbal explosions, but also physical retributions for minor things. Once, I was beaten for nothing more than flicking my dad’s flashlight on and off once or twice. Hence, my brothers and I walked on eggshells a lot around him. I developed the ability to preempt my dad’s feelings, then adjust my behaviour, to prevent an explosion. As such, I grew up to be a people pleaser able to preempt and work around tension, never rocking the boat too much.
When I was seven, my parents divorced and my mum brought my brothers and I to live in Australia. Soon after settling down, my mum became a believer. Within a few months, she told me about the Lord and I very quickly gave my life to Jesus as a child. I was very enthusiastic about my new-found faith, sharing with all my friends, going to church and serving in ministry. However, while I was still active in my faith, I felt in my spirit more at home in the world, instead of among believers. It was as if I had one foot in the church and the other in the world. Through the years, I also had to deal with insecurities in growing up without a father. In my struggle to find myself, I got involved in inter-school Christian fellowship, where we had camps throughout the year. The ones who led those camps were really solid Christian men who filled in the gap that my father left. God brought these ones into my life who accepted me, believed in me and spoke into my life. While this was going on, I still struggled to discover what to do with my life.
One day, God met me very strongly as I was taking my dog for a walk. He said "Ari, your life belongs to me.” I responded to the Lord by instantly surrendering my life to Him as a missionary, converting all my worldly possessions into one single bank-cheque. With that I bought a one-way ticket to YWAM Canada, where my faith journey began. I decided to take God at His Word and trust that He would provide for me. At that time, my dad was also staying in Canada, and I wanted to be near enough to tell him about the Lord, while I served God full-time.
During my DTS, my school leader was also a godly father figure who took me in and welcomed me as part of his family. Through his discipleship, I grew as a man, and learnt what it meant to be a husband and father. Later, I left Canada for the Netherlands, where I got married and had 3 children. While I was in Holland, my dad started to get dementia and I prayed fervently for his salvation. He was very antagonistic towards the Lord and my missions career, but I kept on praying and visiting him. However, after not seeing any changes for years, I had enough. One day, I reminded God of the divine tears He had given me for my dad some years before, and told Him “God, you brought those tears to my eyes! I’m finished praying for my dad. I’ve tried everything and can’t change him. From now on, he’s your responsibility.” That very same day, in a conversation with my dad some 30 minutes later, he prayed to receive Jesus into his life. That was the best day of my life!
Over the years, I have seen how God has helped me to grow in security and confidence in my identity in Him. I now know that my foundation lies in knowing that my Father in heaven loves me beyond measure. I’m grateful that He also brought people into my life to model how to be a God-loving man, husband and father. All in all, I have seen how God has proven Himself to be faithful and true, as He took care of the holes in my life. For that, I’m forever thankful to God, and will continue to live in adoration and obedience unto Him.