A visit to The Salvation Army Kuching Children’s home in Malaysia turned into an opportunity for service to others for Norelle Reeves.
Almost nine years ago I went to Borneo (Malaysia) on a holiday with my brother Rodney. One day, he asked, “What are we going to do today?” I had seen a presentation at my church about a children’s home that was nearby, so I rang up the (Salvo) commanding officer and asked if we could come and have a look.
We later met him in Kuching. Before the end of the meal we shared, I said, “Look, I have a lot of girlfriends in business, I’ve been in business for 27 years; what can I get and send to you?”
He said, “What I really need is you!”
“But I’m a nothing,” I answered. “I’m not a teacher, I’m not a nurse, I’m not really qualified at anything.” But he told me: “I just can’t do any more with these two hands than I’m doing.”
I dismissed that thought and went home to Sawtell, a coastal village near Coffs Harbour (NSW), and kept trading, although my business was on the market. Another six months went by and someone bought my business. Borneo didn’t even come into my brain.
I trained as a swimming teacher and worked, but then Borneo started to creep back into my thoughts. By the time my brother rang me and asked, “Where we going on our next holiday?” I said “I’m going back to the children’s home.” What’s more, I bought a ticket that wouldn’t allow me to come home early, because I knew that when the going got tough I’d want to leave.
Rodney is a very competent handy-person. Two days later he rang to say he’d booked a ticket too. That was the first of our eight working visits to date.
In the meantime, I’d sent an email to the Salvo officer saying, “I was there with my brother last year. I don’t know whether you remember me, but I definitely have got to come back.”
He replied, “Not only do I remember you—I’ve been waiting for you.”
For the first few years we fixed drains, cleaned and did everything you could imagine. Thankfully, my brother later sacked me from painting, but we still might mend a roof or a toilet.
We now drive the kids to church or activities in the minibuses and I have taught them swimming. Most importantly, though, we listen to and spend time with them. It is not an orphanage and the kids are very happy. They have a really good life and really good care.
The kids in Borneo always say, “Aunty, you come back next year,” and I always say “God willing.” I don’t promise, but say, “If one day I have grandchildren to care for [which I do now] or if cancer comes back to visit me again, I may not be back for a little while.”
There are always potential barriers to the next trip, but you have to step over those things and say, “You know what? I’m just going to go anyway and God will take care of everything”—and he does, time and again.
I try to dedicate what I am doing to God. I don’t get on my hands and knees, I just acknowledge the day and my life as God’s and, most importantly, acknowledge how blessed I am—it’s not luck, it is blessing—and how much I enjoy the opportunities I have been given.
As told to Naomi Singlehurst