The story of Isabelle Apulu.
My earliest memory is standing alone, staring at a window, wearing nothing but a nappy. I had been taken by my birth mother and placed into a Church run children’s home in Manurewa when I was 3 years old. I stayed at the home until I was 7.
I was a lost child in the NZ government system, lonely and afraid– it was very much “sink or swim”.
I was just another mouth to feed, another child in the crowd.
Between the ages of 7-14, I was living in a permanent foster home. I am Maori- Cook Island and the foster family was European. My foster mother was good to me, she introduced me to Jesus and showed me love.
I felt like I didn’t belong
Devastatingly, during these years, I was repeatedly sexually abused by my foster father.
By 15 years old, I had dropped out of school and moved in with my boyfriend. I had no idea of my worth or who I was. I was lost.
My behaviour, and the people around me reflected and reinforced my low self-image
I had no stability or respect for authority. I was drinking alcohol and taking drugs. Living in Auckland, Whangerei and Blenheim.
Party, party, party.
I remember being stoned one night, and a vivid dream of hell scared me so much that the next day, I had packed up and left, running to my foster mum in Otorohanga, she was my only real reference of normality; but in her situation of divorce and young kids, she could not cope with herself, let alone me and my trouble.
My Aunty was going to a church in the area, and she took me along with her, it was there that I met the pastors of the church, who eventually became my whangai family. From them, I finally met stability and saw love in action. I saw a healthy marriage and relationships with children, boundaries and safety.
It was my first real experience of Jesus and his unconditional love.
I first heard Bishop Tamaki speak when he came to preach at my church in Brisbane. I remember the way he spoke was so straight and true. With the help and love of my whangai parents, I began to find stability and healing. It was through their encouragement that I discovered my talent and love for singing and worship.
I met and married my first husband in Brisbane, but unfortunately it became apparent that all was not good. This was an excruciating and heart-breaking time for me. I divorced him and ran.
I ran away from God, away from church, away from my family. I was the lost little girl once again.
I ran hard, back to all my old habits. One evening in McDonalds, when I was rolling drunk, I came across Bishop and his family having dinner. I went up to their table and tearfully told them I loved and missed them. Hannah gave me her warm smile and a hug “You’ll be back, Izzy” is all she said.
I stayed away 6 years, but after meeting and getting married to my now husband, I knew in my heart that the combination of our individual pain and dysfunction would one day break us apart.
My whangai parents had transitioned into Destiny Church by this time and because the only truth and stability I had ever experienced had been with them and in Destiny Church, that is where we went. “It works” was my only rationale to my husband.
I knew my father’s voice. I knew it was only Bishop’s word that could fix us and keep us fixed.
It was like a magnet.
Bishop Brian and Hannah welcomed me and validated me. I was drawn back because of their love for me and non-judgement for my choices. They showed me Jesus through everything they said and did.
My husband and I are transformed! We are Generals for Man Up and Legacy in Mangere, and it is in this work that we realise the significance of our past.
We have healed our lives and are now able to heal others. We are now stable and are able to offer a hand up to others who have been in similar situations to ourselves. We are now the straight path, truth and light.
My kids are living the dream!
I’m so grateful to God for rescuing me and bringing key people across my path at just the right moments. He truly is a good father. I get teary when I think of the awesome potential and possibility for my three children. They are living what I could only dream of at their age
I have walked through hell and now stand in victory!
Now, as I stand on the stage in the Sound of Destiny team to lead our church into praise and worship on Sundays, I am very aware that Bishop’s word intensifies as I sing. The words are a declaration. I have walked through hell and now stand in victory – my voice raised in song declares this truth.