God had plans for Marj Ellis in The Salvation Army.
I grew up going to the Church of Christ and have always believed in God. At 16, I felt God was asking me to do something bigger with my life.
Mum told me of a position as house mother for 12 little girls at a Salvation Army Children’s Home in Kew (Vic.). I hadn’t heard of the Salvos before, but went along for an interview, and got the job.
I was due to start the next Sunday, but as the time drew closer I decided not to take the position.
Three years later, I fell in love with Steve, and after going out for some months we decided to get married. I wanted a church wedding but Steve really didn’t think much about God.
He said, “If you want to get married in a church, it has to be the Salvos—for Nan.” Apparently, Steve’s Nan had Salvo officers in her family tree. There it was again—The Salvation Army.
We were married at Oakleigh Salvation Army church and when our first child, Christopher, was born I wanted to have him dedicated. We were now living in Emerald—in the Dandenong Ranges, (Vic.)—and again, Steve showed little interest, except to say, “Well, it has to be the Army, for Nan.”
The nearest Salvation Army church was at Ferntree Gully and as Steve thought it was too far away and too much bother to go all the way there, he said, “We’ll get him dedicated when the Salvos come to Emerald.”
I didn’t think that was very likely, but six months later the Ferntree Gully Salvation Army opened an outpost (satellite church) in Emerald.
A short time later, I walked into the tiny community hall that the Salvos were using, which smelled of alcohol and was rather shabby. A few people were sitting on old wooden pews, an old lady played the piano and another lady had a bass drum.
When we stood to sing the first hymn, the lady playing the bass drum banged it so hard I nearly had to be scraped off the ceiling. I could not believe that such a noise was allowed in church.
But something happened in that service that I found hard to describe. I just know I ended up sobbing on the shoulder of a young lady, totally overwhelmed by a sense of God.
I went home and told Steve I was sure that God wanted me to be a soldier (member) of The Salvation Army. It felt the same as when I was 16—needing to do something for God.
Steve thought I’d completely lost my mind and said, “We can’t afford to buy you a Salvation Army uniform.”
I continued to attend the little church and Christopher was dedicated. The next year new officers (ministers) arrived.
Lieutenants Rodney and Jenny Barnard had only been at Emerald for a couple of weeks when Jenny asked, “What size are you Marj? I think I have a uniform your size hanging up in my wardrobe.”
Together, Steve and I investigated what being part of the Salvos was all about—Steve needed to know what I was getting myself into. Twelve months later I became a soldier and a year after that, so did Steve.
Fast forward seven years and our little family began training to be Salvation Army ministers—which we’ve been now for nearly 25 years, doing many different things.
I didn’t know as a 16-year-old—who didn’t even know what The Salvation Army was—that I would have such an adventure with God.
I just know that God was determined that his plans for my life would be fulfilled.