So, you think you have problems?
Margaret Stunt had problems. She was born to a bipolar, schizophrenic mother and an alcoholic father. At the age of 7, Stunt was abducted and molested by a lesbian couple. At 16, she attempted suicide. She was married at 18, and by the time she was 21, she had a daughter, was diagnosed with epilepsy, diabetes and a rare kidney abnormality. To top it all off, she then found out she could no longer bear children.
"As a woman, that is not a nice place to be," Stunt said last week in Soldotna.
She divorced at age 26, and then found out she had breast cancer. For this young woman from Dunstable, England, things were about as bad as they could possibly get. But Stunt, who was the featured speaker at the Women of the Peninsula Conference held Sept. 12 and 13 at Skyview High School, was able to somehow survive those obstacles with the help of an unlikely ally: the U.S. Air Force.
When she found out about the cancer, Stunt said she was ready to give up on what had been a pretty rotten life. She sold her house, and along with her daughter and ex-husband, decided to go on a motorhome tour of Europe. She said just wanted to live for herself for once, and the cancer made her decide the time was right to set out into the world.
"Once you think you might die, your life changes," she said. "You suddenly look at it and say, 'what's this all about?'"
Stunt said she wasn't really sure what she was looking for when the trip began. Little did she know she'd find God at a U.S. Air Force Base on the Greek island of Crete.
It was the middle of the winter, and Stunt and her family were holed up on the island with very little to do. Since the air base was basically the only game in town, they would try to find any opportunity to get onto the base.
"It's like a little America," she said.
One day, Stunt said she visited with an American who invited the family to go to church on Sunday. Since it was a chance to get on the base, Stunt readily accepted.
"I pounced on him," she said.
The serviceman told Stunt about how his life had changed, thanks to his belief in God.
"He gave me the gospel," she said.
Something that U.S. serviceman said hit home for Stunt, and she, her ex-husband and their daughter began going to the church to worship.
"We all got saved," she said.
The family returned to England, Stunt and her ex remarried, and from that point on, things started to change for her and her family.
"God has shown us amazing things," she said.
Stunt became a pastor in her church, and as her spiritual outlook on life improved, so did her health. Suddenly, she was healthy, happy and anxious to start helping others find salvation.
She hasn't stopped since. Now a grandmother, Stunt has dedicated her life to helping others. Her church now runs a number of outreach programs, including youth and prison ministries; a music, art and drama program; a program for kids with diabetes and even a Sunday golf clinic.
"They have a brilliant time," she said of her golfing parishioners. "We try to cover the whole spectrum. I noticed the rich people weren't coming because they were golfing. ...God told me, 'start a golf clinic.'"
She also travels around the world, telling her story to whoever she can get to listen. Last week, she spoke with the more than 150 women who gathered for the third annual conference.
According to JoAnne Meck-stroth, who helped organize the event, the conference is an opportunity for women to come together and share their experiences with their faith.
"Its a place in our community where women can come together and thank the Lord and just be together in unity," Meckstroth said.
As fate may have had something to do with Margaret Stunt's miraculous journey from sorrow to salvation, it also played a part in bringing her all the way to Alaska.
Trudy Andree also helped organize the conference. It was while she was attending a similar gathering in Seattle when she first heard Stunt's amazing story.
After the speech, an inspired Andree went up to Stunt and told her about the peninsula conference.
"I bumped into her and was at a total loss for words. I just told her how much her message encouraged me," Andree said. "I told her about our conference, and she said she would come."
The two sent e-mails back and forth for months before plans were finalized. The amazing thing about Stunt's coming to Alaska, however, is that she wasn't even scheduled to speak on the day Andree saw her.
"It was God ordained," Andree said.
Stunt said she heard about the Alaska event and was intrigued. She's been to several U.S. cities during her travels, but she'd never ventured as far north as Soldotna. She said before leaving England, she was a little apprehensive about a place she only knew from school books.
"My granddaughter said to me, 'are you going to live in an igloo?'" she said, laughing.
She said she was pleasantly surprised by the mild weather she found once she reached Alaska.
"It's just been beautiful. It's really amazing," she said.
But she didn't come to see the sights. Instead, the Kenai Peninsula Women's Conference was just one more place where Stunt could try and help others with her remarkable story of hope and survival.
"Wherever a door opens, I'll go to try and spread the word," she said.
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