I was blessed to meet Miss Una just before Christmas. It was just in passing, but then I was asked to do an interview with her. So, on a very sunny Saturday morning, we met at the church and over tea and treats she shared her story with me. Now I get to share it with you!
I asked Una how she came to faith and she told me it happened gradually. Here’s Miss Una’s story, as she relayed it to me.
A Childhood During World War II
I was born in England and attended an Anglican church and went to Sunday school. We had very little money and lived in a rented house that belonged to my grandmother. The first four years of my life were hard, as the Depression provided very little food.
Things got a little better for the next five years, but I had no opportunity to go to school or church because of the war. It was very difficult. My two brothers joined the fight, and my father was stationed in the country where he met many soldiers — Canadians, Americans, and Aussies alike.
We were so close to the fighting that it wasn’t safe to walk a few streets over to the school. There were days and nights of constant raids, and I would hide underneath the table and try to get some sleep. It took six months after the war started for shelters to be built.
The horror of friends being killed and the noise of bombs does something to you. At the time, I didn’t know the Lord enough to know He would protect me.
Saved From Tragedy
When I was twelve, the government came up with a program for children who had relatives living in Canada to find passage on ships and go live in Canada to escape the war. I had family living in Toronto at the time, and the government told us to wait for a date and a harbor location and then take me there. The information never came.
That was the Lord’s way of protecting me. The first three ships crossed the ocean with no problem, but the next two were torpedoed by U-boats and all the children drowned.
A Brother Lost
When I was fourteen, I was allowed to go to school. Then college at sixteen years of age.
One day, I came home and found my father weeping in his chair. I found my mother and a telegram which told us that my brother didn’t return from an air raid over Germany.
When I went to work, my co-workers could tell something was wrong. I told them about the telegram, and a co-worker said he would speak with his wife who worked at the office and dealt with records and information in regard to the air force. His wife came back with the news that they suspected my brother’s plane took on damage from the air raid and crashed in the Baltic Sea.
A New Life in Canada
In 1952, a lot of people were moving to Canada, and I decided I would like to go. I had a Canadian cousin who asked me to come to Canada, so I booked a berth for June of 1953.
While waiting for my departure to Canada, I got a call from a fellow I’d met from a shipping company. He wanted to marry me. I was hesitant, because we’d only gone out together a few times and I enjoyed my independence. I’d also purchased my berth to go to Canada. He then asked for us to see how things would go, and I agreed. We ended up getting married and we both sailed for Canada in June.
In Canada, we started to go to church more, but we got so busy and I took the Lord for granted. My husband got a job in Montreal and five years later, we lived in London, Ontario. I worked to pay for the mortgage, and he worked to support us. He didn’t want any children, but we ended up having two of our three children there.
Then my husband was transferred to Calgary, where our third child was born.
More Trouble & God’s Protection
As the years passed, my husband changed. When he had to travel for work, he would meet up with another woman. When he was home, he treated us horribly.
One year, very close to Christmas, the kids were in the basement watching the television. I was upstairs and so was my husband. Suddenly, he came at me and started to choke me. I panicked and started to shout and the kids came running upstairs. I told them to get out of there and they ran barefoot to the neighbour’s house.
My husband let me go and went to the furthest part of the living room and stared at me. Then, after threatening me from saying a word, he went upstairs and began to pack. My neighbour called and asked if I was alright. I said I was. The kids came back home, and I filed for divorce after 17 years of marriage.
After the divorce was finalized, a friend told me I needed to go to a church. So, I did.
We never had a lot of money to support ourselves, but the Lord was always there and always provided good jobs for me.
When I decided I wanted to serve in Thailand, where a friend of mine was serving, I sent a resume. A few weeks later I was asked when I could start. I didn’t have the money I needed to get there or to stay there. Friends put together a gathering and pitched in the money I needed to go.
In Thailand, I lived in the mission compound and worked in the mission office.
Reflections on Faith & God’s Faithfulness
What happened in the world around me greatly challenged my faith throughout my life, but it helped me see Who gave me life and how God made everything.
Life, our bodies, and the world are wondrous things. The fact that we are God’s creation is mind-boggling. God won’t allow Satan to ruin that life. God uses everything for His creation.
I want to encourage the next generation of Christ-followers in this: See and be aware of what’s going on in the world, why, and who is causing it.
Looking back, I see how God performed so many miracles in my life and protected me. I will always carry with me the fact that He got me through the war and kept me off that ship as a child so I could have life. And I’m overwhelmed that the Lord chose me.
(Written by Abbi Befus, as told by Una Barrett)