At 13 Lisa discovered that her father was not her real dad. As an adult, Lisa decided it was time to journeying to finding him.
God's plan for here was even larger, as she learnt that there is two sides to every story
My parents got divorced when we were quite young. So from then it was my mum, me, and my sister. And, at times, my brother. We'd see our dad every second weekend and so forth. So it was that broken family situation, going in between the parents. I didn't realise at the time, but I was actually starting to get quite hard in my heart because of everything that was going on.
At the age of 13, one day I was just sitting around and I came across a photo that I had never seen before. If I recall correctly, it slipped out the back of a photo album and I picked it up. It was of a man with my mum, a black and white photo. I looked at this photo and I thought, "I've never seen this man in any of our growing up. I wonder who this is." And the more I looked at this photo, I thought to myself, "My goodness, I think I look like this man."
So I took this photo to my mum. At thirteen, I was already a little bit hard, and starting to be a little bit rebellious, and I said, “What's the story with this?” And she said, "Oh, we've been kind of dreading this day. That's your biological father." And I was like, how, what? All of a sudden, I realised that's why I didn't look like my siblings. All of these things started to fall into place, and I was hurt. I was really, really hurt. And I got angry at my parents.
Anyway, I had this photo. I didn't have a name, just had this photo. No more information was given to me. So I carried this photo for a very long time. A very, very long time. And I would pull it out at times and I would hold it up in the mirror and look at my face, and I would think, “Man, I want to meet this man one day.”
At the age of 28, one day I was sitting at home and I was like, “You know what? For 15 years I've carried around this photo of my dad. I think it's time to do something.” I rang my mum and I said, "It's time." And she said, "Well, here's his name."
So I went to the library, and I literally pulled out from the shelves 60 volumes, I think it was of the electoral role. I went through all of them until I could find a man by the name of Neville Fine. I went through it, went through it, went through it and I was getting more disheartened throughout the day because I could not find a Neville Fine in the electoral roles. And I prayed, "Lord, I just want to find this man. I just need an address." He's pretty good at answering prayers, and within a few page turns, I found Neville Fine.
So I wrote a letter, screwed it up, wrote a letter, screwed it up. And it took a while before I got on paper what I felt was the right thing. I prayed over it, my church prayed over it, and I postedit. I didn't hear anything for a long time. I would come home from work and, 'm sure my flatmates dreaded it, but I'd ask, "Any mail today? "Nothing. "Any mail today?" Nothing.
Then one day I was at home and I just literally said, "Lord today I wanna know. Let there be a phone call or a letter. And if he doesn't want anything to do with me, at least I tried. But I just need to know because this is wrecking me inside. Amen." The phone rings. "Hello?" And he goes, "Hello, this is Neville. I'm your dad."
I burst into tears. He started crying. He had been trying to find me, but my mum's maiden name had changed a couple of times. We talked back and forth and then I met him a few days later. We agreed to meet in Eastgate Mall, as you do when you're doing these kinds of things. We literally walked past each other and stopped. I turned around and he turned around and we just knew we were father and daughter.
We embraced in the middle of the mall, crying. We went to McDonald's, we had our conversation, and it was just wonderful. He said in that conversation, "You'd be happy to know you've got two sisters. The oldest, Becky, she's a pastor at Hillsong in the kids’ church, and Jessica, who's a community pastor with a husband in Christchurch". And I was like, "They’re Christians?" And he said, "Yeah, are you a Christian?" I said I was and he was like, "Oh," because he’s not yet.
Within the hour, I met my sister Jessica for the first time, which was incredible. Meeting this sister was not a part of my getting prepared for the day! But it was so wonderful, she has become like one of my closest friends. Not long after that, I met my sister Becky who flew over from Sydney. It just felt like everything was complete now, it was so wonderful.
So let's fast forward now to last year. Even though I’d met my dad, I still held a little bit of resentment there because he had left. So anyway, in May 2021, I had the opportunity to go to an Unleashed conference, which is a church conference bringing together leaders from all around New Zealand for pastoral training. And I thought it was a great opportunity.
I'm an extrovert but I'm very shy when it comes to meeting people for the first time. I rocked up to this conference alone, and saw all these people in the foyer and I decided to look for the oldest couple I could find and just go yarn to them, because they'd be safe. So I walked in, and I found the oldest couple I could see in the room. I said, "Hello, I'm Lisa," and the man goes, "Do you know Neville Fine?"
I was taken off guard. I've never had anyone ask me that before. Ever. I was like, "Yes I do, he's my biological father." And he said, "I knew it as soon as I saw you. I knew you were Neville's daughter." I asked how he knew my dad. And he said, "I was with your dad that whole journey when you wrote to him and you met him. I was there that whole journey. I was alongside him, we would talk about it. "I was like, "Wait, how do you know him?" And he said, "We grew up together. We went to primary school together and then we ended up working together for years at the cable company."
It completely blew my mind. So we got a photo together and I sent it to my dad. I said to him, “You're not gonna believe who I've met.” He's a pastor now, but way back then, Steven wasn't a Christian. And my dad was like, "What? I've not thought about this man for a while."
So all of a sudden, Steven and Irene were my best mates at Unleashed, and we had a great time. I went back to my Airbnb that night and said, "Lord, what are You doing to me?" And He said, "I did that for you, Lisa because you need to realise there's two sides to the story."
I started crying. I feel it now. And He continued, "You need to see that there is also the lens through your father's eyes of everything that happened. He is a good man". I already knew he was a good man but I still held a little bit of resentment in my heart. So that broke me. I called my sisters and said, “You are not gonna believe what happened!” So we prayed for our dad through this. I was just blown away.
You know, “unleashed” means no longer tethered to your self-made boundaries. I was living in some very big self-made boundaries. So I'm so thankful for the nudge by my pastors and Lucky Te Koha to go to Unleashed. Because if it wasn't for them hounding me to go, I wouldn't have done it. It's been so freeing, it's been so wonderful. And it's definitely set me on a new trajectory with the Lord and so I'm forever thankful for that.