Despite many obstacles on her journey, Tammy found her way back to God.
I was brought up in a Baptist family and went to church most weeks, but by my teens I had forgotten about God.
I met my first husband in high school and by 22 years of age was already divorced with two children. Five years of depression, drunkenness and affairs followed, until I met the man I thought was my ‘Mr Right’. Over the next 15 years I had four more beautiful children, but things at home took many dark turns.
My husband had an affair and was introduced to (the drug) ice, and eventually I too started using ice. Sadly, particularly for the children, we travelled the road of addiction for a couple of years before I’d had enough. I knew we desperately needed to change. There was much anger and violence along the path and many times I just wanted to end it all.
We moved from New South Wales to Gladstone in Queensland to try to make a break. When school started in 2015, one of my daughters met a girl and they became very close friends. Through this friendship I got to meet this girl’s parents who happened to be Salvation Army officers—Lieutenants Chris and Kay Ford.
Around this time my marriage broke up and there were many family problems. Kay provided much-needed support, and slowly my life started to look up. My daughter was invited to camps and youth group at The Salvation Army and her older sister, who has autism, was interested too. So when they were at youth group, I stayed so that my daughter would feel comfortable.
They loved it; but something amazing was also happening to me—my eyes were again opening to God.
The Fords found out that I was studying community services and asked if I would be interested in volunteering for Doorways (a Salvation Army program that provides emergency welfare relief and financial counselling). That gave me confidence and I started to go to church and very quickly felt loved and accepted.
With three children with autism, I did not bring two of them to church the first week, but Kay insisted.
I remember saying, “Oh no, you don’t want them here,” and the Lieutenant said, “Yes we do, the Lord wants everybody.” I think the biggest part of my journey of healing has been the acceptance I’ve found through our church.
To me, church feels like a little piece of heaven, or what I imagine heaven will be like—full of acceptance and love—and my children love it as much as I do, if not more.
Last year I became a senior soldier and one daughter became a junior soldier. I am so thankful that, despite the pain and mistakes of the past, I firmly believe God has led me here to help others. I have been through divorce, drugs, domestic violence, struggles with money, depression—and so when people who have no hope come in (to Doorways), I can tell them that there really is hope.
I remember when I first asked Lieutenant Kay why would God put me through all this and she said, “God hasn’t put you through that, you chose to go the way you did, but now God is going to use what you have done to help others and he is going to use you for good.” I am just so grateful.
With thanks to Others magazine.