My Refuge and My Strength
December 1, 2003 - Home life was far from happy for my stepsister, my brothers and me as we grew up in Ruthenia, a small farming district in southwestern Manitoba, Canada.
by Shaun Shmyr
Alcoholism had cost my father his job, and portions of our farm had been sold in order to support his addiction. Conveniences such as running water, indoor toilets and a telephone were sacrificed to keep my father's alcohol addiction primed.
My father used physical and emotional abuse—as well as sexual abuse of my stepsister—to control our lives. No one went anywhere or did anything unless Dad approved it. We concealed my father's abuse and never told anyone what was happening at home.
For some reason, my father always took his wrath out on me rather than on my brothers. I was made to feel as if I were garbage—unwanted and useless. The only relief I seemed to experience was in the tears that I often shed. I felt as though I didn't have an advocate in the world.
One evening, when I was 13, I watched Billy Graham on television. He spoke about repentance and the need to know that we are saved from our sins. He encouraged everyone who wanted to know true peace and joy to invite Jesus into their lives. I was convicted of my sins, and I desperately wanted to know that when the cruel world familiar to me crumbled, I'd find myself in the presence of this loving Father of whom Billy Graham spoke.
I went to my room, scarcely able to restrain the tears welling up in my eyes. I knelt by my bed, asked Jesus to forgive all of my sins and invited Him to come into my life as my Savior and Lord.
After that, Jesus made my life bearable. I knew that I had a Friend whom I could trust and who loved me unconditionally. I had a deep desire to worship God with other Christians, but my father would neither take me to church nor allow anyone else to drive me 20 miles to the nearest church.
When I was 17, my father, while in a drunken stupor, stabbed himself in the abdomen. My stepsister had already left home, and while my father was in a treatment center, my mother, my brothers and I also moved away from the farm.
I felt as if I were finally out of prison. I was away from the person who had made my life unbearable. I became deeply involved in church life, teaching and proclaiming the Word of God and assisting my pastor.
Now I am 20, and much has happened since I knelt and invited Jesus into my life. I graduated from high school, attended Bible school for one year and received a diploma in sacred studies.
My stepsister accepted Christ five months before she died from complications of a liver transplant. Unfortunately, my father did not know Christ when he drowned in a well, only months before my stepsister's death. The rest of the family has not come to know the Lord, and so I continue to pray for them. But I allow nothing to rob me of the peace and joy that I find in Him who is my refuge and my strength.