I’ve been going to Southgate shopping centre, in Sylvania (a southern Sydney suburb), as part of my street ministry for Menai Salvation Army for about 16 years. I give out Warcry and Kidzone magazines and collect money for our community programs, but most of all I’m there for the people. I love the people there and I want to show God’s love to them.
I’ve made many, many friends at Southgate. I’ve visited people when they’ve gone to hospital, and if someone’s sick I’ll ask them if they need a meal. I always have soup in my freezer to give to someone who needs it. I’ve had quite a few people over to our place for dinner and they’ve got to know each other, which is great. Over the years I’ve also attended funerals of people I’ve connected with at the shopping centre.
It’s a lovely centre, and lot of the community who go there are of the older generation. Many tell me that they’ll never forget The Salvation Army because their fathers and grandfathers were in the war and the Sallies were on the frontline with them.
My grandfather always used to say if someone gives you a smile, give them one of yours back, and sometimes people come up to me because they say they couldn’t resist that smile! I like to give hugs, too. Just recently someone came up and said, “Can you please give me a hug? You’re the world champion hugger.”
I feel I’m able to share God’s love with people at the shopping centre by listening to them. Sometimes I can help someone who has problems with drugs or alcohol by directing them to the right places to go. One man sat next to me and told me he was trying to get off ice and, with tears in his eyes, said ‘You can’t help me.” I told him, “Our God will help you.” His wife came by weeks later and put coins into our donation box, quietly saying, “Thank you” after every coin she put in. It was very rewarding to see.
Not long ago a girl put some money into our donation box. She said, “I’m giving you money because I like what the Salvos do, but I don’t believe in the God bit.”
I said, “Come and tell me why you think that, and I’ll tell you what I think.” We chatted and I told her about some of the different things that had happened to me in my life. She said that made her doubt even more — except that now she was starting to ask herself why she didn’t believe in God.
I’m usually there every Thursday and Saturday mornings, but at the moment I’ve been at the local hospital (because of family circumstances). Quite a few of my Southgate people are here too, so I’m still seeing them!
Forty-seven years ago I had surgery for cancer. At the time, the doctors told me they had never seen anyone live who had been so close to death. God is very good.
Watch Olwyn’s story at https://others.org.au/video/videos