Maxine and I were both born in Invercargill, New Zealand. It was a wonderful place to live. After raising three children there, Maxine worked for the government in child support and volunteered at night with victim support. She was trained in homicide and so would be on patrol with police, which provided many interesting stories.
For 23 years I was a self-employed photographer. I had a custom picture-framing business, a wholesale frame manufacturer, an art gallery and a digital print shop.
From the stress of running the business—at 48 years old—I had four heart attacks over a 17-day period. One afternoon, while lying in hospital, I felt this unexplainable cold, dark sensation going in and out of my room. My chest pains were coming and going and I could sense there was a spiritual battle happening. I cried out, “God please get the devil out of this room!” Instant peace—no more cold, dark feeling; no more chest pains.
Learning how to manage stress didn’t take away the hassles of life. I just wanted to run away and go where life wasn’t stressful. So I tried . . . I tried selling our house and business numerous times. On a few occasions we had buyers, but always, under the most bizarre circumstances, they would walk away.
I set up a reminder at 9am each day: “Appointment with God”. Every day I met with my Business Partner and we would plan the day. Out of frustration one day, I put God to the test and said, “God, if you want me still here, provide 10 jobs, but if you want us to leave Invercargill, then give zero jobs” (bearing in mind 2-3 jobs per day was a good day). I told my staff and they were keen to see what would happen. At 5 pm one shop received seven jobs and the other shop received four. I couldn’t believe God provided 11. (Later, someone suggested God provided the extra job for tithe!)
The building that held the art gallery had been up for sale for a couple of years and, if we were to stay, it made sense to buy it. We offered a fair price and got a blatant no. Interestingly, the building sold the following week. (I found out later it sold for less than the price we offered!) More questions—“Why God?” Time went by with nothing changing or opening. I even applied for new jobs but often I didn’t even get an interview.
One morning I poured out my heart: “God I give up, I surrender. I surrender everything to You, my heart, my soul, my mind, my body, my family, my business, all earthly possessions You have trusted me with, I give it all back. Take my life and use me however You want, I’ll go wherever You want me to go.”
Soon after letting go, God opened a door to teach a Bible course at church, which I was terrified to do. In fact, I completed a “discover your spiritual gift questionnaire”, which showed my lowest spiritual gift was teaching, but I knew God wanted me to do this, so I obeyed. In order to present these lessons I needed to study the Bible and, in doing so, I came to know Jesus as my Saviour.
Through this experience, I witnessed one staff member and two dear friends being baptised. It was only when I truly surrendered that life changed. What happened after that was way beyond coincidence—it was miraculous.
We put our house on the market again and it was signed up in two weeks. In fact it was signed up twice, the second time the vendors paid $NZ10,000 more. At the same time, I received a phone call with a higher cash offer than my original asking price for my businesses!
At prayer meeting one Sunday morning I met a man called Gabriel for the first time. I prayed with him and afterwards I found out he was from Papua New Guinea.
“Did you see the large campaign Pastor John Carter ran that resulted in more than 5000 baptisms there?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “There was a report in Adventist Record about it.”
Gabriel handed me that particular Record and in reading through it, I found this advertisement: “Married couple to manage Crosslands Convention Centre.” I knew then and there we should apply.
We prayed and applied for the job. After a lengthy process, we flew to Sydney and stayed at Crosslands for the final interview. While helping on the site, I was asked to drive the bobcat. When I was told the PIN code to start it, my response was “Wow! are you serious?” The PIN code was the same numbers as our house alarm! I remember thinking, God is this a sign? Needless to say, we got the job!
We loved our home in New Zealand that God had blessed us with; privacy, the bush around us and a view of the river and mountains. To replicate that home anywhere else would be a miracle but God is so good and has totally replicated it for us at Crosslands.
We knew working at Crosslands wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but the long hours, the distance from family and friends, together with not seeing any direct God moments, caused us to question God every day for the first year. I placed a reminder in our office: “Lest We Forget. By a series of undeniable miracles God sent us here. Thank you God. Use us and teach us what we need to know to be more like Jesus.”
The next summer camp I walked up to the hall and witnessed young lives give their hearts to God and heard God say, “This is why you and Maxine are here. If it wasn’t for you looking after this place, this wouldn’t have happened.” So now we want to do more! We want Crosslands to be a place where people don’t just come to have fun, but meet God so He can change lives and enlarge His kingdom.
Bruce Hill is manager of Crosslands Youth and Convention Centre in Galston, New South Wales.