Christmas wasn’t always easy for songwriter Mia Fieldes, but through The Salvation Army, she discovered a love for God and a passion for music, writes Jessica Morris.
As a teenager, Mia Fieldes wanted to write love songs to God. Two decades later, she has penned songs for Grammy Award winners and is one of the most sought after writers in the Christian music industry.
‘I would write these letters to God when I was 13 or 14 saying, “One day I’m going to write songs about you that go all over the world”,’ she tells Warcry. ‘I was just convinced that God was going to use me.’
Calling it a ‘miracle’ that she was so sure of her destiny as a songwriter (‘I was the very overweight, unliked kid with bad acne who played the tuba—there was nothing about me that made me popular’), Mia had the odds stacked against her as a child.
Born as the youngest of triplets to a single 22-year-old mum, her family lived out of a car before they stayed at a women’s refuge and later in government housing.
It was around this time that her family first encountered The Salvation Army, who provided her family with food hampers. Mia’s first experience of the church—and Jesus’ love—was through the generosity of the Salvos.
‘Some of the officers got to know us and picked us up on a Sunday morning to take us to Sunday school. We were only four or five,’ she says.
I think the biggest thing for everyone in our family is that we’ve learnt to make God the first place we go to no matter what we are walking through.
‘We used to sing all these songs about Jesus and who he was. One day they said, “He can live in your heart and be your best friend”, and I remember thinking “I want Jesus in my heart”. It was so real for me—the songs, the stories, everything.’
Eventually her whole family would become Christians, and not only did Mia gain a faith in God through her experience, she also gained a father.
‘My dad actually taught us at Sunday school when my mum first found Jesus!’ she laughs. ‘They got married when I was nine.’
Looking back, it’s clear that God’s love anchored Mia’s family through the hard times.
‘I think the biggest thing for everyone in our family is that we’ve learnt to make God the first place we go to no matter what we are walking through,’ she says.
‘He has every answer, every miracle, every breakthrough we could ever ask for. Relying on him is how we have gotten to know what he is like. Every family has its stuff, but I love that mine knows how to live gratefully.’
A profound love for God stayed with Mia as a teenager and she began to express it through songwriting. While it initially came with mixed results (‘One of the first ones I remember was a rap song, it was awful and hilarious’), it developed when she moved to Sydney and joined Hillsong Church.
Under the guidance of prolific Christian musicians like Darlene Zschech and Hillsong UNITED’s Joel Houston, she began penning songs for the church and worshipping at youth group.
‘I never really thought of [songwriting] as a career, even when I started writing more at Hillsong Church. It was always just something I loved and wanted to do,’ she says.
In fact, Mia only began songwriting full-time a year before she moved to her current hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.
Making a home halfway across the world certainly came with benefits for the flourishing musician, but it also came with challenges, including panic attacks and leaving friends and family behind.
‘I was really sad about leaving my family and my church, but there was also a grace for it. I love that there was a bigger picture than writing for me moving here,’ she says.
Having lived in Nashville for six years, she has found that her love of God has acquired her a new family—a church community called The Belonging Co where she leads worship.
‘I have made so many lifelong friends here, and was a part of the start of our church,’ she says.
Mia has certainly come a long way since her days writing letters to God. Yet one thing remains the same: her love for God, and her love for family. And both of these come together at Christmas time.
‘Last year I surprised my family and went home for Christmas. It was the best!’ she laughs.
So what’s on the cards this year? She’s still not sure, but one thing is for certain—she will celebrate God’s love with the people she cares for the most.
‘Christmas is a reminder that God never stops reaching out for us,’ she says. ‘He is hope itself—it’s impossible to be in his presence and not see things change.’