Maree de Jong
Maree's dad died of a heart attack when she was only 9. As her family tried to cope with the grief Maree's life spiralled out of control leading her into a world of drugs and alcohol. Years later a letter from her brother helped change the path Maree was on.
I grew up in a family of parents who loved each other dearly, my mum and dad. I had four brothers and I was the only girl; the last child. So my brothers were all a little bit jealous of me I would probably say because they all had to share a room and I had a room of my own. The first ten years were really happy memories and we were a close knit family. I was daddy’s little girl because I was the only girl in a household of 5. I went to school one day and I saw my uncle come to the school talking to my teacher; who was one of the nuns at the school. And she was in conversation. The next thing they called me over to tell me that my dad had just died and wasn’t coming home again, he had gone to heaven. He had a fatal heart attack at work and never came home. That was probably one of the hardest things for me as a child, I couldn’t understand in my little brain that he was gone, I I kept thinking that he was gonna walk back in the door any moment because I didn’t get to say goodbye to him. We fumbled our way through the next year, that’s the only way I can explain it. Cause my mum, my mother actually went on to have within a year; she decided it was just too much to her. Emotionally she was unstable. She just decided after a year that she didn’t want to live anymore.
So she overdosed on the medication that they gave her and my brother managed to find her miraculously before it was too late. It was a hard feeling as a young girl trying to cope with, what is going on with my mother you know. Why is she here, or why doesn’t she care enough about me to wanna be alive you know? Cause that’s the thing that I took from her trying to take her life, that she didn’t really care about me. That built up in insecurity and a lack of value, and a search for somebody to think that I was worth being alive for. And unfortunately I spiralled down a track of looking for love in all the wrong places, as the song goes. And I ended up on drugs and alcohol, and down a track of being with people really that were not there for for me. They were there for what they could get. Unfortunately, I had a lot of heartache and pain that I could have avoided. But I was just too young. My emotions were so trashed by then that I just needed more drugs and more of what I was involved in to survive really. I was passed around to different family members, and so were my brothers. Some of them. The two older ones were at home. But I was actually sexually abused in that time as well. And again that was a painful thing in my heart because it was somebody very close to me that was supposed to be a protective figure in my life. And it was just another thing that I had to cover up or I had to you know block out the pain from. I just don’t want to be like this. I don’t want this kind of life. I don’t want this pain and my only way of knowing what to do about it was, I tried to take an overdose myself when I was just short of 16. Because that’s the only way I could see that I was going to get out of this mess. I would just take my life. I wished I could live my life all over again but I couldn’t. I’d already made so many mistakes, i’d already had so much stuff happen to me. When I was 18 years old, my brother who I kept communication with occasionally by letter had written to me and he wrote to tell me that he had turned his life around. That he had found Jesus. And I just thought he was crazy to be honest. And he said oh by the way, we’re going on a church camp this weekend and i’ve booked you in. He hadn’t told me anything about it beforehand otherwise I would never have got on the plane and went to their house. But it was at that camp that I radically fell in love with Jesus and came into close encounter with him. He radically changed my life. I’ve never been the same since. I was very involved in church. I was in the choir and I went to all the prayer meetings. I did everything. Youth, I just wanted to be around people at church. And then one day this new guy came to church. Everyone was talking about this new guy Paul. I was so focused on going to bible college I wasn’t even remotely thinking about guys cause I thought i’m probably not going to get married. I’m probably just going to serve God on the mission field. And I was good with that. And ah, we’ve been married 32 years now and funnily enough I did end up back in New Zealand. I could say this is my mission field back here. It just didn’t look like what I thought it was going to look like. Here we are pastoring this church which I had no clue would happen. If you told me that when I started going out with Paul that we would be pastoring a church in New Zealand and be responsible for so many thousands of people I would say you’ve got to be kidding. You’ve got the wrong person, that’s not me. But God had other ideas obviously.