I was born in Invercargill into a non-Christian family. My dad left my mum and two older siblings while she was pregnant with me. My home life was chaotic. Mum battled alcohol addiction and we moved around a lot. When I was five, she met a man and they got married.
Mum gave me the option of living with her and my stepdad, or with my dad. In the end she just sent us kids to live with my dad. I felt abandoned—and that hurt.
We lived in a small town near Dunedin with my dad and step-mum. Things looked peachy on the outside, but it was a different story behind closed doors.
My dad’s relationship ended and we moved to Invercargill. Our new ‘family’ wasn’t a happy place either. I began to cut myself, hoping that one day I would cut too deep and would be taken away from everything.
Just before my 16th birthday, I sent a text to my aunty and told her about some of the things I’d been experiencing, which included sexual abuse and bullying. She took me in and I started going to the local Salvation Army for the first time with my nana. I loved it! I felt like I didn’t have to pretend who I was there. I had found my new family. I joined the youth group, made new friends and went to youth events.
I got to find out about this God guy who apparently loved me more than words could explain. I wasn’t so sure—after everything that had happened in my life, someone still wanted to love me?
Eventually my aunty asked me to find somewhere else to live, so my corps officer (pastor), Nicky Hargest, found a family in the corps to take me in.
To me, this new family was like something out of a movie. Living with Simon and Sue Stevens and their kids, I thought I was in Heaven! Even after they moved to Hamilton, they still let me live with them.
I gave my heart to God at a Parachute Music Festival. Things were better, but something was still missing inside of me. So I decided to live with my mum and see if we could be a real family again. It was soon obvious there were unresolved issues that weren’t going away, so I moved back to Hamilton, and eventually back in with Sue and Simon—my family.
I started going to every youth event trying to get my ‘Jesus fix’. But I soon realised that I couldn’t live out my faith from camp to camp. I needed to decide. Did I want Jesus in my life? Did I want to re-accept him as my Lord and Saviour?
The territorial creative arts camp, Amplify 2012, is where I decided that it was now or never to fully accept Jesus. So I did! It was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made.
That hole I thought only my mum could fill—it turns out it was a relationship with God that I needed. I am now a Salvation Army soldier and know that life is never easy, but you just have to have faith.
By Jasmine Brown