Without a doubt, everyone has a story to tell of how the Lord turns failures into success.
I was born in Calcutta, India, to Armenian parents. My earliest memories of home were of my loving mother, aunt, grandparents and my brother, the nucleus of our family. My father, who I only saw on occasion, was a business owner. When I was six years old, my father enrolled me in the Davidian girls’ school, an Armenian primary boarding school. We were allowed home one weekend every three months, and I was terribly homesick. I still recall begging my father not to take me back to school after the weekends I went home, however my pleas came to naught. A few hours later, after the tears were over, all the girls would gather together telling stories of all the fun that was had.
My scholastic achievements were negligible due to the fact that I was sick often and missed days of schooling. I was never given homework to catch up what I had missed, so as a consequence, my grades were pitiful. My father was never informed of my lack of school attendance because of high fevers, stomach complaints and lack of nutrition. He thought that I was not very bright and hired tutors to give me special tutoring.
Years later when I was in my teens, my mother, who had remarried and was living in Sydney, Australia, wrote and asked me to join her. After several discussions with my father, he relented and saw me off to the “land down under.”
My stepfather was the principal of the Castle Hill Seventh-day Adventist church school and we lived across from the church. We had morning and evening worship and my mother was very gentle in her ways of encouraging me to read my Bible and pray. The church pastor, who had a daughter my age, often visited with us. The atmosphere of the church was friendly and happy.
I attended Bible studies for several months and when a large group of young people decided to be baptized, I joined them. At that time in my life I was not fully committed, but I did believe in Jesus and I was willing to make a lot of necessary changes. The hardest change for me was my outward appearance. Picking clothes for this “baby Christian” was a great challenge. The other challenge was trying to fit into the school system with a completely different curriculum, so my parents decided to return to India for me to complete years 11 and 12.
We returned to Calcutta, India, where my stepfather opened a primary school. It started with only five children enrolled, but within a few months the school grew and flourished. These little children who came from non-Christian homes learned about Jesus. They sang songs, learned Bible stories and influenced their families who would also enquire about Jesus.
In the meantime, my challenge was attending the same school I had left, the Armenian College, to complete my last two years of high school. I had left the school as an Armenian Orthodox and returned a Seventh-day Adventist. One of the classes was Religious Knowledge and the teacher was the same Armenian priest I had before. He was intrigued that I was not in church on Sundays and when I explained that I went to church on Saturday, he was infuriated and tried in every way to humiliate me in front of 40 teenagers. He said I should feel ashamed that I had abandoned my Armenian heritage. He would make fun of the Adventist faith and the students would laugh. The friends that I once had did not want to associate with me for I was now considered the laughing-stock of the class. The priest took great delight in making me stand through the whole class period every week for several months. I would tell my mother the events that occurred and we would pray together. She always encouraged me and would tell me that Jesus sees and would take care of things.
I praise Jesus, for He gave me the strength and courage to bear the insults, the laughter and remarks instigated by a so-called man of God. Then, something strange started to happen that took me by surprise. My friends were curious and started asking me questions: “What has changed you?” “You are not the same.” One by one a small group who were interested enough to talk and spend time during the breaks would tell me private information because they knew I would not break their trust. Another strange occurrence took place shortly after. While standing in the priest’s class as he made fun of me and laughed, no one laughed with him. The students no longer saw the humor. The priest’s game was over, at least for the time being.
I made a special effort to study hard and by God’s grace my grades improved a great deal. In year twelve, we were ready to take our school final exams which were before we could take the state exam. In order to graduate to take the state tests, we had to pass the second language test. So I prayed and asked the Lord to please help me pass the Armenian language exam. After the tests were completed, the priest gave us our grades. I had passed and was so thankful to the Lord because now I would be able to take the Senior Cambridge exam. But the priest accused me of cheating and motioned for me to stand and stay standing until I confessed. After a while, from the back of the class came a voice saying, “Excuse me sir.” All turned to see the most brilliant student in our class stand and say, “I know Revella, if she says she did not cheat, I believe her.” Again, the priest was silenced.
A few days later it was graduation day. All the students sat at the back of the huge auditorium and the guests sat towards the front. The prizes for various subjects were distributed and I was just so glad that I would not have to face the priest again. The last prize to be distributed was the prize for English Literature. It was given to the student with the highest grade in that subject for years 10, 11 and 12. No one ever knew who the student was until the name was revealed. All of a sudden one of my friends called to me: “Revella, Revella, get up, you won!” I rose to my feet in disbelief and walked to the front. The roar in that auditorium was so loud it was almost deafening, and I felt certain in my heart that angels were present. All glory and honor go to our Lord. As I walked the stairs to the platform, I knew the Lord had a sense of humor when I saw the person chosen to give me my prize. It was none other than the priest.
Finally, the day came to take the Senior Cambridge exam in our English subjects and in the Armenian language. The Armenian language test papers were given to the priest to correct. In this final exam, we were not given our tests back to see why we were given a particular grade. So, whatever the results were, we had to accept them. I did not feel good about not seeing the Armenian paper, but I had done my best and felt I should get a reasonable grade.
In the meantime, my parents and I had moved to London, United Kingdom, and after about four months, a large envelope containing my exam results arrived in the mail. My initial excitement fell to despair and my brain could not compute the large letter I was staring at – F. All my hard work was for nothing. Then it dawned on me that the priest knew I would not have access to my paper, so he had his final revenge. He knew that in India, if you fail your second language, you fail the whole exam. Although I had taken six subjects, a failure on the Armenian language paper caused a failure in all six subjects. My hope for enrolling in Pacific Union College was dashed.
With nothing to show for all of my effort, we prayed in earnest and my parents asked the Lord to lead in whatever direction He wanted. I am ashamed to say that at that moment, filled with self-pity and hopelessness, I had no faith, even though I had seen the leading of the Lord just a few months before. Waiting on the Lord is difficult when your faith is weak and courage is gone.
In the chapter, “God Will Provide” in The Ministry of Healing, 480–482, Ellen White wrote, “Let us be hopeful and courageous. Despondency in God’s service is sinful and unreasonable. He knows our every necessity. To the omnipotence of the King of kings our covenant-keeping God unites the gentleness and care of the tender shepherd. His power is absolute, and it is the pledge of the sure fulfillment of His promises to all who trust in Him. He has means for the removal of every difficulty, that those who serve Him and respect the means He employs may be sustained. His love is as far above all other love as the heavens are above the earth. He watches over His children with a love that is measureless and everlasting.
“In the darkest days, when appearances seem most forbidding, have faith in God. He is working out His will, doing all things well in behalf of His people. The strength of those who love and serve Him will be renewed day by day.”
After several months of asking the Lord to direct us, my parents decided to relocate to Perth, Western Australia. My aunt had married an Australian and was living there and my brother was still living in Sydney. In 1975 we arrived in Perth and found an apartment overlooking the Swan River. My parents encouraged me to visit the nurses board to make inquiries as to the programs available at that time, so I made an appointment with the secretary to see the director.
A week later I met with the director of nursing, taking with me my high school final exam papers of which I was not proud. Mrs. Chamberlain had a kind, gentle face, and was very professional. After explaining the reason for no diploma and adding my grades, she informed me that with a couple of subjects added I could get a grade that would be accepted before applying for the nursing program. My fears of rejection turned to hope as she instructed me on what two subjects I needed. I could take evening classes as an external student at the University of Perth. It seemed as though she had taken on the responsibility to get me where I wanted to be and I knew the Lord was opening a door. At the university, I was encouraged along the way by my instructor who wrote kind notes along with the lessons he sent.
Six months later I again saw Mrs. Chamberlain, and she was just as excited as I was to be in a position to apply for nursing school and recommended what she believed to be the best school. The application process for nursing was in several stages with questions, interviews, paperwork to fill out and psychological tests. After the principal’s interview I was told, “We will contact you.” Months passed with no word, but strangely I did not lose hope this time thinking of Mrs. Chamberlain and how excited she was to launch me into my career.
Finally, a letter arrived, and I was overjoyed to be accepted into the second intake for the year of 1976. I praise God for leading, directing and placing in my pathway the people who helped me on my journey.
After three years of study and working in the various units in the Royal Perth Hospital, we were ready to take the final nursing school exam. We were informed that the hospital exam would be more difficult than the state exam, because the school had a reputation of very few failures. The school exams were on two days, each took four hours. I thanked God that He had led me thus far and I did not want to fail Him. Out of my class of 75, I stood with the 69 students who graduated that day and proudly repeated the Florence Nightingale Pledge:
“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”
One by one our names were called. I was so excited and even more so when I noticed that it was Mrs. Chamberlain who was handing out the certificates. She was so happy that I had finally become a nurse.
Forty-one years have passed since graduation and I can say with confidence that only God can turn a high school failure into a successful career. We do serve an AMAZING GOD. He can take our nothingness, which we are, and turn it into something, which we are not, for His glory. Therefore, there is no room in our lives for pride, envy, jealousy and strife. It does not matter your culture, your background, your past, your heritage or any other human experience, Jesus has the final say and He will win in the end. Let us cling to Jesus and to one another and live to praise God and bless others.
God has a plan for our lives, and we will be happiest when we choose the path where He leads us. He can open and close doors for us and when at times we feel abandoned, know that He is already working on a better path of which we know nothing. Looking back, I can truly say that His way is the safest and best. He led my life in a direction I never thought possible, and I am so grateful to Him.
“Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His Providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.” Steps to Christ, 70.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20, 21 NKJV).
Revella Knight continues to serve others working as a nurse and writes from her home in North West Arkansas.