Changed by the Power of Love | The Salvation Army

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Changed by the Power of Love

Posted June 30, 2020

Despite a rebellious past, addiction and a serious motorcycle accident, Tony Rielly journeyed from feeling powerless to freedom in Christ.

Even in my darkest moments and wrong decisions, I have always prayed and believed in Jesus. My father was abusive to my mother, my sisters and me. He left home when I was thirteen. I guess I always looked up to him—as a son to his father—so when he left, I became a bit of a rebel. I had an attitude against Mum. In my own way, I blamed her, pretty undeserved. Then came drugs, addiction and gangsters.

I had a serious motorcycle accident in 1985. After 17 days unconscious, the minister came and prayed over me, and I woke up. It was a touch of God’s power. I ended up with a disabled arm, some internal injuries (which I keep at bay) and bad head injuries, which affected my life more than drugs. I had anger problems and couldn’t get work for many years. I lost all my self-esteem seeing my friends getting ahead. I alienated myself, thought there was no hope and that no one cared. But now—through God’s grace—I’m mentally, physically and spiritually healthier than ever. I give addiction no say in my life.

I started coming to The Salvation Army casually about five years ago. One time, after I stayed away for a few months, I went back and one of the seniors gave me a great big hug. He said, ‘Oh, Tony, it’s good to see you back’.

I said, ‘Brother, I didn’t think you liked me.’

He goes, ‘No, I don’t … I love you, Tony’. The way he hugged me, I believed him. To be able to say that to one another, it’s a true understanding of what love means.

I got installed as a senior soldier at the New Plymouth Corps; it was the biggest achievement of my life. Nothing was going to stop me—not addiction, not darkness, not people. Mum said it was one of the proudest moments of her life. She told me, ‘I prayed every day for ten years that you would come right, Tony.’ I obviously want to acknowledge my heavenly father, but also my mother’s love.

I remember once, my father smashed the kitchen table and Mum stood between him and us—and he was a big man in stature. When he left, Mum had to do three jobs. She supported me through ugly times; I have two daughters, and Mum was always looking after the kids. Even when I lied about needing money for food, she would still give it to me. I don’t think my mum’s ever, ever let me down. I let my family down, but they never stopped loving me. I just thought they did.

To be totally accepted in the Sallies and have a role here, it’s soul satisfying. The Salvation Army is an overcoming church, with overcoming people. After my accident, I never thought I had much to lose; today, I’ve got much to lose and much to give, too. I’ve got two beautiful daughters, Mum, two sisters, brothers-in-law, good friends and a whole world of people who are part of my church family.

Some people say, ‘I want to act, but I’m powerless’. Christ didn’t die for us to call ourselves powerless. He gave us full power in his name. That doesn’t mean I’m silly enough to go and have a beer or smoke, but it means I don’t need to. God fills the void that cannot be filled by drugs, substance abuse and self-satisfaction. He’s always there; it was I who turned away from him—he never turned away from me.