Age: 74 // Favourite Food: Ice cream – all kinds // Dream Job: Humour therapist – I believe laughter is good medicine for both the soul and the body// Current Season: Retired – grandmother – and writer // Met Jesus: At 18 years of age in the Billy Graham Crusade in Adelaide in 1959 // Favourite Verse: Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”// Blog: www.robynhipkiss.wordpress.com // Website: www.inspiringstories.net.au
I was born again in the Billy Graham Crusade in Adelaide in 1959, when I was 18 years of age. Hungry to know more, I began attending a Pentecostal church at the invitation of a friend, where I was baptized in water and filled with the Holy Spirit.
My life was transformed by the touch of God. I had always felt there should be more to life than just living from day to day. Now I had found a purpose for living. I wanted to serve God with all my heart, and enrolled to attend Bible College four nights a week, for two years.
I was thrilled to be asked to take up an appointment as Secretary to Leo Harris, the pastor of the large city church I attended, a job I loved. Working every day in the church office for a wise and godly man and a dedicated team of pastors was, to me, the dream job.
I became involved in children’s ministry and had the great joy of seeing many children touched and changed by the power of God through weekly clubs, camps and school outreaches.
In my late twenties I met and married Terry Hipkiss. We both had a deep desire to serve God, which led us to move to Canberra in 1976, to assist in ministry in a church there. After a couple of years we began our own church, known as Shekinah Christian Centre, under the covering of the Bethesda movement. It is now known as Ginninderra Christian Church.
Most of us have a romantic dream of marriage, but for me it didn’t work out quite like I thought it would!
Terry was a sensitive and caring man. He had a keen mind, and a great knowledge and understanding of the Bible, and in particular Bible history and prophecy, and how it related to the modern world. He loved to preach and teach the Word of God, and God honoured His Word with people finding faith in Christ and growing in their faith through Terry’s ministry and those who worked with him.
But very early in our married life it became obvious that he suffered with deep emotional and psychological problems. Although we loved each other dearly, he found it very hard to cope with my invasion of his personal space. His drive for perfection caused him to be constantly disappointed by the frailty of those around him, including himself, and particularly his wife! No matter how hard I tried – and believe me, I did try – I could never meet his impossible expectations.
He had been heavily involved in occultish practices before he became a Christian, and it seemed there were issues which stemmed from that. These, along with other deep seated problems, were to trouble him throughout his life, resulting in depression, frustration and suicidal thoughts. He loved his family and being involved in our two daughter’s activities, but these emotional highs and lows meant that we never knew just what to expect from day to day. His zest for life and zany sense of humour were often overshadowed by the “black dog” of depression.
With the tension in the home and the strain of keeping up with the demands of the ministry, I often felt like my nerves were being stretched to breaking point.
When I had to undergo major surgery for bowel cancer in 1987, my doctor said that stress was a major factor in causing many cancers, and I should avoid it if I wanted to fully recover. He explained that the bowel is extremely sensitive to tension. This was a bit difficult in light of the challenges I faced at home. It is a testimony to God’s grace that 27 years later I am enjoying good health, for which I thank Him every day.
After more than 20 years in ministry, in 1988 Terry came to a crisis in his faith and turned away from God. He walked away from the church, saying “I am an absolute failure in every area of my life.” He lost sight of the good things God had done through his ministry and in his life, because of the turmoil within his heart, and the issues he could not deal with. He chose to walk away rather than confront those issues.
I had spent many years praying for God to bring Terry through to freedom. But now I came to a place where I knew I had to stop striving and worrying and place him by faith into God’s hands. It was a place of rest and peace. I felt God gave me a word that Terry would be away from his faith for a period of time, but that eventually he would come back into a relationship with his heavenly Father.
I had no idea how this would happen or how long it would take, but I had an assurance and peace about it.
In the meantime I continued to be involved in the church I was attending. I am so thankful for the prayerful support of friends during that time, both for Terry and for our family.
Terry went back to teaching at the Canberra Institute of Technology. He went through a very difficult time of personal stress when his integrity as a teacher was attacked by a student. This harassment went on continually for three years and took its toll on his health and his emotions.
Not long after this, in 1995, Terry became ill with prostate cancer, which gradually, over a two year period, spread to bone cancer throughout his body.
Early in 1998 he wrote the following:
“Late last year my family and I went beyond the possibility of facing cancer, to also facing death. This was not an easy thing – especially in light of my rebellion against God. I experienced the pain of knowing that I would possibly have to leave my wife and my children and would not see my grandchildren grow up.
I had a strong conviction that I wanted to go to Adelaide to see my relatives at Christmas time, even though by then I was experiencing very severe pain. One night between Christmas and New Year I was in agony and had to be admitted to hospital to get some relief. During the early morning hours in the hospital I woke up and heard myself saying: “I don’t understand but I believe.” I was quite startled by this, and immediately checked to see if anyone else was in the room. Within seconds I heard a response. It wasn’t my voice, and there was no nurse in the room, but I heard these beautiful words: “Welcome home, son.” All I can say is that it was just as if an overwhelming blanket hit me right in the solar plexus. It just floored me that God was welcoming me home. I thank God for such a wonderful, deep and glorious re-introduction to His grace.”
Terry underwent radiotherapy for the tumours pressing on his spine. Although initially he got some relief, the tumours then affected his back and did not respond to the radiotherapy. This resulted in paralysis from his waist down, causing him to be a paraplegic. During his time in hospital, and then the hospice, he drew great comfort from listening to scripture tapes and gospel music, and the words of one particular song … “He looked beyond my faults and saw my need,” blessed and encouraged him.
He shared his faith with all who came to visit him. He said, “ I know God is able to heal me and raise me up. But if it is my time to go and be with Him, then I am ready to go.”
In June 1998, Terry went to be with the Lord. His funeral was a celebration of his life, and in particular those last six months when he was able to restore fellowship and share his renewed faith with so many people.
Over the years I have heard many similar stories of God’s grace which have inspired and uplifted me.
I decided I wanted to share these stories with others, so I began writing and recording inspirational life stories. In 2006 I published my first book, Australian Women of Grace, telling the stories of five Christian women. In that book, I shared my story and included Terry’s testimony. Since then I have published two more books … Australian Women of Courage and Inspiring Stories of Life and Faith. I just love sharing these inspirational stories of the grace and goodness of God, and have received letters from many who have been encouraged and blessed by reading them.
If you are praying for a loved one, I would encourage you not to give up! God is faithful to His promises, and if we trust in Him He will answer our prayers. Maybe not in the way we are expecting, or in the time frame we would like. But on the journey He teaches us many things. I like the expression “leaning into God.”
If we lean into Him He will strengthen us for the journey.
He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.