When Romans 8:28 Doesn’t Make Any Sense

27 Mar 2019

‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ (Romans 8:28).

I grew up in a small village in the heart of the New Forest, England. In the pursuit of a better future, my parents decided to move to Australia to raise their young family. Back in England, we used to go to an Anglican church so we thought we would probably fit in the Australian Anglican church, an assumption that was far from being the case.

We had been in Australia for eighteen months when I went to do my Mothercraft Training in Geelong. The girl with whom I shared a room came from a Brethren background and after we had spent some time together, she started to wonder if I had a personal relationship with Jesus. Out of the eighteen trainees, six of the trainees were Christians, so every Sunday night we would go to different churches and after eight months I finally gave my heart to the Lord at a Salvation Army meeting – the start of my Christian journey. Two months after making that important decision, my dad died, and I couldn’t understand why the Lord allowed this to happen. In the midst of confusion and faith struggles, my roommate gave me a card with Romans 8:28 hoping that it would make me feel better, but I couldn’t see how good was going to come out of this situation. My sister went right off the rails, my mother was absolutely devastated because of her loss, and all sorts of things happened. My mum had a lot of pressure on her from family in England to go back at that time, but she said no. She told me, “Your Dad brought us to Australia because he felt there’s a better future for us here, so we are going to stay”. I deeply admire her for fulfilling my dad’s wishes although it was not easy for her to do so, having to work and look after my siblings and me, all by herself.

During the following four years, I sat on the fence as a Christian. I would behave as a Christian or as a non-Christian depending on who was next to me. I came back to Melbourne to do a preschool teacher’s course as a follow on from the Mothercraft Nurse training and then became the director of a pre-school centre at Murrumbeena. During that time, I became involved in a car accident as a witness, an experience that God used to bring me back to Him. The Lord challenged me to put Him as the centre of my life because I was completely devoted to my work as a teacher. As I couldn’t do any less than I was doing, I decided to leave by the end of that year and go to Queensland for a twelve-months working holiday with a friend. Towards the end of this little adventure, God had me flat on my back for a week, challenging me to go to a Bible college, an idea that I had resisted for a long time. Eventually, I went to the Baptist Theological College in Queensland where I studied for four years. It was during that time that I met my now husband, a man who like me was passionate about mission and the children ministry. After we got married in 1975, we started to look at avenues of service overseas. We had been married for two years when my husband brought a magazine home with a job advertisement for hostel parents for primary school-aged children in Wewak, Papua New Guinea. We decided to apply and while we were anxiously waiting for the outcome, an administrator from Asia Pacific Christian Mission (APCM), a forerunner to Pioneers, contacted us saying that they had heard that we were interested in working with children. We were accepted by APCM, managed to raise enough support, and in January 1979 we moved to Papua New Guinea, on our elder daughter’s first birthday. We spent 15 years in this beautiful country as hostel parents – years that I still see as the highlight of my life. We looked after 12 children in the hostel between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.

In 1992 we came back to Melbourne for an early home assignment and, soon after we arrived, things quickly started to change. The number of children we used to look after diminished in PNG, both of our girls were going away for high school, my father-in-law died. My husband felt challenged by God as he could no longer justify going back to PNG for the amount of support that we needed to raise. As we were at a crossroads, we sought advice from one of our mission leaders who was very wise. He told me that I was not allowed to go back to PNG until I was sure of what God wanted me to do because, unlike my husband, I was not ready to give up my work in PNG. Following that conversation, I spent 6 weeks wrestling with God, eventually coming to that place of knowing that God had called us to go back to Australia.

Leaving PNG has been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life and this was followed by a myriad of challenges once back in Australia. We didn’t have a home or a church where our children would fit in and, honestly, we were struggling in every possible way. I felt a complete failure as a mother because for the past 15 years I’d dedicated my life to helping other people’s children and, when it came to my own, I just couldn’t help them. It took me 11 years to settle in Australia but the thing that kept me going throughout all this time was knowing that God had called us to come back to Australia.

In February 2005, God told us to go back to the mission field, just when I was finally settled in Australia. My husband told me that the Lord had only been waiting for me to be content with His plan. We asked Pioneers, “Is there some way you can use a couple of grandparents to work with children at risk somewhere in the world?” and, much to our surprise, they said that there were lots of places!

Here we go again!

In August 2007, we embarked on a journey to work with a local church in Lesotho that worked with children who had been orphaned. The plan had been to set up childcare centres because of my background, but, for a number of reasons, it didn’t work out. We were asked to become involved as trainers in Jewels of Hope, one of the projects under the umbrella of Love in Action Lesotho. At that stage, there were 40 children involved between the ages of 13 and 18 in this particular project. Since returning to Australia in 2010, I have been going to Lesotho once a year to gather the jewellery the children make to market it here.


It is truly fascinating the way our good Father aligns everything into place so we can live a fulfilling life. Personally, I only needed to trust His plan and let go of what I thought was best for me to truly experience a life of meaning and purpose.

If you resonate with Dawn’s story and would like to get involved in mission, get in touch.

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