I was left on the doorstep of the Old Paddington’s Women’s’ Hospital as a newborn.
Because of no birth records, the nurses named me Graeme and that’s where I stayed for 2 years.
For a brief period I was given to a family only to be returned back to the Hospital 6 months later. I was placed back and forth between homes and was constantly faced with abuse. After being beaten and mistreated in one home I was introduced to the Salvation Army who placed me back in the orphanage I originally started at. Here I was, only 5 years old, black and blue from all the abuse and I did not know any love. I was scared and did not want to go back to the orphanage and wanted to stay with this Salvo lady as I felt safe and I knew I would be safe. After another few years in the orphanage I was adopted back into a family where I stayed until the age of 16. This is where I got my last name Cropper. All I knew how to do was play football and fight to stick up for myself as this was instilled in me from an early age. I was also beaten by this family but to me that was normal. I would go back to school bearing the marks of abuse and never said anything because otherwise I would cop it more when I got back home.
At high school I was only good at one thing, and that was footy. I was forever getting expelled for fighting and had no respect for authority, I was a very angry boy. At the age of 17 I started using drugs to mask the pain and that was my way of life for 25 years. I was in and out of jail and rehabilitation centres. My life was out of control and many times I tried to do the right thing however violence and jail was all I knew. It was nothing for me to put on a balaclava and run in with a gun and take what I wanted. I was mixed up in drug dealing, armed robberies and a lot of violence.
In 2004 I was back in jail and I had broken my parole.I have 4 children and I promised my eldest daughter I would stay out of jail so that I could see my granddaughter grow up. But here I was, I had broken my promises and was hurting the people I cared for the most. I had enough of this life and wanted a change. I had two choices, either end my life right there or hand it all over to the Lord and that is what I did. For the first time I put all my trust in the Lord and went down on my knees in my cell and prayed. I said: “If you are really there, please help me.” When I finished praying, that Gideon bible was the first thing I saw. I instantly knew that was God helping me and tears started streaming down my face, and I opened the bible to John 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Then my attention was drawn to Verse 5: “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it”. That was the start of my journey and I haven’t looked back.
My favourite is Psalm 23 and boy do I know it off by heart. The Psalms brighten up my day. After being home a few years I started to go back into jails to visit inmates and to share my story. I was then employed to run the mentoring program for ex-prisoners. I have completed a 3 year course on drugs and alcohol and is now employed by the Hope Centre as a drug and Alcohol counsellor for the Salvation Army. I now have a great relationship with all my children and my granddaughter. Even though I still don’t know who my parents are or even if I have any siblings, I can say: I do have a family and it’s the church. And I do know my father and he is the King.