It took until her middle years for Sonya Lodge to really discover God’s love.
When I was growing up I did not even know that The Salvation Army was a church. I thought it was just a charity that helped the homeless, needy and less fortunate in society.
My parents were of different religious denominations, but my mother wanted to marry my dad in the Catholic Church.
I was baptised Catholic and attended Catholic schools. My parents were not devout Christians and I was never made to attend church except when it was expected for school.
I always believed in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and that there is a heaven and hell. I said my prayers every night, but could not see the sense in attending church. At school I was bullied so I did everything with my family and didn’t make many friends.
I believed in God, so when my baby sister passed away after birth difficulties, I knew she was going to be with God. This belief helped carry me through the difficult days of grief.
When I was 21 my parents died of cancer within nine months of each other and I just accepted that they were in heaven with my baby sister Joanne.
I still said my prayers every night but that was just a ritual and I didn’t have a personal relationship with God at all.
When I was 30 I found what I thought was my true love and we were married. I fell pregnant with our first child and was so excited. Unfortunately, Zacharry was stillborn on Christmas Day 1998. I was devastated, but knew that God had a special purpose for Zacharry, and the fact that he was born on Jesus’ birthday made it seem even more special. Two years later we had our second son, Callum.
Later on, the grief and difficulties of life led to our marriage ending in divorce. I also experienced two strokes and, on Christmas Day 2003, I found out that I had cardiomyopathy and lupus. I was alone and unwell, but I found strength to continue to fight on.
In 2011, I met a man who was to become my future husband. He was a member of The Salvation Army and explained his church to me. I had donated to the Red Shield so my son and I volunteered that year at the local Red Shield Appeal. I was amazed at how welcoming everyone was so we stayed the whole day to help out.
I was invited to attend a church service, and because they were so friendly thought ‘I might as well go’. I was blown away by the service. It was so different from what I had grown up with. I felt that I had come home and really experienced God’s presence with me that day.
Andrew and I have been together now for five years. Four months ago I had a dream about being enrolled as a soldier of The Salvation Army. A couple of weeks later the officer (minister) announced that they were running a soldiers boot camp at the corps (church) over the long weekend in June. I saw this as a sign from God confirming what he’d been trying to show me in my dream and put my name down to attend.
The boot camp was an amazing experience—I have just completed the second stage and have chosen to become a soldier.
I feel that everything that has taken place in my life has been for a reason and has helped lead me to a personal relationship with God. My faith is stronger now than it has ever been before and I am constantly learning new things every day about God and myself. I praise God for the journey, and look forward to what he has in store for me next.