a christian perspective on the world today

She died in my arms

Justin White’s story is one of immense suffering, abuse, anger and grief, but is also a story of healing and God’s continual pursuit. 

Growing up in Darwin, Justin described his mother as very abusive. She would whip him with a jug cord until his entire body was covered with welts and bruises; one time, fracturing his skull with a tyre lever. When he was five years old, his mother stabbed him, cutting his wrist to the bone, leaving him for hours after screaming at him to die. Hours later, she took him to the doctor’s office. “I heard him roaring at her,” Justin recalls. 

Although he asked to be taken to his grandmother, Justin believes his mum wanted to hide him from her, so instead he and his three-year-old sister were taken to a place where they were left with a woman who brutally tortured and raped him repeatedly. “She wouldn’t even allow us to eat. They would cook food for themselves, but I had to feed myself and my three-year-old sister from a bin.” Justin explains that they survived on mango skins and the marrow they sucked from broken chicken bones. “I had the good sense to feed my sister first and whatever was left, I ate.” Eventually Justin’s mother and boyfriend returned to get them and took them to their grandmother. It was she who taught them about God. 

When he was five years old, his mother stabbed him, cutting his wrist to the bone

Justin’s childhood was peppered with memories of bouncing between homes and feelings of extreme fear and resentment—although there were some good times. He explained that he loved his mum, but “when she beat us, she beat us! Especially me, she said I looked a lot like my father, and I’ve heard that he didn’t treat her too good.” 

kicking life in the teeth

One day Justin’s young cousin took him to meet a Tibetan warrior monk who had a temple in Darwin. “He took me in. When I was about 17, he said to me, ‘I’m going to get you away from your family mate, they’re not good for you.’” Some months later, Justin headed to Sydney where he stayed at Kirinari—a secondary education hostel. His house parents were the uncle and auntie of Indigenous rugby league star Ricky Walford. Justin described them as “nice people”. Ricky would regularly give him tickets to attend games. Justin explains that by this time, “I had a lot of abandonment issues and a lot of anger.” 

When he was 18, Justin walked into a sports store where he met his future kickboxing teacher. Under his tutelage, Justin went heavyweight. One day he was put on a punching machine to test his poundage per square inch. “If you haven’t got enough strength, they won’t let you go up to that weight, because you’ve got to have a certain amount of power. It was actually a kicking machine I punched, because someone had broken the punching machine. I broke both sides, one with each punch.” This test showed that Justin had over 25 tonne of power in each hand. He was accused of being on steroids. They told him, “You’re only 18 and you’re punching over five times the power of [boxer Mike] Tyson! We can’t let you fight.” Justin ended up agreeing to two drug tests to prove he was clean, and told them, “You’ll owe me an apology!” When the tests came back negative, he was awarded his World Boxing Association heavyweight ranking and was told he needed to be careful not to kill anyone.

One day when he was training in a gym, he punched a 385kg punching bag. With just two punches, he tore it from the ceiling. He would train and train until he’d have to be carried out of the gym. One day he was asked what drove him. He responded, “Every time I see that bag, I see my mother’s face.” Justin explains that his issues continued into his mid-30s. 

other plans

During this time, he tried to take his own life six times. Four times he tried to shoot himself in the head. Each time, although there were bullets in the barrel, the gun would not fire. Justin tells how he tested it by firing it at the wall. When that worked, he tried again, but again the gun would not fire. This happened four times. Sometime later he decided he would hang himself. He threw a rope over a tree branch, put it around his neck and jumped. The rope snapped. He stood there and shook his fist toward heaven, screaming, “What do you want from me?!” Deciding not to be bested, he tried again. This time the branch broke and hit him on the head. Again, he looked toward heaven and demanded that God tell him why he wouldn’t just let him die.

At 35, even though he’d vowed never to return, he found himself back at the place where his mother had left him to be abused. He was given work there as a sports and recreation officer. “I did very well, they were proud of me. That’s where I met my beautiful wife, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met in my life! She was very slow to wrath but very quick to forgive. She had Father’s [God’s] way in her without even knowing the Bible, before I brought her to Father. She believed in Jesus, that He died, and He rose from the dead. She told me she believed and accepted Him into her life . . . I loved her more than anyone in my life.”

Justin described his wife’s community spirit and her desire to help children and families who had little. Every person she encountered in need, she would feed and provide other necessities for them and each Christmas every child in town would be given a Christmas hamper. Horrifically, just over a year ago, Justin’s wife died in his arms after being king punched underneath the jaw by her niece. “It stopped my beautiful wife’s heart—she killed her. She died in my arms. She died looking into my eyes. I saw, felt and heard her very last breath. I still can’t believe it!”

from horror to hope

About a week after the death of his wife, Justin was crying and begging God for a sign that he would see her again. “Something made me turn around. There was a big tree with yellow flowers on it and when I showed everyone they looked and saw it too, it was in plain sight for everyone in the community to see. The tree was literally glowing, it was emanating yellow. And then two men walked in the front gate of the community; it just happened to be Pastor John Beck and Andrew Johnson.”

They asked him what his name was, and when he told them, they said they were looking for him. “I think they had come to console me, but it was more than that. When I was speaking to them about my wife, I told them that not only had we wanted to get married, but we had also talked about me getting into ministry. Pastor Beck said, ‘Mate, you’re talking to the right people, there’s a Bible college called Mamarapha, where we train you for that.’” Justin subsequently started attending Mamarapha College in 2023. 

I saw, felt and heard her very last breath

Owned and operated by the Australian Seventh-day Adventist Church, it is nestled in lush bushland in the hills of Perth. It commenced operation in 1997 as a Bible college. Today it offers courses in Indigenous Ministry and Lifestyle Health Promotion and Indigenous Pastoral Ministry and continues to live up to its name—Mamarapha—“God heals and makes whole”. Sharing a moment of transformation he explained, “I hated that young lady [his niece], and I wanted to destroy her of course, but in class one day through Pastor Dave, Father broke it down for me—all about forgiveness. I broke down and Pastor Dave stopped the class and prayed for me.” Justin and David left the classroom “and it happened right there. I think Pastor Dave knew what was going on inside of me. When we went outside, I realised what I had to do. I felt it. I rang up the prosecutor, even though the case is still ongoing, and I told him I forgive her. I said, ‘Let her know her uncle loves her’. I still hurt. But I don’t think I ask why anymore. Father has a plan. I’ve learned that Father will never put something upon you, you can’t handle. So, He must know I can take a lot. Sometimes it frightens me when I think, Oh my goodness, what’s going to happen next?

All the teachers are wonderful. I’m a hard nut to crack, but they still love me

“The way the teachers here break things down is absolutely brilliant. We get nothing but A1 treatment here. When we come to Mamarapha, Father supports us. I’ve come to all sorts of realisations. All the teachers are wonderful. I’m a hard nut to crack, but they still love me. Every teacher that comes makes it better and better. They speak about things I’m dealing with in my life and how to handle them. So, if Father wills it, the only way is up from here. Hopefully, if there’s enough time in the world, I will get to be a minister . . . that will be a good day!”

Justin admits he still has immense grief but being at the college really helps him. “I’ve come a long way . . . Father showed me something, the glowing tree, the two pastors walking through the gate, I knew what His message was to me, ‘Serve Me My son, and you’ll see her again.’ That’s exactly the way I took it. He answered me and I look forward to that day . . . now I’m focusing on how to serve Father better.”

This story has been provided by Mamarapha College. Learn more about the college here. If this story caused you distress, help is available. Visit Beyond Blue or for crisis support or suicide prevention, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 (AU) or 0800 543 354 (NZ).

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