A New Beginning

1990 - 2006


I am rather fond of a new saying I made up: "Everyone ought to have a little bit of leukemia once in a lifetime!"  They say that looking death in the face, often referring to a moment in time, when a bus is about to run you down in the street, can be a life-changing experience. I looked death in the face for much longer than that.  And it was a life-changing experience.

About six years ago, a friend asked if she could interview me for a Bible College project. She had to survey people who had survived a terminal illness.  The intent of the interview was to find out how the experience had changed the survivor.  The most pointed question she asked was, "What was the biggest change?"

There have been so many changes, but of all of those, which was the biggest? The changes included physical ones, changes in my value system, changes in attitude, changes in my relationships. Changes emotional, psychological, spiritual. It was always my belief that, deep down, people don't change.  I would have said, we change our outlook and attitude, our level of understanding, but underneath it all, it doesn't change who we are, our soul, our personality.  Right there, I think I was wrong.

To get to the answer, and to help you understand why, I have to tell you what the next fourteen years held in store.


17 August 1990 was the date I received my bone marrow transplant.  By the grace of God, I survived chronic myeloid leukemia, and am still around to tell the tale. Much thanks also goes to my sister, the donor of my new bone marrow.

As is often the case with people who have survived a normally fatal illness, Christians have a mindset that attaches special powers to them, as if the power of healing, that worked for them, lingers and can somehow be passed on. So I was inundated with many requests for prayer after I started on the road to recovery. Initially, I was ordered by my doctor to stay away from people, especially those with the sniffles, as any bug or germ could hit me with something my new immune system couldn't deal with yet. He estimated it would take a year before I would have anything close to a basic bacteria fighting capability. But after six months, it became difficult to refuse the requests.

I have to say, I saw many miraculous healings. However, I also saw many who did not recover. Often the prayer was in groups, and I honestly don't think that my contribution was any more effective than that of any other.  It is the power of the Holy Spirit that heals, not the 'gift' or prayer itself. I saw an 80 year old lady, scheduled for cataract removal, recover her sight without the operation. I saw a young kid, with a crushed skull after a car accident and not expected to survive one night, swung around the room by his dad a week later.  A girl suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome got up from her bed, the day after prayer by proxy, tidied her room and went back to school. A guy who 'hadn't given God the time of day since he turned 15' (his words), recovered from diagnosed leukemia, stumping the doctors who had told him to get ready to die.  There are many cases of healing which remain unexplained, apart from divine intervention.  And I do believe that those that did not receive healing in the area prayed for, did receive a touch from Him in another area of their life.  

The girl in hospital, who received salvation, didn't survive.  Another man with leukemia died. My own mother, suffering from bone cancer, did not recover but survived long enough to witness certain events dear to her heart.  My brother-in-law is still deteriorating with Parkinson's disease.

I could have died numerous times during my life. Twice I was nearly electrocuted. Once I came within a hair's breath of being washed into the ocean while rock fishing all alone. Three times a potential motor accident loomed too close for comfort. Surviving leukemia tops them all.  During my recovery from the bone marrow transplant, anything could have happened, but I did sense a special protection surrounded me, and the gift of faith made me feel invincible.

All these incidents underline what the Lord showed me was most important in any of life's experiences - complete surrender to His will is critical in our Christian walk.  And complete surrender includes acceptance of some things we, in our way of thinking, would believe to be contrary to His will.


In response to our pledge towards the Church commitment campaign, we placed the house on the market, probably around 1988. There were no buyers.  If I had built the place with selling in mind, I would have chosen a more generic design, with all the features the modern day yuppie is looking for.  But selling wasn't on my agenda when I started. The place boasted three large living areas, and four smallish bedrooms, a three-way bathroom, plus an ensuite.  It was magnificent in my book. It faced north, hardly needed heating in winter and was relatively cool in summer. Cathedral ceilings featured throughout.  Yet buyers were elusive.  Later, it became obvious selling at that time would have been disastrous.

The motivation for selling was to get free from the mortgage.  Or at least that was the excuse. For most things in life, as we try to justify or explain our position, there is the excuse, and then there is the real reason. Often we are not even aware of the real reason. In our case, I was dreadfully sick but didn't know it. I was tired. I was unhappy. I was getting old. I couldn't do it anymore.  I sold my motorbike, and my camping trailer, and my 12 foot aluminium dinghy, because I didn't have the strength to do that any longer.  It gave me the money to buy a little old bomb of a car to get to the station, but I never got to use it for that.  Leukemia was diagnosed before I could register it.

Had we sold the house in 1988, we probably would have bought a place in the suburbs, and lost a lot of equity by padding the pockets of some real estate agent and giving the church 50 grand.  In 1990, we took the place off the market when I found out I was dying. I am sure now that the Lord prevented the sale.  We finally sold towards the end of 1992, when the marriage was over and property settlement took place. We came out with enough equity for both of us to buy a place of our own.


When it sunk in I really was going to live, I also realised I couldn't stay in my marriage any longer. Towards the end of our twenty year marital stint, my wife and I led almost separate lives, yet most of the people we knew thought we were happily married. Before I found out I had leukemia, no matter how tired I was, I went fishing sometimes five times a week, just to get away.  My wife was a good, well-intentioned, Christian woman; we just weren't right for each other. Most of my friends seemed to define a 'happy marriage' as one where you had the freedom to do your own thing, but that wasn't my heart's desire. I needed a 'connection' that just wasn't there.  I also realised I couldn't continue the pretence for another 20 years.  In the end, it became a choice between the sin of divorce and the sin of hypocrisy.   

Naturally, in the end there were incidents on both sides that 'broke the camel's back', but those are irrelevant. The issues had been there for twenty years.  I just couldn't face another twenty. There are many Christians who take a very strong stance against divorce, virtually slotting it into a class of 'unforgivable sin'. The prevailing stance in the church was, "Sorry, you made a mistake and a promise when you were young, and now you're stuck with it for the rest of your life.  You'll just have to make it work!" Certainly, I wasn't one to take it lightly, but continuing in the same rut also wasn't an option any more.

The implications of divorce and settlement were huge.  The two issues that involved the church were the commitment campaign and the principle of divorce itself.  When we asked for help with our marriage years earlier, they weren't terribly interested. They sent one pastor for a one hour counselling session and never followed up by so much as asking how it was going. But now that crunch time had come, condemnation came in huge heaps, shovelled on by self-righteous people and pastors, totally lacking in understanding or compassion.  

In respect of my divorce, I was told by the church I could well lose my healing if I went ahead with it.  In respect of withdrawing my promise of $50,000 upon sale of my house, I was told my commitment was to the Lord, not to the church, and therefore I was letting down God, not them.  This totally contradicted the beautiful glossy brochure put out by the church at the beginning of their campaign, which clearly stated that, if you found later you had overcommitted, all you had to do is tell the pastors to change it.  The guilt trip that they tried to put on me, made me aware of what others must have gone through when they couldn't make good their pledges.  Those who had been most influenced by the false promises of the prosperity doctrine, were also the ones put on the biggest guilt trip.  Looking back objectively now, not being a solicitor, I think they would probably have grounds to sue.

It was here that some of the most significant changes in me became evident.  Looking back now, through even older eyes, if it wasn't for the leukemia, I don't know if I ever would have had the courage to leave my unhappy marriage.  Legalistically it would have been a no-no. I had no grounds to accuse my spouse of wrongdoing or unfaithfulness. I just knew I couldn't stay. Shortly before my diagnosis, I had contemplated getting out. Only the Lord knows if I would have gone ahead with it.

We are complex creatures, especially those of us with a reasonable in-built value system.  The complicated interaction of Christian values with deep-seated emotions and unfulfilled dreams can lead to quite unpredictable action.  Trying to decide which is the excuse and which is the real reason becomes next to impossible in those circumstances. It can either make us stubbornly persist under totally untenable conditions, or it can make us recklessly throw out our faith and go to the pub. 

There is a score system somewhere, (can't remember what it is called), allocating points for certain stress factors. You've probably heard about it.  The selling of your house counts for maybe 40.  A death in the family scores some quite high figure (was it 60?). Illness so much. Unhappy in your job? So much. Get to a hundred, and you have a nervous breakdown. I qualified for so many points, I think nervous collapse was a certainty.  Add the further complication of facing death head on, and you not only have enough points to have a nervous breakdown three times over, but your choices can become completely irrational. I'm not saying this as an excuse for my choice to leave my marriage. I just believe with all my heart that God knew I was at breaking point, and He was still in charge.

Both my ex and I have thrived since our break-up.  It was as if we held each other back in growing in our relationship with the Lord. She went and got herself a degree, travelled overseas a number of times, including a stint as missionary in India. She has married again. I'm still looking. I have grown so much closer to the Lord since.  This website wouldn't be here, if I was still depressed.


In 1992, friends asked if I would supervise the extensions to their house, and I accepted at a nominal rate of $10 per hour, provided I could live there. The size of the house was doubling and family occupancy during the building process would have been impossible anyway. I had been renting.  It was one of those "beachcomber" designs, with a slightly-sloping steel roof, laundry and garage underneath, and a balcony facing the view. It was on a battle-axe block with a long, steep driveway.

The building plans drawn up by some architect were the first thing to need amendment. The plans had a single-level new living room going across the steep driveway, creating a new double carport, with brick pillars holding up the centre. There was not enough head clearance to get a car into that carport, and the pillars interfered with freedom of movement! Just as well I spotted it! Backing a car up that steep driveway onto a busy road would have presented a daily nightmare. So I suggested split level, and horizontal steel beams in place of vertical pillars.  That enabled access to the backyard.  Cars could turn around there and exit front first.  

All systems go, I hired my younger son, 18 by then, as my offsider and we put the frames together ourselves. He learned a huge amount about building practice from that project and it brought us back into relationship. 

After nine months, the project was nearing completion, when illness struck again.  I was lying in bed with a huge pain in my chest. I had that day carried a 20 litre can of paint with my right arm, and that's where the pain was. I assumed I had strained a muscle. I tried lying in all sorts of different positions to try to get some sleep, but the pain was unbearable.  The only relief came from a burning hot shower, and in bed, I could only try to sleep sitting up.

The next day, a girlfriend drove me to the hospital, where they diagnosed double pneumonia and two collapsed lungs! I insisted on being treated by my leukemia specialist, (who was not a specialist in this area), but he told me that, since my transplant, they had developed a new nuclear test, called BCR-ABL, to measure leukemic cells in the blood. It was accurate up to one in a million.  Would I like to have the test done?  Of course I agreed. Test results would take about a month.

Another test on a large machine told them I had tiny little blood clots all over my lungs. That made them give my legs an ultrasound and they discovered deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) running from my crotch to my knees. My sister had problems with blood clots all her adult life, and it was her blood producing system that now made mine. Again I could have died, but the Lord had other ideas. I was to take Warfarin to thin my blood for an extended period.  The pneumonia cleared and the lungs re-inflated. Two weeks after I left hospital, my specialist gave me the results of that new test, BCR-ABL. One in ten thousand blood cells was leukemic! 

I remember once before having this feeling of unreality, where it seems the brain has gone numb, and things just don't compute anymore.  That previous time is detailed in my earlier essay called "Faith", where I experienced miraculous provision, and then it ran out.  I didn't know what to think.  I had been sharing my healing testimony with so many people, what would they think?  Would I have to go around to all these people and take back all the praise and credit I had given to the Lord?  Was the warning of a curse by the church coming true? Would God take back His healing, if you sinned after?  Should I give them $50,000 after all, to buymy healing?  None of this made any sense!

I asked my specialist what he thought about the test results.  He said it was not uncommon.  I asked did this mean that the chemo and radiation didn't get it all (leukemic stem cells)? He said yes. So what about the future?  He explained that my recent illness had got my new immune system busy elsewhere, giving the remnant leukemic cells a chance to multiply. If the situation didn't improve, I would have to be treated with Interferon to control the level of bad cells.  But he was hoping, now that the pneumonia had cleared up, that my new immune system would simply get rid of those cells in due course.

He proved to be right. Another test a month later showed one leukemic cell in a hundred thousand.  The next, one in a million. It has been clear ever since.


So, with the money from the settlement in my hot little hand, plus what I had earned doing those extensions, I went looking for real estate, a place of my own.  I had a total of $165,000 in cash, plus enough for the stamp duty. I was absolutely determined never to borrow money again. No mortgage. No dealings with a bank.

So I found a lovely female real estate agent to drive me around the area where it might still be possible to find something at that price. Price was more important than what I actually got for it. I ended up making offers on at least ten homes, most of which were asking between $175,000 and $190,000. They all knocked back my offer of $165,000. The place I bought was on the market for $185,000. I saw it and fell in love with the wonderful low-maintenance garden and large living room, made my offer and had it knocked back. Two months later, the agent rang to ask if I was still interested.  The sellers had found what they wanted to buy.  That night (Friday) contracts were exchanged at $165,000.  The next day an open house had been advertised, too late to cancel, so I brought my parents to see the place, which was overrun with prospective buyers.  The agent told me later, and I agree from what I saw, that it would have sold that next day for the full asking price!

I do believe the Lord had put my name on this place, and honoured my request and desire to be debt free.  I have been very happy in this location and in this home for the last 11 years.  It is His place.  Many people cross the doorstep, to write their names in the visitor's book. Many have been made to feel welcome. Many have heard the Gospel message in this home and been blessed, as I have been.


It is possible that God wants me to remain single for the rest of my life. I sincerely hope not.  However, if that should be so, again, submission to His will is of paramount importance.  I would rather be single than to be married to the wrong person.  And to be married, contrary to His will, would surely bring on much heartache. We can argue until we are blue in the face about how, technically, we are designed to be in relationship, just as we can present a case stating that, technically, we ought to be healed.  But that ignores the dynamics of a real-time relationship with Him, where anything is possible and His will is not a generic product carved in stone. 

In the last fourteen years I have been in a number of relationships, none of which proved to be right.  I experienced feelings of love each time, and was almost ready to believe that the 'right' one had arrived. I have had to come to terms with my own human desire to be with someone to feel 'one' with, where both of you knowyou are meant to be together.  When you want something so much, it is also very easy to be fooled. Every time you try again, you risk another rejection and being hurt.  Unfortunately, there is no other way to find out.

I discovered many adult Christian singles groups operating in Sydney and have attended many of them at one time or another.  There is a large fraternity of Christian singles out there. Unfortunately, the attitude of the Church towards them often tends to be condescending, almost as if there is something wrong with them.  I have personally stood in a congregation of a thousand people, ignored because I was on my own. Bring a girlfriend, and suddenly they throng around you, because you are no longer regarded as a liability.  If you read this and the shoe fits, please make a resolution to do something about it.

I ran a Bible study at my place for a number of years, especially for Christian singles. For seven years I have held a monthly games night. Those who attend are not exclusively single.  But I have had to examine my own motivations in sponsoring these activities. Is it because I am hoping to meet the right woman through it, or purely out of love for the body of Christ?  If it is to meet someone, that doesn't necessarily make it wrong.  But I like to know myself well enough to understand why I do things.  What is my agenda?  What is the excuse, and what is the real reason?

In my essay on 'Adultry and Divorce', I confessed to falling in love with another woman while married. Somewhere along the line, I did meet again the woman I thought was my soul mate.  She is also divorced. At first I believed the 'connection' was still there, after all those years, but it proved to be not so, shattering my firm belief that deep down people don't change.  We do change.  None of us get through this life unscathed.  I am not the person I was twenty years ago either.  

This is a testimony about change, an examination of cause and effect, a recognition of the impact life's experiences have on our soul, and a tribute to the Potter's hands and His ultimate wisdom.


In 2002, I realised that I had shared many of the testimonies you are reading here with numerous Christians, but my own children had not heard them.  So I commenced a totally new initiative - I asked if they would like to hear them too.  My eldest son was first, and so keen, he wanted to start that night! I told them it would be a no-holds-barred exercise, with no subject or question out of bounds.  They would hear my story, warts and all.

I spent four nights, each five to six hours in length, with my eldest. Nothing was left out.  No sin, no sex, no affair of the heart was overlooked.  Then my daughter was next, then my younger son. They learned who I was, and what drove me. They learned why the marriage didn't work and what temptations I have faced and the huge blunders I have made. They learned about my weaknesses and also about my strengths.

They got to know their Dad.  And then it was their turn! 

I have to say, you don't know your kids until you undertake such a humbling initiative.  Having given the example and taken the lead, they in turn felt free to unburden their own soul to me. It gave them permission to be totally honest.  I learned so much about them, stuff I didn't have a clue about, yet that most of usthink we know about our offspring. But most of all, it brought us into a much closer relationship. I can now talk to my children about anything, from sex to religion to finances.  When you can talk openly to your children about orgasm and tongue kissing, you know nothing will be taboo.  In turn, they now feel free to talk to me about anything.  And they are sure to discuss with me any potential relationship they might embark upon.

The ball kept rolling, with other members of the family wanting to be part of the initiative.  I had a number of sessions with my dad, who had always kept his feelings to himself. Relationships don't get undermined with this kind of confrontational honesty - they strengthen.

I guess I then realised that we all wear masks. I had worn a mask in front of my own children, and they had worn masks before me. They are the images of ourselves we want the world to see.  They represent what we would like the world to think who we are. They are like a CV, full of make-believe credentials.  They are made of painted walls and cosmetics and pretences. The real you is hiding behind that mask, afraid the world won't like you if they should see who you really are, nowhere near as pretty or attractive as the facade.

So in a world full of actors, there is a Church full of pretenders.  And in this conglomerate of falseness, we never get a chance to truly get to know each other, and by extension, to truly love each other for who we really are, warts and all.   The most precious gift God has given us, is the capacity to love. Without it, the Gospel message flounders, and life isn't worth living. I would rather find myself dying of leukemia again, than to lose my capacity to experience love; love for my children, love for a partner, love for my extended family, love for my brothers and sisters in Him. 

But I want to love their soul, not their mask.

I then decided enough is enough. Somebody has to make the first move.Somebody has to speak up.  Somebody has to make himself vulnerable by taking his mask off first.  I had no right to live beyond the age of 42, so it might as well be me! The last fourteen years has been time to which I wasn't really entitled. Only by His amazing grace is Albert still around to tell his story.  This website is the result.


One of the big considerations in trying to get my message across to my brothers and sisters in Him lately has hit a self imposed hurdle - I don't believe in forcingothers to listen anymore.  Everything in the realm of the Gospel depends on freewill cooperation.  God doesn't force Himself on anyone, only Satan does. Even the New Commandment is not a 'commandment' in the worldly sense. (Neither is it an 'optional extra' to our Christian journey.  But we choose to obey, and that'swhat makes it meaningful). So how do you state your case, without getting embroiled in arguments and confrontation, an unfortunate situation I have found myself in, time and again? The dilemma presents an apparent trade-off - either you compromise your beliefs and what you feel God has laid on your heart, by keeping quiet for the sake of peace, or you speak up, causing an uproar.

I guess my novel, "Leaves of the Fig Tree", was my first attempt at communication in the written word. By writing down how you feel, you don't force anyone to listen.  The first sentence the reader doesn't like the sound of, gives them the right to stop reading further. However, an unpublished novel doesn't reach many people.  The growth of the internet has finally provided the ideal medium for presenting my case, without crossing that boundary of forcing your view down people's throat. 


So, back to the beginning of this essay and the question posed.  Whilst the choice is from many, and remains a very subjective one, I would say the biggest change in me, or at least the most important, is that I don't take myself as seriously anymore. 

That may be a surprising answer to many of my readers, who have only experienced one side of me - the written word relating to the Gospel message.  (You haven't seen me play cards till four o'clock in the morning, watch late-release videos one after the other, eat way too much, or belly-laugh until it hurts!)  The truth is, I love life and treasure each and every new day the Lord gives me. I believe in enjoying life to the fullest, and often stray into areas that many of my readers would frown upon.  I take more risks than I would have before my illness, and often get a kick out of deliberately challenging the norm. I like to encourage people to think outside the square and to push the boundaries of the comfort zone we all live in.

Before the transplant, I really felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. The bride for Jesus depended on me getting people to listen. Now, whilst obviously I am still as passionate, maybe even more so, about Jesus and His bride, I recognise that God is in charge of the entire project, and His eternal purpose will come to fruition in His timing, whether I do my bit or not.  It doesn't reduce my involvement in the project - as you can see, I am probably even more involved. It doesn't quench the flame burning inside me, but it gets the perspective right. Christ will build His Church.  Not Albert. 

I also used to struggle greatly with my own humanity.  The success of my Christian walk depended on my compliance with His expectations.  There were a wide range of human shortcomings I had to overcome, before He could use me effectively for His ministry.  I pictured Him being greatly upset when I made another mistake, or committed a sin. Now, I know that He knows how He made me. When I make a mistake now, I picture Him smiling. He knows I meant well and in my heart wanted to do the right thing.  The fact that I stuffed things up is only of minor consequence.

Having come to terms with my own humanity, I now have a different attitude to others.  Accepting people for who they are, and where they are at, is much easier when you recognise your own many weaknesses and shortcomings, particularly if the expectations you have of yourself are seen in the right light. Somehow, it changes your whole perspective on the world, the people in it, and even on the pain we inflict on each other, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes deliberately.  A revelation of the true meaning of forgiveness, birthed in recognition of how much you yourself have been forgiven, can bring a unity and release a kind of love the entire world is waiting for.

You would have to say that it is a revelation about how God perceives things, and I am sure there are many Christians out there who would disagree with me, and they are free to do so.  What I can tell you, is that I am much more relaxed in my relationship with Him now. I will continue faithfully to do what He has placed on my heart.  I will continue to try to avoid sin.  I will continue to try to live up to and aspire for an ideal. But if I don't make it, I refuse to take condemnation on board. I will simply repent and try again.

Somewhere in this great and wonderful created universe, there is a loving Creator who knows how many hairs I have left on my head (not many).  He knows what He's doing and He has a purpose in mind for me and you.  I am immensely grateful that He even bothers to include us in that eternal purpose, and that He is concerned about our welfare. 

Thank You Lord, for loving me, unlovable as I might be.  Thank You Lord for caring.  And thank You Lord for taking the trouble to change me into someone who is fit to enter eternity, to be with You forever.  From now on, I pray I will not resist the changes You want to make, as much as I have resisted before. Take me Father.  Take me Jesus.  Take me, Holy Spirit. I hope and pray You will succeed in moulding and refining me, until all pretences are gone, and I can love and be loved in the fullest measure of Your design. Amen.