Palmerston Salvation Army officer Lieutenant Sarah Mackertich had anything but a straightforward path to the strong faith she now has, but overcoming the roadblocks along the way has been worth it.
I grew up in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne in a large family with five brothers. I grew up with family violence; home was not a place where I felt safe. At home I displayed a lot of anger in damaging ways as I never learned how to express my emotions in a healthy way; I followed what was modelled to me. At school and in public I was very quiet and anxious, and always struggled at school.
In 2002 my parents separated. My whole world was changing; I was in Year 6 and about to start high school. Dad moved out and Mum was diagnosed with deep depression. Mum wasn’t able to function; she was present physically, but she wasn’t there emotionally or mentally. I was confused, lost and had no direction. What was I supposed to do as a 12-year-old? I was just a child.
On entering high school I met youth workers from The Salvation Army through a breakfast program once a week at our school. I also connected with their homework program and youth group.
One day I decided to go to The Salvation Army church to see what it was like. I had gone to a Catholic primary school and participated in the sacraments, but God didn’t mean much to me then. The Salvation Army church was different—I remember feeling accepted by the people and loved for who I was; I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else. It was somewhere I wanted to be and I felt safe. I remember thinking, ‘If this is what God is about then I want God in my life.’
One night our youth group went to visit another church in the city. Towards the end of the service I went down the front to respond to following Jesus. The preacher prayed a prayer I listened to and believed in my heart.
When the prayer finished it felt like a whole weight had been taken off my shoulders and I felt a deep peace in my heart. It was the best decision I ever made. I always knew about God and the stories of the Bible, but I now realised that I could have a relationship with God; he loves me, he knows me and in him there is purpose and life. This was the real deal.
However, life hasn’t been smooth sailing. I was introduced to alcohol at 15 and would regularly drink for a couple of years, getting drunk to ‘deal’ with my brokenness.
When I was 17 I was faced with feelings of being alone and abandoned, and I cried out to God, knowing that he’s always been with me and he is the one who has never left. I recommitted my life to Jesus.
Fast forward eight years and I am now an officer (minister) in The Salvation Army. Life still has its highs and many lows, but through the grace of God I am a different person and my life has dramatically turned around.
My life now has purpose, direction, freedom and joy. I have learned so much about who I am, and to love the person God has made me to be. I have the power to choose the life I want to live. I didn’t have to repeat the past and live the life in which I grew up.
I have learned that I cannot always choose what happens to me, but I can choose how I respond every day. Through Jesus I have been healed from many past hurts and pain. Instead of brokenness I live a life of wholeness.
I have many scars from life, but I choose to wear these scars as a witness to others of the love and healing of Jesus. What Jesus has done for me, he can also do for you.