Interview by Ian Sleeper
Maria Feige is grateful to God despite the difficulties she has experienced through life. She reveals her story of how her unmarried Catholic mum felt she had no choice but to give up her mixed-race baby in the 1970’s.
“The greatest and possibly the only gift she could give me” she explains “was to ensure I was adopted by a Jesus-following family”. The chance of a white family adopting a mixed-race baby then, was not unheard of, but certainly rare and Maria’s adopting parents, against professional advice, insisted that the colour of a child was not an issue and so at the age of 6 months, she started a new life in Ashford, raised as a Catholic and attending St. Theresa’s church.
Maria always felt God was guiding and preserving her throughout life, despite contracting meningitis at the age of 20, which left her with some slight brain damage. In intensive care for 6 weeks at William Harvey Hospital, her heart stopped on two occasions and her kidneys failed. Fearing non-recovery, she was given her last rites by a local priest whilst being prayed for by her Mum and Godmother.
She tells me she has a lot to thank Jesus for, bringing people across her path to help her just at the right time, such as the Chronic Pain group and the Jolly Dollies organised by Jenny Boardman-Holmes, who have supported her through frequent episodes of nerve and hip pain, as well as the mental anguish of divorce.
As a Catholic, Maria never knew about the possibility of a relationship with the Holy Spirit, until she started attending community group meetings with Roy and Viv Hibbin, and later Eddie and Gill Richards at Ashford Gateway. She feels blessed to have a church family who have taught her to ‘give her problems to God’ as before she didn’t know what that meant.
Getting more involved with church life through ESOL, the “Taste Life” course and helping with children’s work has grown her confidence and helped her realise that Gateway Church life is more than just attending a weekly service.
When you look back, are you surprised as to how far you have come on spiritually? “Yes, Yes, I am. Before I had a “blind faith”, which was a gift from God, and helped me throughout difficult times in my life, giving comfort and strength. However, I never really understood the nitty gritty of my faith. But now I truly understand exactly what it is I am believing in, and Who I am praying to.
If the problems I currently face had happened a few years ago, I would have been completely overwhelmed, but I have realised God forms you through difficult situations.
A breakdown in my marriage and other situations could have distanced me from God, but I get strength on a daily basis from having God in my life. I have truly learnt to trust in the Lord.
”Despite painful relationships with her dad, her adopted father and now her husband Maria is still able to see God as a good Father. What has changed in your life? “My whole life has changed. I have got more strength, despite ongoing stressful situations in my life, and I trust God will get me through.”