I am a 42-year-old single Maori grandmother who grew up in a home where religion was present but where I didn’t see the work of God.
The norm was a daily hiding and men touching me whenever they felt like it. School was my only place of freedom. I wanted to run as fast as The Six Million Dollar Man to get away from my life.
I lived a promiscuous, drinking, drug-abusing lifestyle, but work was important to me and I strove to prove myself. I had to be the best at everything I did. Relationships were something I did not do well. When a relationship broke up, due to my unfaithfulness, a whole series of events led to my coming into relationship with God.
I was angry, and challenged God to show me he was real. When I had a workplace accident resulting in a broken back, amazingly a religious TV programme spoke specifically about my needs and I experienced healing. I felt warmth in my back for three whole days as I began to move more. I had planned to kill myself that day after sending everyone away.
My physical rehabilitation involved a new workplace and new friends. One was a genuine Christian woman. She and her husband went to The Salvation Army in Napier and witnessed to me regularly. When I was charged with drunk driving for the fifth time, I was surprised to see the man arrive at court. He prayed with me, saying he would wait for my return, as I would not be going to jail. I laughed, but was sentenced only to community service. Ungratefully, I grew less tolerant of this couple’s intensity and pulled away from them.
But God had another relation-ship strategy. My community work was at The Salvation Army Hastings. There, I witnessed officers who loved God and respected people. They loved me without trying to get anything from me. They did not judge me the way I judged myself. They assisted me to attend counselling and I attended church occasionally, asking lots of questions. I asked the church people to be ‘real with me’. This was important after so much abuse and pretence in my life.
Next in God’s process was hearing his audible voice one morning walking to work. I was at first scared and then excited. My work mates didn’t understand me saying God spoke to me. Shortly after this, I attended a Salvation Army ‘New Zeal’ conference in Wellington and felt God was telling me, in another way, to ‘pick up my cross and follow him’.
I was beginning to see God as my anchor and learning more about forming and keeping healthy relationships.
God had more for me in the area of relationships. I became aware of God directing me to attend The Salvation Army in Flaxmere, where I began relating to more Maori Salvationists.
This has been very important to me, as I have been helped to explore aspects of my cultural identity. I also benefited from a 12 Step course, which brought further healing to my life.
I am very busy at Flaxmere Salvation Army. It was to express my loyalty to God that I became a soldier where he had planted me. It has been a blessing and a responsibility to wear the Salvation Army uniform as I continue on my journey of keeping it real and enjoying my walk with God.
By Joanne Whiu (abridged from War Cry, 18 May 2013, p9)