Despite going to church as a child, it wasn’t until Tess Quinton grew up that she found herself being drawn to a personal relationship with God and the Salvos.
I grew up in Springvale South (south-east Melbourne) in a Catholic family, and my
dad took us to Sunday school. We were instructed in all the things that we needed to be religious, but I never really felt a close connection with God during this time. I left home when I was 15 and distanced myself from church. Looking back, I think I was a horrible person at this time. I had a pretty low tolerance of other people and didn’t value people who were outside of my family.
Luckily, my mum invited my family and me to come to church with her at The Salvation Army Kingston Gardens corps (church). Mum invited us so many times, and finally, in 2009, we gave it a chance and attended.
I do not think there is a single defining moment in my faith where I said “God is for me” but I think this first visit to Kingston Gardens started the ball rolling in my walk of faith.
It was so refreshing to walk into a church where you were not judged and everyone was welcomed. We loved the fact that families were involved in the church and it was fantastic to see the acceptance the congregation had in letting the kids be themselves. I kept attending and started to click with people in the corps. My worldview and attitudes slowly started to become more positive as I hung out with more Christians. It just felt good to be able to go somewhere where I was accepted and included.
Over time I became happier and more positive and it felt good. I always knew God was there, but when I started to attend small groups I think this is where my connection with God was acknowledged in my mind.
I always felt ashamed of what I was like as a person, but by meeting in this small group I was able to come to the realisation that God loves me even with everything I have done. All I needed to do was to ask his forgiveness so that we could start afresh. After this, I started to connect more with God and felt more comfortable talking to him throughout my day. In fact, I speak to God a lot, not in conventional prayer, but in conversations with him as I move through my day.
It is from this continual faith walk and connection with God that doors have become open to me. I was approached to help start running emergency relief at Kingston Gardens with Major Charlie, as I have a real passion for helping others. I was supported by my corps through the completion of my Certificate 4 in Community Service and was blessed with Majors Charlie, Narelle and David as mentors. I love being able to help others through our emergency relief and giving them a sense of acknowledgement that we see them and value each of them for who they are.
Currently, I am working in Community Service Kingston Gardens Hub with Bentleigh and loving the opportunities I have to help people and show a little of God’s love and acceptance in their lives. I am continuing my studies for a Diploma of Community Service and looking forward to the days when I can see more of those people who I connect with starting their own faith journey.
I want everyone to feel the same love of God that I do in their lives because with him by my side I feel unbelievably better. I’m happy knowing he is there to protect me and I find strength in the fact that he is with me through all my challenges and celebrations.