Jason McDonald has been in five Salvo Recovery Services centres and countless homeless shelters. He’s also been in and out of prison, but his life changed when he was invited into a home.
I’m 47 years of age and when I came to The Salvation Army, I was a fairly broken man emotionally, mentally, physically and definitely in spirit.
I was out on the street on my own at the age of 14. I was one of those blokes going in and out, in and out of prisons, maximum security prisons, from the age of 17. I was just hurt and broken.
I came to The Salvation Army when the person I was travelling with at the time required assistance and I was basically just tagging along. But you know, I’m believing now that it was God drawing me to The Salvation Army.
I’d spent a lot of time in Salvation Army rehabilitation centres, five times actually, where I’d never completed [the program]. I was normally thrown out for being aggressive and violent. I had stayed in homeless men’s homes with The Salvation Army all over Australia.
Essentially, [at Rockingham Salvation Army in Western Australia] there was something strikingly different going on.
We ended up getting some accommodation that was directly across the road from the Salvos, where there was a Christian organisation that had a house. A married couple headed up the house, and basically what they were doing was inviting people into the home. Here I was, disenfranchised from my own family, and these people loved me and cared for me. The bloke that was heading up the house introduced me to Jesus Christ. It was amazing.
It was an overnight change. When I finally experienced God and his love for me, that changed things in an instant for me. I never wanted to be in a place again where I was separated from where God was at work in my life and those around me.
I started to go to The Salvation Army centre [Rockingham Salvos] that was open every day across the road. First thing in the morning I would pray to God that I’d have the opportunity, somewhere over at The Salvation Army, to share what I was learning about God, just to be a gentle ear for someone in need. It was awesome.
The Salvation Army has essentially loved and supported me and encouraged me. You know, Jesus invites us into a family, and that’s what’s been shown to me at the corps (church), through the people there. I think it’s definitely a way of “living, loving and fighting”.*
I’m studying theology and volunteering three days a week with our Salvos outreach ministry. I also attend our Men’s Shed pallet ministry and this year our Discipleship House opened, and I am a lead tenant (a live-in support person). My vision is to eventually move into chaplaincy; I’m thinking definitely around prison ministries and working with people that are in and out, in and out of prisons.
As told to Lauren Martin
*The Salvation Army Vision Statement is: “Wherever there is hardship or injustice, Salvos will live, love and fight alongside others to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus.”