I grew up in Auckland with my mother and grandparents. We first started coming to The Salvation Army when I was about six after our neighbour invited my mother and I along to Pukekohe Corps. My mother raised me by herself until I was 11, when she married my stepfather. This led to our move to Wellington.
I got connected with the Tawa Salvation Army and started to realise my heart for young people while in high school when I helped out with the youth group. I loved being with them and praying for their needs—they became my family.
When I left school early, I was going to sign up to become a Salvation Army youth work apprentice, but I didn’t feel ready. I wasn’t even sure if it was what I wanted or God wanted, so I chickened out and worked instead. I still really loved helping out as a volunteer youth leader in my spare time though.
After two years’ working full time, I began getting bored of the same thing day-in, day-out, so I asked God to give me something different to do. That’s when he reminded me about the youth work apprenticeship idea. God told me he still wanted me to do this. And that’s when I realised it wasn’t just me that wanted to do it; it was God’s path for me as well.
I asked God for a sign, and the next morning I went to church. I don’t remember much of the service but during it I realised I had this huge heart for youth. Then a friend came up afterward and said he thought I’d make a great youth worker and that I should think about doing the apprenticeship thing, like he was.
That’s when I definitely knew it was of God. I was kind of mad at first too—I was so comfortable with my life at that point, I even gave my friend the cold shoulder because he made me realise this was actually God’s plan. But I handed it over and went for it.
I began my training at Wellington 614 Corps (a youth-focused Salvation Army church) earlier this year. I feel like I’m on the right track. It’s a good feeling!
It hasn’t been easy, but God has stood by me the whole time. In the first five weeks I had so much thrown at me that I thought I would explode, but in the end I knew God wouldn’t let anything happen that I couldn’t handle.
The one thing that keeps me going on my youth work journey is seeing young people changed—seeing their sad faces turn into happy ones, hearing them laugh. It’s also so rewarding when someone asks me for advice. I feel like I’m trusted enough for them to turn to.
I know there is so much more to come! God has revealed some of my bigger picture to me and I’m so excited. My passion is to impact young people by planning and being involved with big events. I know God will use me in the best ways possible. Look out world, here I come!
By Renae Pearson (abridged from War Cry, 19 May 2012, p9)