Seeing love in action allowed Russ* to finally surrender to God.
It was a prayer by the side of the road that sparked a series of miracles for Russ.
His voice still cracks as he describes what he witnessed with an 86-year-old man the Salvos Connect team found living in his car.
A passionate volunteer with Salvos Connect, 70-year-old Russ had some belief in God and had been encouraged by Salvos Connect coordinator Steph Savage to work through the ‘Christianity Explained’ course.
However, it was experiencing God’s love in action for himself, and then seeing that love for John, the homeless man who was living his car, that led Russ to fully surrender his life to Jesus.
‘I had a belief because I’m an alcoholic and have prayed the “Serenity” prayer every day for 40 years since I stopped drinking, and I was brought up in a church-attending family,’ Russ says.
‘Recently I was at Salvos Connect and three police officers came in and told us about John, this gentleman they’d run into living in his ute, saying, “He’s quite an old man”.
‘As we headed down there, Steph stopped on the side of the road and said, “Before we go, I think we should pray.” Even three months ago, this would have been a bit foreign to me, but we did and then we went and found that John had lived in his car for years and was in a really bad state.’
They took John back to the corps (church) and Salvos Connect centre for a shower, gathered clean clothing from the Salvos Family Store and rang to enquire about public housing. Within 24 hours John was settled in his own unit, furnished by the Salvos and with carers organised.
‘Since we stopped for that prayer on the side of the road, I witnessed miracles every day. It was just unbelievable—things happened that were not supposed to happen to get John into a lovely warm unit and surrounded by care,’ Russ says.
‘I can only describe it as like being on a beautiful ride on a merry-go-round and it’s still going! God opened so many doors.’
Less than three years ago, Russ was living in his car and found the Salvos in Caloundra. A painter by trade, Russ’s employer had left him without paying him 10 week’s outstanding wages, so he quickly used up all his savings and eventually ended up living out of his ute.
‘I never imagined I’d be in that situation of not having a home. I couldn’t even see it coming. It was like a smack across the face when I did not get paid what I was owed,’ Russ says.
Russ managed to apply for the pension but could not organise enough money for the area’s steep rental prices.
‘Then someone told me about The Salvation Army and I met the captains (ministers) Stuart and Paula Glover, along with Kathy, who works at the corps.
‘I still get tears in my eyes thinking about it; they were unbelievable in the way they looked after me, the lovely people that they are,’ Russ recalls.
Russ was housed temporarily in the building and given help with his housing application. Soon he had government housing and began volunteering at the Salvos.
‘I’m doing something that I’m enjoying and I’ve started going to the Sunday worship services and involving myself more with the corps.’
Russ says he gains just as much as he gives.
‘In May, they threw a surprise birthday party for me and one of the best things was that John was there to share it with me and he was looking great!
‘It has been a beautiful journey and I will continue to be part [of the Salvos Caloundra] for as long as I can,’ says Russ.
*First name only used, by request.
As told to Naomi Singlehurst