|Majors Glenda, Jeff w Janine: Filey Salvation Army|
In each heartbeat,
In every prayer,
Calling to me in the silence
I know God is there.
Sunday 20th November marks a very important milestone in my life journey as I become an Adherent of Filey Salvation Army Corps.
Adherent members do not wear the uniform, but are committed to The Salvation Army as their church and, as such, identify as a member of the Corps where they worship, continuing to explore their faith. This is a positive step in a very personal journey, in which they pledge their allegiance to God by signing a Certificate of Recognition declaring: 'This certificate confirms that .... is an Adherent Member of The Salvation Army ... a person who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and seeks to follow and be like Him; participates in worship, fellowship, service and support of a local Salvation Army congregation; and identifies with the Army's Mission Statement.' A small badge is given as a token of that commitment, to wear with pride as a follower of Christ. In response, an Adherent is enveloped into the folds of the Family of the Corps, accepted just as they are, with ongoing encouragement and pastoral guidance as their journey of faith continues to unfold.
God has always been there for me, a valued part of my life. I have never doubted or questioned that belief, because the evidence has always been there to support it. I recall as a child, colouring leaflets we were given in Sunday School, gazing at the picture of a crippled man, lowered down on an improvised stretcher by his friends for Jesus to heal him so that he could walk away free. I remember comparing this picture of the crippled man with my own two legs bound by calipers, irons reaching up my legs, wondering if there was perhaps a reason why I was born this way and Jesus wasn't offering healing.
Mine was an innocent, childlike faith. Yet, through the years, it remained a faith that became the strongest part about me.
That doesn't mean I never experienced pain and suffering, as this blog and my writings clearly shows. Nor does it mean I could put aside fear, anxiety, panic, worry when things went wrong. What it did mean is that I could bring these emotions and the chaos of my life to God in prayer, and somehow, something remarkable would happen to change my situation.
Through years of abuse, I know I would not have survived if God had not been with me. God gave man free choice. He couldn't necessarily stop what was happening, but He could hold, comfort and carry me as darkness swallowed me up and I didn't think I could live any more. The trauma still lives on in me today. As anyone who has experienced historical child sexual abuse will know, the pain of those years, the confusion, the self-doubt, the shame, holding the secret close, afraid to let it go or to share for fear of what people would think; remains a life-sentence. And that's hard when you know that your abuser moves on with his life, affecting other lives, knowing what he does is wrong, yet unable to stop because of his addiction. He has no conception of the consequences of his actions until or unless he admits to being the person he really is. Sadly, it is increasingly becoming news headlines today involving people who have lived apparently successful and influential lives, covering their awful secrets well. Yet I learned, in faith, to openly share my abuse experiences in the early 1980s, to write about it in books, a lone voice. But then, through sharing, I found others reaching out in the same way as I ... so that LIFELINE, the national registered charity working with victims, survivors and paedophiles was borne. It was a one-stop shop, ultimately listening, supporting and actively working with agencies and affected families, approaching the problem as a whole to better understand the mindset of being Controlled.
One of the most profound miracles which has happened in my life came when I was informed by doctors I was unable to have children because of past abuse. I couldn't accept I would never be a mother, never get to hold my own child in my arms. But then, one night I was woken by a child about two or three years old, standing at the side of my bed. She had auburn hair, the face of a cherub, and simply stood, gazing into my eyes. It happened again a few nights later. Again the child. Again, the same as before, only this time she spoke, and we held a simple conversation. I can't remember what words were shared. It wasn't the words which were important. All I do know is that this reoccurred until I went back to the hospital, explaining that I believed I would become pregnant, I would give birth to a child. I was classed as 'having a breakdown'. Doctors sadly shook their heads. Pills were the only answer ... for depression, to help me cope and accept my situation. But then, I knew what I had seen. It wasn't a dream. And there had been a witness. My husband. He felt me waken in the night, saw me sit up suddenly, reaching out with both arms. He couldn't see who I was talking to, but he heard the words ... and he couldn't explain. We talked about it, kept a diary, and now, determined to prove the doctors wrong, I set out to find a picture which mirrored the image I had seen at the side of my bed. In time, yes, I discovered a painting of a girl on the stairs, which I bought to hang on the wall. Hope! The hospital meanwhile, needed me to come to terms with the fact I would never be a mother and gave me a graph to complete each morning. However, the graph didn't go as expected, but produced such surprising results that I was given a pregnancy test. It proved positive! Against all odds, the impossible was suddenly possible ... I was going to become a mother.
It's the reason I still today call Jo, my only daughter, a miracle ... and yes, she does have auburn hair!!
Blessings have continued to come over the years, usually when I am at my lowest ebb.
It was in a serious breakdown, after my husband unexpectedly left last year, that I was wandering the streets feeling so broken, abandoned, rejected, betrayed, lost and alone, I couldn't go on any longer. Suddenly, a light flooded my path. It came from an open doorway as if inviting me to enter. I was drawn by the music, the sound of happy voices clapping and singing, filling the air around me, bringing a blanket of warmth and love. Inside, without knowing anything about me, I was welcomed. Someone sat with me after. I returned the following Sunday, drawn by the fellowship received. Months of Sundays later, I was still the 'teardrop' leaking through the door, spilling my grief, yet held and supported in love. It was faith, the power of prayer, and this Family of God which saved my life ... as well as the many gifts, cards and letters I continue to receive from kindred spirits of RAF 100 Group Association. This was the path which led me to the point at which I began to prepare to give something back in becoming an Adherent.
Sunday 20th November 2016 dawned ... a day like no other. It was different from the start. On waking, I prayed for this day to go right, for God to speak His words through me. One of my favourite 'Ministers' was leading the service, Jeff (seen above in the picture). Who could have hoped for a better day! I had no qualms about what this day meant. My worries were little things ... managing the few steps up to the pulpit without wavering or going dizzy, or worse tripping, as I can so easily do; signing the Certificate with painful arthritis in my hands which struggled to hold a pen. This was a service totally given over to dedication and commitment, with so many beautiful hymns, lots of choruses, people clapping, smiling, laughing joyfully, a wonderful atmosphere to be part of.
Suddenly, Jeff's wife, Glenda, rose from the seat just behind me to join her husband in the pulpit. This was it, my cue! I listened to her introducing the theme of Adherency before looking in my direction, inviting me to join her on the platform. So there I was, walking in the footsteps of so many who had gone before, feeling very small and inadequate ... was I truly worthy? At that point in time, with everything that had happened in my life, especially recently; I couldn't think of a less worthy person. But God was my judge. It was He who had brought me here and Now.
I stood beside Glenda, her hand finding mine to offer a squeeze of reassurance, arms wrapping round me in an embrace. I knew then I was in the place I needed to be. And in speaking to the congregation, a sea of faces in front of us, I heard her say how much she had actually learned from me and our sharing times together ... Wow! That gave me a jolt. Me? Really?!? Little old me? Someone pressed the 'Pause' button. Time stopped. I stood, quietly looking round at everyone, her words sucking into my heart, cuddling in like a warm cosy cushion, blocking out my fears, holding in the love.
I signed the Certificate while Glenda held out for me a small badge in the palm of her hand. Like a nugget of gold, I knew I would wear it with pride: 'Adherent, Filey Salvation Army'. Now everyone was still. Waiting. It had come my time to speak ... and as I once more asked God to speak for me, out of my mouth came these words, more or less:
'Faith has always been the strongest part of me. At the age of nine years old, my father entered the Ministry, and was given the cross I wear today (I held up the large Celtic cross for all to see which I'd chosen to wear specially for the occasion). When I became a Lay Preacher in the 1990s, Dad passed on this cross to me. However, Faith for me isn't just about knowing about God, being taught His Ways ... it has to become a personal relationship with Him. This is how it is for me, and I know this to be true through the many Happenstances and Blessings He has brought into my life, usually in my darkest days. It is one such Blessing which led me to the doors of this Church ... and into the Family I found within. Thank you for your welcome, your love ... and for accepting me just as I am.'
There was a hush as an almost tangible warm and vibrating love circulated in and around and through people sitting there, including Jeff, Glenda and myself up on the platform. We hugged as I thanked her personally for all her patience and sharing over past weeks, before the first chords came of my chosen hymn: 'O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end; be Thou for ever near me, my Master and my Friend ...' I had specifically asked for the Twentieth Century music to go with it, and Martin at the keyboard, with a huge smile, nodded at me descending the steps, bringing my wish to fruition.
Our voices raised the rooftop. Oh, it was really something! Then after the service, I gathered with Jeff and Glenda for photographs ... which even that evening had hit Facebook, and are on their way, together with my words shared, to the main Salvation Army magazine.
My goodness ... I found everyone was moved to tears, it wasn't just me!!
When Malcolm came to collect me for evening worship, which I attend regularly; he asked if I felt different since becoming an Adherent. On the way, the question caught me by surprise. I needed time to think. After all, God has always been at the centre of my life. But then, on the journey home, yes, I declared; I do feel different. I'm now very much an included part of the Corps Family in Filey. I have a place in that Family. And what means more than anything else is that I am accepted 'just the way I am'. I don't have to be or to do anything more.
It is through pain, I learned compassion. Through suffering, the peace which follows means so much more. Out of every negative has come a positive ... the greater the negative, the more that positive has been. I can look back on my life and realise the strength of my conviction and belief, the guidance and support of His Hands holding me, and those places on my journey where I have faltered and there are only one set of footprints as He carried me through.
Yes, without a shadow of a doubt, I BELIEVE! How could I not, when through my life, from birth to present day, I have shared a very special personal relationship with God.
|The Salvation Army, Filey|
'If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast'
Psalm 139: 9-10
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast'
Psalm 139: 9-10