From the outside, Wayne and Julie Lieshout seemed like a happy couple. Wayne ran a drywall-plastering business in Warragul, a small town in Victoria, Australia. Julie stayed home to rear their four children—two boys and two girls.
Raised with a strong work ethic, Wayne felt entitled to some fun after “putting in hard yards.”
“My attitude was that we weren’t going to worry about anything, because we worked hard,” Wayne says. “We were making money and we were making progress in life.” But Wayne’s fun included the illegal use of marijuana. And with the arrival of their first child, he was finding it difficult to reconcile his lifestyle with the new responsibilities of being a dad.
He knew that it was time to grow up, but he just couldn’t make the changes that he knew he should. So he convinced himself that he could continue doing what he wanted, as long as he provided financially for his family.
Meanwhile, as a new mom, Julie was feeling the need to return to her faith. Having grown up in a Christian family, she had made a commitment to Jesus as a young girl. But she didn’t have many Christian friends, and though she went to church most Sundays, she was not nurturing her relationship with Christ. As she settled into the role of parenting, she began to pray more. Her love for God began to grow, and He began to take His rightful position in her heart.
But now, Julie was fighting a battle. It was hard to serve God while Wayne continued his lifestyle. She felt awkward about praying over meals, and she couldn’t even think of starting a home Bible study. But she was determined to remain faithful to God and to raise her children to know God.
“Church for me was an absolute struggle,” Julie says. “It was hard getting the kids there by myself and keeping them under control. But if I didn’t get there, the kids didn’t go. I went out of obedience to God’s Word. And it was a good example for Wayne.”
Julie and her family continued to pray for Wayne, even though it felt like their prayers were unanswered. He occasionally went to church, but only because Julie went with him target shooting and showed interest in other things he liked.
But God was working on Wayne’s heart. For six years or more, he had gone on an annual retreat with a group of men from Julie’s church. Riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes was the main attraction on these trips in the Australian bush, but the group also held devotions and presented the Gospel.
“I got to meet some people my own age in the church,” Wayne says, “and it became apparent to me that they were pretty good people–quite genuine.” He loved riding dirt bikes in the Australian bush, and he always seemed happy when he returned home. Yet he was still uninterested in Christ.
Just before the 2005 bush trip, Julie could see that the Holy Spirit was nudging Wayne’s heart. She prayed the trip would be a turning point. But he came home grumpy, and for the next few weeks he seemed irritable. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
Around that time, Julie heard about a Franklin Graham Festival in Melbourne, and she wanted to take the children to the Saturday KidzFest event. She asked Wayne to come and help.
At first he resisted. But when he thought about the thousands of people who would be there, he knew he should do the fatherly thing. So on March 19, 2005, they made the 65-mile drive to Melbourne.
Julie knew that the program was for children, but she sat in her seat at the Telstra Dome, praying that the message would get through to Wayne. She could see that he was uneasy. When the speaker invited the children to walk down to the platform and make a commitment to Christ, Wayne asked her if she was going down.
“I’m a Christian already,” she answered. “But do you want me to go down with you?”
Julie was disappointed when he said no. The music continued and Wayne got up and walked out. “He’s probably just going to the bathroom,” she thought.
But Wayne was sneaking off from his family. Scenes from his life had swirled through his mind during the message. He knew he was on the wrong path. He knew Jesus was knocking on the door of his heart, and the speaker said that all he had to do was answer the door.
“I went down to the floor and asked Jesus into my life,” Wayne said. “I immediately felt a relief from the inner struggle I’d been going through.”
Suddenly, Julie spotted him on the stadium floor. “We looked down, and there he was walking across the floor!” she says. She and all four children quickly made their way down to be with him as he prayed to receive Christ.
In all the excitement, Wayne didn’t speak with a counselor about his decision. But within days, he met with Julie’s pastor, Steve Messer. They went through the “Steps to Peace With God” booklet, and Messer helped him understand exactly what had happened when he prayed at the Telstra Dome. He and Messer started meeting once a week, and Messer showed him how to start studying the Bible.
“Wayne is reading his Bible regularly and growing in his understanding of God’s Word,” Messer says. “In December 2005, I had the privilege of baptizing him.”
Wayne has also started going to church with his family and witnessing to his employees.
“I don’t have those inner struggles anymore,” he said. “And I don’t smoke marijuana. I’m definitely a better husband to my wife. I’ve always had a good relationship with my children, but that has improved, too.”
The changes have affected the whole family. “It’s just beautiful going to church now,” Julie says. “It’s tremendously different, both as a family and as a married couple. I never thought I’d see the day when we’d have a Bible study in our house. And Wayne’s a lot more at peace with himself now. He’s slower to anger.”
Wayne’s grumpiness after the bush trip was a result of the Holy Spirit convicting him of sin and of his need of Christ. “There was a spiritual battle going on in his heart,” Julie says. “He was thinking about what he’d learned.
“I would encourage anyone who is married to a nonbeliever to keep praying for them,” Julie says. “Don’t push them. Just keep living by example. Remember, it is your responsibility to pray for them and to live like Christ before them. It could be that God will use someone else to lead them to Christ.”