My grandad, John Boniface, was ‘saved at the drum’ during an open-air meeting in Riverton around 1930. He was a ratbag—a drunkard who gave Grandma a bit of a hard time. But once he was saved it was a different story. He became a soldier and wore full uniform. The townspeople certainly found it a bit hard to believe.
When I was young we lived in the country. I started going to the Army about 1935, when I was around eight and we moved back to Riverton. I went to Sunday school and youth group and corps cadets. I was enrolled as a senior soldier in December 1947. That wasn’t yesterday.
It was earlier that year I decided to become a soldier. A group of us went from Riverton to Invercargill for youth councils and I felt the calling of the Lord during a service. I felt the Lord was speaking to me and I went forward. It was the first time I had done that.
It changed me. I wasn’t into mischief or anything, but it did make a difference. I have never regretted it. The Lord is a big help to me.
When I was 26, I married Stanley Hopkins at the Riverton Hall. He was a Presbyterian, but he came to the Army with me when he could.
Stanley dropped dead at my feet 34 and a half years ago. It was a heart attack. We were living in Invercargill by then. After he died I felt a blank, like there was nothing there, and I needed something to fulfil my life. That’s when I felt there was a calling for me to start visiting people. I started at the hospital first and later I was commissioned as a community care worker. It’s all voluntary.
I don’t go out every day. Sundays is my biggest ‘do duck in’ day. I start after the meeting and finish sometimes at 7 pm.
I still wear a bonnet. I like it. It stands out and people recognise it. People in Invercargill know me as ‘the bonnet lady’. I can meet staff from rest homes on the street, and if I’m not wearing my bonnet they look twice before they know it’s me.
One day I was walking past some flats in my uniform with War Crys in my hand when a man came out and said he liked the War Cry. ‘Well, here you are then,’ I said. He’s been taking a War Cry ever since.
In 2010, I got an Invercargill City Council Civic Honour. I was shaking at the knees before the presentation, but Captain (Russell) Garbett got down on his knees and prayed with me in the middle of the Civic Theatre, and I was all right after that.
I love visiting. I feel I get satisfaction from it and I know I’m doing the Lord’s work. I have no plans to retire. The good Lord hasn’t told me to retire yet. I like to keep busy. My motto is: if I rest, I rust.
by Eva Hopkins (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 1 November 2014, pp9.
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