Chris Ralston faced heartbreak and setbacks on her road to joy.
God called me to serve him as a child, but I didn’t know how rocky that road would be with what life had in store for me.
I lived next door to a convent as a child, and took refuge from abuse at home by sitting in a small hole in the hedge and watching the nuns quietly walking with their Bibles. I knew they had something that I wanted to experience. My father was an atheist so any talk like that was forbidden at home.
I left home as soon as I could, but got caught up in a cycle of drinking, married a fellow drinker, and for the next few years my life was a rollercoaster of bad experiences.
My first contact with the Salvos came because I wanted my children dedicated, but I didn’t have an ongoing relationship with the Salvos until some years later, when my husband and I joined the church and became soldiers (members).
Later we felt the call to be officers (ministers), and we both went to college and became Salvo officers. But sadly, our marriage didn’t last and our next child had special needs, and it became impossible for us to continue to follow the prescribed road for officers. So we left the Salvos, separated and life became so bitter that there were times I didn’t want to live any more.
The monumental mess I made living my life without God is near impossible to convey. Living in a world of darkness and sin caused despair, bitterness, anger
After my marriage failed, I lost my home, and that was just the beginning of a downward spiral to a place from where there seemed no way back.
God gave me free will and I was pursuing my own sinful way and slowly destroying myself, but when I could no longer see any reason to go on God did not abandon me, and looking back I can see his guiding hand at work. Even though I still refused to acknowledge him, God would not let me go. It is only through experiencing the depths of darkness I have come to realise the depths of God’s love for me.
Many years later life I finally seemed settled. A home in a small country town, plenty of time to watch television and do nothing—just what I had always wanted. Wrong! I was simply existing and wondering if this was all that my life would now be.
Throughout the time I felt isolated from church, I kept having the same dream, that I was sitting in the back row of a Salvo church, feeling happy again. At Easter last year, I told a friend about my dream, and she said that I would never have peace until I went back to the Salvos and made my peace.
So here was God stepping in again, but this time I listened.
Sunday morning found me at Warrnambool Corps (church), where Majors Karina and Peter Wood are the officers. I was at college with Major Peter and we were commissioned as Witnesses for Jesus. During the meeting we sang ‘I Surrender
All’, and I did. Major Peter gave me a warm welcome and a place to call my spiritual home again.
I want people to know that God brought me to the Salvos initially, and brought me back for a reason. He wants me to help other people who, like me, have had so many bad experiences, because I understand what it’s like. My message is that there is hope for everyone—don’t give up, because God is always there.
Though I broke my covenant with God and turned away from Christianity, he has forgiven me. God’s love surpasses all understanding, and once again I dedicate my life to Christ.
With joy and thanksgiving in my heart I sing “I have not much to give thee, Lord, but all I have is thine”.