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Something became me

For Christchurch Salvationist Liz Edwards, working with formerly homeless men at the Addington Supportive Accommodation centre is a privilege.

My role is transitional support and budget advisor and I’m also the chaplain. We had Major Mel Impey here before as the chaplain and he did a great job. When he and his wife Major Jan Impey were transferred to Auckland there was no spiritual input in our service. I went to the boss and said, ‘We need to do something,’ and ‘something’ became me.

It’s a busy role, but it’s really exciting. I run a Bible study every morning at 9 am. We have a great group of about six to 10 guys, including some who have left our service who come back. We did the challenge of reading the New Testament a couple of years ago, and the guys then decided they wanted to read the Old Testament. It’s a scary but exciting undertaking. We’re up to Ezekiel and they really enjoy reading the history of Israel and getting to know God’s heart for us all. I also meet one-on-one with those who are on a spiritual journey. I don’t believe in bible bashing, but my door is always open for a chat.

We’re a 24/7 service and we have prayer at each handover as much as is possible. We also have devotions as a staff team.

This place is all about starting again —people are basically on the compost heap because of their circumstances, and we get back to basics and they start again. I tell the guys if you are a gardener you’ll know compost is a good foundation for a plant to grow into something beautiful and useful. So it can be for their lives. We have up to 89 men living here. The majority of our guys have addictions and we connect them with the Bridge next door for treatment. A lot also have unaddressed mental health issues and poor physical health from lack of a good diet. We connect them with mental health services and have a nurse here. So they come here and address their addictions, their finances and their health. We also try and help them into housing and employment.

All three of my roles work hand-inhand. The guys come here very broken and part of that is they’re just plain broke, financially as well as physically and spiritually. I offer budget advice, I work towards transitioning the guys into their own accommodation, and in my chaplaincy role many ask: ‘Can you pray a blessing on my house?’

The first week I became a chaplain, a guy who was living with us was a really heavy solvent user. He had a Christian upbringing, but said, ‘I have been far from God for many years.’

I asked him if he would like a Bible. He said, ‘Yes, but I can’t read it.’ He opened it to a random page, put his fi nger on a verse and asked me to read it to him. It was Job 36:15 ‘He rescues the afflicted in their affliction.’ He said, ‘What does affliction mean?’ I said, ‘It means God rescues people from their addictions.’ And he said, ‘Really?’ He worked with us and the Bridge and is now living well and healthy in the
community—praise God!

It’s a job I come to every day and love being here. It’s a privilege to be able to work with clients on a holistic basis. That’s what we do as The Salvation Army.

by Liz Edwards (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 29 July 2017, p11
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.