Jim was never interested in faith or church until unexpected thoughts of God kept popping into his mind.
Around 18 years ago, I was living in the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland.
One day, while I was on my morning walk, I started to think about God. This was highly unusual, because I had never had any interest in faith, church or God. To my mind I was certain God did not exist. But these uninvited thoughts came to me on and off for some time.
Not long afterwards, my wife Margaret’s two sisters came for a visit and after they returned home Margaret started talking about moving to Wodonga to be closer to her family. We eventually put our house on the market and moved. We settled in there and things were going well, but Margaret had left a lot of friends in Queensland and wanted to make new friends locally.
I looked around for some social events we could go to and got a council booklet that had a list of local activities and interest groups. I began ringing them, but it was close to Christmas and they were all closed for the holiday break.
The last one I came to in the booklet was The Salvation Army, which ran an over 50s social group. It sounded just what we were looking for. I knew where the church was, so we went there to find out about the group.
When we arrived, a lady took us into her office and while we were talking about the group, she shared her lunch with us. During the conversation she asked me if I’d like to come along to the Sunday service. I told her I wasn’t interested, because for me going to church was only for weddings and funerals and I was definitely not interested in God.
But later at home, I began to think about it and it honestly seemed as if something was telling me I should go.
I felt that God was calling to me, so I asked him to come into my life.
The next Sunday, although we had no idea what to expect, we decided to give The Salvation Army church a try. When we arrived, two people came over and introduced themselves and everybody made us feel welcome.
I really enjoyed the service and soon was going regularly, but I didn’t make the instant connection with God that I thought I might.
One day I was talking about this to our corps officer (minister). He gave me a booklet called Why Jesus? by Nicky Gumbel, which I found very interesting. There was a prayer in the book and so I prayed it. I felt that God was calling to me, so I asked him to come into my life.
About two years later I became a Salvation Army soldier (member) committed to worship and serve others as part of the Wodonga Salvation Army.
Not long after I opened my life to God, the man who was doing our corps (church) street ministry—talking to people and collecting for the Salvos’ work—decided it was time for him to move on. I was asked if I would do it, but I was very shy at the time.
Still, I gave it a go and I’ve been doing it for about six years now. I am out in public every Saturday and believe God works with me. He brings people to me who need to talk and gives others a generous heart to donate.
I thank God for giving me this opportunity; I know I am where he wants me to be and doing what he wants me to do. There is great peace, assurance and joy in my life now; it’s wonderful.
Looking back at how things evolved, I know that God brought me here and I am so thankful he did. I now know who I am—“I am a child of God”.
I have only one regret, and that is that I didn’t do it much sooner.
As told to Lauren Martin. For more stories of faith, visit others.org.au.