At 62, Eddie felt he had lost everything until he found hope at the Salvos.
I was a shy person and had a very strict Catholic upbringing, so I didn’t have many friends. My Sundays were spent at the local church.
As I got older I discovered girls, sport, life, going out and having a good time.
I think I really turned away from God because it was drummed into me as a little boy that ‘God will punish you’ and ‘You’ll go to hell if…’ Getting that from your parents was really frightening.
My father loved to punt and he took me to the trots every Saturday afternoon and, eventually, I discovered poker machines across the border in New South Wales. They were illegal in Queensland so I started going down for the weekend after work on Friday, returning home late Sunday night.
I loved to gamble, really enjoyed it, and it just absorbed me. The poker machines became a great friend of mine; but it ate up all my money, and my life.
I was married with two boys but we separated. I met another lady and we had a daughter together, but unfortunately my gambling took over and I lost that relationship, too. The contact with my children was sadly very, very minimal, because my best friend really was the poker machine. Nothing else mattered to me.
I think over many years, the only time I acknowledged God was when I was sitting at a poker machine and I won a bit of money. I’d look up to the sky and say ‘Thanks’.
Eventually I had gambled everything away again and I couldn’t afford to pay rent. I got in my car, just packed what I needed and lived in my car for six months. At first I was scared that somebody might come along and find me sleeping in my car and harass me, but that was okay. I washed myself the best I could in local council toilets.
One day I got a call from The Salvation Army—someone must have organised a voucher for me because I never asked for it. I had to go to The Salvation Army’s Streetlevel Mission to collect it and I have been coming ever since which has been absolutely fantastic.
The people have been great and helped me get into a unit just before Christmas.
My faith has absolutely deepened through being surrounded by so many amazing people who, too, have a belief in God. I like to listen, watch and hear what God has done in the lives of people. I attend chapel and also the Salvos’ church, and there are so many stories of lives completely changed.
Some people who work here were absolutely at rock bottom through drugs, alcohol or gambling and it’s amazing to hear how God came in and totally turned their lives around.
I’m now a regular and help out and volunteer wherever I can, helping set tables, driving community members to appointments and helping with our weekly outreach BBQ. I just can’t say enough about the place. Words just can’t explain how marvellous the people are.
I haven’t had some amazing encounter with God, but I think I’m just slowly and surely grasping an understanding of how God works. I now pray a lot and many extraordinary things have happened recently, like getting my accommodation. I do feel like God is looking after me.
I have kept this lifelong habit of mine of looking up into the sky and saying ‘Thank you’.
The strangest thing is I seem to be looking up an awful lot lately— because I’ve had so many amazing things happening in my life to say ‘Thank you’ for!
As told to Naomi Singlehurst