Meeting a Salvo at her ex-husband’s hospital bedside helped Alison find faith again.
Growing up, my family identified as Christian, but worship and prayer were not a regular part of our family life.
When I got engaged I felt a strong need to marry in a church. My fiancé and I joined an Anglican congregation where I enjoyed connecting with people who shared my values, and began to explore my faith.
We had a son and bought a house in the outer suburbs, joining a new congregation. I had a good job, a nice house and car, and a happy family, but then things started to unravel.
My husband had struggled with mental illness for several years, and this got much worse after we moved to our new home. His behaviour was erratic and he began drinking heavily. It became clear that my son and I weren’t safe, so I made the painful decision to separate, and my husband moved out of our home.
I didn’t feel able to ask the people in our new congregation for help. I stopped attending church and withdrew from a lot of my friends. I was isolated, lonely and scared.
My husband battled his illness and substance abuse for many years, so I was always on edge, waiting for the next crisis.
Eventually he joined AA and his sponsor encouraged him to get support from the Salvos. He stopped drinking and formed positive relationships with people who supported him. He became an adherent and his life improved and my son attended worship with him.
Sadly, as my ex-husband’s mental health improved his physical health deteriorated. He needed heart surgery, and contracted a post-surgery infection. He spent more than five months in hospital, mostly in intensive care. His family were mostly interstate so I cared for him and it was a gruelling time. Our son was in year 12, while I was working full time and emotionally exhausted.
During my hospital visits I met his corps officer and we began to chat. He knew my ex-husband’s history well, and I was able to talk about things without fear of judgement or embarrassment. In the months before my ex-husband’s death I felt a support that I hadn’t had before. I appreciated the chance to pray with someone, and knowing that someone was praying for me was a source of comfort.
My ex-husband’s funeral was held at his corps, and a few weeks later I decided to go to a service one Sunday, just once, to say thank you. I felt welcomed and supported. The following week, I thought I’ll just go back one more week, and I’ve continued ever since.
I was asked if I wanted to become a soldier, and these classes gave me a great chance to explore the word of God and what it meant in my life. I learned that I could hand my grief and sorrow over to God and that I didn’t have to carry the burden on my own. I became more involved in the life of my corps, and my faith and trust in God grew.
My corps supports many people who are homeless, mentally ill or disabled and rely on the Salvos for meals and access to showers. Though my life has been tough, I’ve always been able to afford food and shelter, and I’d never known people who didn’t.
At first I found this uncomfortable and confronting, but they welcomed me into their community and now I feel privileged to be able to spend time in worship and fellowship with them. I have learned about strength and resilience from them. I pray with them and for them. I see God at work in their lives, and in my own.
I believe that God has placed people on my path who have walked alongside me. They have guided and supported me, and I’m so grateful that they have helped me to discover the difference he makes in my life.