Loving family is found in the God of the Bible, says Tisha Williams
It may be frowned upon by parts of her family because of her Indigenous heritage but Tisha Williams says being a Christian and knowing Jesus is so exciting that she wants to share it with everyone, including her relatives' children who she cares for.
Tisha says knowing God has better enabled her to care for her three-year-old son and six other children born to close relatives, who are no longer able to care for them.
"I thank God every day for giving [my husband] Eddie and me the strength to open our home and our hearts to give these kids the life they deserve, though it has not been easy," Tisha says.
"I hope that we can be an inspiration for others to turn to God to help break the cycle [of neglect] in their own families."
Tisha understands her children's former situation. From age 10, she was cared for by her loving aunt and uncle in Mount Isa, Queensland, while her mother underwent rehabilitation to deal with drug and alcohol addictions.
It was at high school in Mt Isa where Jason, an Indigenous teacher and a Christian, left a positive impression on Tisha and her classmate, until they eventually accepted the invitation to attend his church.
"It meant a lot to us that someone cared outside of home to come sit with me and my best friend Becky and yarn and look after us in making sure we had food and giving us lunch money. So, maybe guilt about our ungratefulness caught up with us and we finally said 'yeah we will go to your church' and actually meant it," Tisha recalls.
One Sunday morning Becky's father dropped them at Jason's church and they nervously made their way in without knowing what to expect.
"I mainly remember the end of the service when the pastor was asking if anyone would like to come up and give their hearts to the Lord and to put their hands up if they wanted to," Tisha says.
Although the girls were a bit confused about what it all meant, Tisha says she liked the idea of being 'saved' by Jesus and decided to follow along with it and pray with the others, even though she did not fully understand at the time.
“It meant a lot to Becky and I that someone cared for us outside of home”She went back to church a few more times after that and says she did feel like something had changed inside of her but found that the busyness of life and family quickly got in the way.
A few years later Tisha moved back in with her mother and soon found out that a bad church experience had caused her mother to be be "dead set against anything religion".
"I could never tell my mother that I prayed and that I believed in God," she says. "But I would always seem to find myself praying every night before I went to be alone in my room.
"It wasn't easy for me to want to be Christian and learn about God and live in her household."
Tisha recalls being shocked by one particular incident when her mother got angry at her for wanting to buy a silver necklace with a cross, saying that the cross had nothing to do with the culture and religion of Indigenous people such as themselves.
"Still today that type of response that my mother gave me is the same sort of response the rest of my family gives me when I tell them I'm now a Christian," she says.
Although her first commitment to Jesus as a 13-year-old girl was naïve and confused, through time Tisha came to understand the gravity behind what it meant to be saved and to have a relationship with God.
Through support and encouragement from Christian friends and a loving church family, she realised that Jesus promised freedom and eternal life to everyone who simply believed in Him and that He was the only way to God.
"God made the world and everything in it and we (my husband Edward and I) are truly blessed that, despite both our backgrounds and people trying to keep God away from us, God is more powerful than anything.
"We believe He was there with us our whole lives, just waiting for the right time for us to come to Him and fully give our lives to Him."
Today, Tisha says she wants to live in a way that is pleasing to God and lovingly bring up her kids to hopefully be strong Christian Indigenous leaders for all people.
"We are doing what we can in our small way, 'seven children at a time'," she explains.
"We're getting stronger in our walk with Jesus and, as we grow and learn more about Him, our relationship with Him strengthens our faith."