Bobby was a heroin addict, dealer & Triad member for over 20 years in Hong Kong. Although his dad left when he was 1, his mother re-married when he was 9 to the Manager of the opulent 'Repulse Bay Hotel' in Hong Kong. Materially, Bobby lacked nothing, but life was emotionally unfulfilled.
At age 15, Bobby's had his first brush with the law. He had injected the American Consulate Generals' son with drugs at a party, who had consequently overdosed and died. The witnesses all testified that it was Bobby that did it, and so began an even further downward slide. Bobby spent a year in remand while the manslaughter charges were being fought. While he was eventually only charged with trafficking, the damage had been done. Bobby learnt far worse things from the hardened criminals he stayed with for that time, than he ever had before.
Being a mixture of ethnicity, Bobby could speak Chinese and English both fluently. This made him very useful to the Triads, both as a member and a dealer, as he could sell to the wealthy 'English' where others could not. Triad fights, protection money, gambling dens and brothels all became part of Bobby's life, as did bowing down to the idols of the Triads, and inviting demons in before battles.
Bobby's Mum bought him a two bedroom unit, encouraged him to marry a nice Chinese girl - whatever she could to get him back on track - but nothing worked. Being a strong Catholic, she prayed for him continually. Any similar belief of Bobby's had gone by the wayside a long time ago.
Bobby tried many rehabs, but always fell back to his old ways. The heroin had a very strong grip on him. Prison also became a home away from home. Eventually, things became so bad that Bobby descended to living on the streets under a flyover and eventually the Southorn playground in Hong Kong. From there, he was grubby and sick and dealt on a 24-hour basis. He was using so much heroin that he didn't have any more veins to use. He shot muscle, then continued using the same spots over and over in his legs, until they eventually became gangrenous. Even after nearly losing his legs because of gangrene, he would continually shoot up in those areas.
It was at this time that Bobby felt he was either going to end up in jail for a very long time, or he was going to die. Richard Carter (one of Bobby's old friends) had also been a drug user, but Richard had come clean at St Stephen's Society and become a follower of Jesus Christ. For many years, Richard had visited Bobby in his various spots on the street, witnessing to him and trying to show the love of Jesus. Richard put Bobby on a prayer chain with members from around the world. Finally, Bobby said 'yes' to Richard, that he would go on the 'programme'. By this time Bobby was desperate, he didn't want anything to do with 'this Jesus' as he put it, but he did want to quit the drugs.
Richard got him into the programme immediately. There was usually a waiting period, but Richard knew Bobby too well, and knew he would not follow through unless it happened straight away. Bobby was taken to 'Dunrose', the English-speaking programme, where he went through detox. For the first 15 days (without medication), it was compulsory that once in, you could not leave. People stayed with Bobby around the clock, praying for him, urging him to become a Christian - but Bobby would not. He just went through withdrawals with immense pain and no relief.
Before Bobby entered the programme, he had over 20 shots in just one morning. On arriving at Dunrose, he just slept for 3 days. The madness began when he woke up. Bobby's withdrawals were so bad, they all thought that his life was in danger. His weight (which was not huge anyway) plummeted. He could not eat or drink without vomiting. Eventually, he couldn't even walk three steps without falling over. During the programme, he repeatedly tried to get out. Being a big brother in the Triads, he tried to use his influence on the smaller brothers, threatening them and their families if they did not let him out. They refused. Next, he picked up a big rock and tried to throw it at someone's head. They just took the rock off of him and said "bad boy Bobby", pushing him back into his room and telling him to pray. Bobby would have nothing to do with that. His next attempt was with a knife - he tried to stab someone. Again, they simply took the knife off of him (he was very weak by this stage), pushed him back into the room and told him to pray.
By the 9th day, Bobby was extremely sick. He was brought a ¼ of a cup of orange juice and 1/2 a piece of bread. He looked up to heaven and said, "if there is a God, help me to eat and drink this and if it stays down, we can come to some terms!" It stayed down, but he forgot about God. The next day, one piece of bread and one cup of orange juice were brought in. He said to God again, "if I can eat and drink this and it stays down, we can come to some agreement". He ate and drank and it stayed down, but again he forgot about God. By the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th days, things were getting a bit better. On the 14th day, Bobby heard a voice. It was Satan saying, "these Christians aren't your friends, they are just using you - and the food that they gave you is crap! And Bobby - you look pretty messed up! You need a shot". Bobby forgot about the friends, forgot about the food - the thought that he needed a fix took over. Then Bobby heard another voice, not an audible voice, but something that dropped into his spirit. It said, "Bobby, didn't you cry out for your life, and didn't I give back your life?" At that moment Bobby broke down in tears - he had never cried in his life. He'd been stabbed, beaten and bruised, but never cried. It was then that he made the decision to stay and 'suss out' who this Jesus was.
The rest is 'history'. Bobby did become a Christian and that moment began a journey in his life that wasn't always the easiest, but was the most rewarding and beneficial. Bobby endured telling his wife the truth, and then having her divorce him. The truth was so devastating for her, she took the house, the life insurance - everything of monetary value - but Bobby gained Jesus, and a new life.
Compared to Bobby, Branwen’s story is tame, with a nice stable upbringing, a Christian mother who took all her children to Sunday school at a nice Methodist Church,
(later became Uniting), positive parents who instilled positive values, such as honesty and looking out for others and two younger brothers to edumacate, (how her brothers survived is a mystery). The family lived in their own brick house in Adelaide surrounded by gardens,playgrounds and adventures, all was good.
At 11, Branwen moved to the mid North New South Wales coast… Whilst staying in their grandparent’s house and building their own, the family was shell-shocked by a near fatal head on collision which left Branwen’s mother permanently disabled. During this life changing situation, Branwen’s mother never lost hope, or blamed God despite her pain, or disablement.
Although a believer in Christ, Branwen had learnt not to be overt about matters of faith. At 16, this changed. The family had a holiday at an aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory called Papunya, where Branwen’s Aunty was nursing. It was night, the sky was pitch black, Branwen’s cousin was playing music by Keith Green – straight out of scripture, (Ps 23 and others). It was at that point that Branwen prayed a simple prayer: “Lord, if you are who you say you are, then my whole life belongs to you” The Holy Spirit fell, without a word of a lie, the sound of a rushing wind was heard, and Branwen experienced an explosion of light that filled her from head to toe. Branwen’s cousin sat up and asked, “What was that, did you hear that noise?” And Branwen, totally “on another planet” by this time, who hadn’t heard the noise, asked “what noise?” Her cousin said that it had sounded like a wind. Branwen proceeded to explain, though she had no prior knowledge on the subject that the Holy Spirit often came like a wind in the Bible. That when God created the heavens and the earth, His Spirit hovered over the surface of the water like a wind, and that it was ok. Penny was satisfied, and went back to sleep. Branwen would never be the same again.
At 18, Branwen made a huge error or two and married a bloke at 19, putting him on this huge pedestal. He proved to be unworthy of the pedestal, and by the age of 21, Branwen was divorced. Whilst living in this lie, Branwen did not go to Church, nothing, her relationship with Christ was forgotten. It was like living a death, and when the bloke proved unworthy, (relationship with another woman) it made her wake up, repent, recommit her life back to Christ and resist the devil. He left J
Branwen started attending the local Baptist Church down the road at the time, was water baptised and became a Sunday School teacher. Then got mixed up with a bunch of crazy Christians from COC, a new Pentecostal Church who seemed to be full of life. She sought counselling from one of the best Uniting Church counsellors around at the time who prayed through all sorts of things in her life, and also prayed for Branwen to receive the gift of tongues, (although other gifts had been experienced, this one was missing). At that point, Branwen had a real struggle with this gift, and couldn’t trust God that if she opened her mouth anything would come out. Finally, after over an hour of sitting in silence, during which the counsellor had just left the room and left her to it, Branwen decided to just trust God with the outcome of whatever came out of her mouth, (it came down to trust). As she opened her mouth and allowed breath to come out over her voice box, instead of speaking in tongues, a song burst out. That was it, no looking back with that gift. Learning guitar, worship leading, youth leading, and working full time on the side as a sales assistant at Grace Bros, Branwen prayed for more. God said, “Give up your job, move to Brisbane, go to Bible College for a year, get a job as the after school care worker at COC, then go overseas on a mission trip for a year.” So, that’s what Branwen did, she gave up her job, moved to Brisbane, enrolled at Bible College for a year, walked down to the school at COC, as she was walking into the office, a young lady was walking out, the two had a discussion, with the young girl asking Branwen, “what are you here for?” Branwen said, I’m here to get the after school care position. The girl said, “That was my job, I just quit, let me take you to the boss” Branwen got hired on the spot. Her boss was instrumental in Branwen then going to Hong Kong after a year in Bible College, and even helped pay for some of the trip. Branwen was living in Hong Kong and working as a Bible courier and team leader into China. Inspired by “Chasing the Dragon”, Jackie Pullinger’s book about God’s amazing work amongst the addicts of the walled city, Branwen wanted to fellowship among them, and met Bobby there, one of the recovering addicts. The two had a tumultuous start to their relationship, with opposition abounding from various quarters, but eventually were able to marry, move to Australia, and start their own ministry which is in association with Jackie Pullinger and St Stephens Society.
Bobby and Branwen were married in the November of 1995. From the beginning of their marriage, the two have been working together, and serving Christ amongst the needy. They moved to Brisbane in 1997, and began ministering at the 139 Club, a centre for the homeless. From there they invited one burly Russian street sleeper to Church. He decided to go. On the way to pick him up, the two decided that if he gave his life to the Lord that night, they would commit to picking him up each week and taking him to Church in an effort to disciple him. He did give his life to the Lord, and so began the process. The next week, a little aboriginal woman also came, she also gave herself to the Lord and the ministry grew to the point where buses were needed to transport those coming to hear the message of Jesus!
Bobby and Branwen have served at several Churches. Branwen has a Degree in Ministry through CHC, a Cert 4 in Business Management, and is a member of the Austalian Institute of Company Directors. The two are ordained ministers and members of MFI, (Ministers Fellowship International). Fishers of Men is an interdenominational Christian charity, endeavouring to unite the body of Christ as they serve theLord practically to the poor.
Bobby and Branwen have 4 beautiful children, 2 girls & 2 boys, the oldest is 17, the youngest is 10. Bobby volunteers full-time for the ministry, while Branwen receives a part time wage.