A trip to the supermarket pointed Raewyn Hargraves in a new direction.
Two years ago this Christmas, I went shopping at my local supermarket and it changed my life.
I saw a Salvation Army officer (minister) standing outside, collecting for the needy in the community.
I didn’t get to speak to the officer, but on the walk home I saw a sign that said ‘The Salvation Army’. It was pointing to a building just around the corner from where I lived.
Good heavens, I thought, is this a sign, as in a sign for me? I wasn’t a Christian, but something or someone was prompting me to think about life more seriously.
The following Sunday, I turned up at The Salvation Army Wollongong Corps (church).
As I entered the building, people were friendly. I even got a personal welcome—by name—from the platform during the service. A lovely lady called Marion took me under her wing.
The officer leading the service was the same person I saw at the supermarket. I discovered his name was Captain (now Major) Phil Inglis, who leads the Wollongong Corps with his wife, Rebecca. I loved the service. I kept going each Sunday.
I was born and raised in New Zealand. Our family did not attend church and although I went to a Catholic college and heard about God, it didn’t really connect with me. I moved to Sydney in 1986, became an Australian citizen in 1990 and moved to Wollongong in October 2016, one month before my supermarket experience.
I joined a life group (Bible study) at the Wollongong Corps. I completed a ‘Christianity Explained’ course and discovered that I had everything wrong. I had suffered image issues all of my life and thought that I was not good enough. But what I was discovering was that it was because of God’s grace that we could feel good about ourselves.
Then I joined our church team that runs classes for refugees and newcomers to Australia to practise their English. I also take my place at shopping centres to help raise money for The Salvation Army.
I think that I have always been interested in the concept of faith and I’ve envied those who had it. I can see now that the things that have been happening to me over the past two years were part of a plan for me.
I also now see that I am not alone in this world. I feel that I have lived a Christian sort of life. I have always assisted with time and money, but I had no relationship with God.
It’s amazing to me now that I can talk with God without going through a whole lot of church rituals and traditions. I love that. I have a personal relationship with God now; communication is immediate.
I am still taking baby steps. I still don’t know how everything in the Bible fits together. I can’t quote verses like other people can. But I know it’s not all about what I know; it’s what’s in my heart that counts.
Written in association with Bill Simpson