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Jul19ThuIn this video, Joy Wade speaks about why she is a member of The Salvation Army, what Jesus means to her and why we should never give up. July 19, 2012 by John McAlister
In this video, Joy Wade speaks about why she is a member of The Salvation Army, what Jesus means to her and why we should never give up. For more information about Joy, please read her story below the video.
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- Territorial News
Freed From the Shackles of Sin
Sentenced to eight years in a foreign prison, Joy Wade felt like her life was over
by John McAlister
As Joy Wade walked towards the customs officer, she realized she had made a huge mistake. Her mind raced frantically as she handed over her passport. Seconds later, she was taken away to be searched by a female officer. She knew what they'd find. The drugs she had smuggled in from Canada.
A few days earlier, Joy had woken up depressed and discouraged. She had recently lost her job and was living off government assistance. When Stephen*, her boyfriend, asked whether she wanted to go to England with him, it seemed like the perfect remedy for her depression.
“A small vacation,” he said, “all we have to do is drop off a few gifts to some friends and the rest of the time is ours.” Joy knew that the gifts were drugs, but she went along with the plan anyway.
The flight to England was uneventful, lulling Joy into a false sense of confidence. The plane landed smoothly, but her world came crashing down as she tried to smuggle the drugs through customs. She was caught, charged and sent to the remand centre at HMP Halloway.
“I knew I had messed up,” she says, “but I still couldn't believe it was truly happening.”
Alone in a foreign prison, Joy had little option but to wait for her day in court. She wanted to be free, she knew that much, but she wasn't aware yet what that freedom would look like.
During that time Major Hazel Damzel, a Salvation Army chaplain, visited her in prison.
“At first I didn't want to have anything to do with her,” says Joy. “She was kind enough, but I didn't want to open up to someone I'd never see again. Before she left, she promised to come back and visit me. I didn't expect her to, but sure enough, she kept her promise.
“She spoke to me about the Lord Jesus Christ. All I wanted to hear about, though, was how I could get off the drug charge and get back to Canada. She encouraged me and told me that God is in the plan. In His time, everything would work out.”
Joy's day in court came and she was sentenced to eight years in prison. When Major Damzel returned to visit, Joy wanted nothing to do with her. “I couldn't believe that God truly cared about me. I told the major: 'If God is so good, why did I get eight years in prison?' ”
But Major Damzel refused to give up on her. She continued to visit on a regular basis, telling Joy of God's love for her. When Joy was transferred from HMP Halloway to HMP Winchester, Major Damzel travelled all the way from London to visit her. “It was then that I knew I was ready to accept the Lord. We prayed together and I asked God to come into my heart.”
It was Christmastime and the major asked Joy if she wanted to get in touch with her family. Up to that point, she hadn't been ready to talk with them. “I was ashamed to talk. I'd brought drugs to England and I was a disgrace to the family.” But Joy found the courage she needed to call and soon was talking with them over the phone.
And then she made a remarkable discovery. Not only had the major taken an interest in her personal well-being, but she had taken an interest in her family as well. She had contacted The Salvation Army in Toronto and asked them leave Christmas boxes for Joy's family with a note saying, “From your mother in England.”
“It was such a beautiful thing that she did for me,” says Joy.
“I don't know how I can ever repay her kindness.”
Major Damzel introduced Joy to Major Gill Smith, an Army chaplain at HMP Winchester. Major Smith became a constant support, visiting her on a regular basis to pray and to bring her devotional books. She also obtained permission for Joy to take part in activities at the local Salvation Army corps.
“The prison authorities gave them permission to take me out on all of their activities. I felt so welcome there.” Joy became an adherent of The Salvation Army, confirming her desire to be a member of the church.
One of her prison guards would constantly give her a hard time. He would mock her faith and call her friends the “God squad.” Joy prayed that God would give her the words to say that would show him God's love. Over time, Joy saw the guard give his life to Jesus. He became part of the God squad.
After four years in prison, Joy was granted parole for good behaviour. Before leaving England, she was given a letter addressed to The Salvation Army in Canada. She was told that she could take it to anyone and they would know what to do.
When she arrived in Canada, she was reluctant to show the letter to anyone. “I was still full of shame and I didn't want anyone to know what I had done.”
As Joy walked along Shuter Street in Toronto, she found herself in front of community and family services at 77 River Street. “I saw The Salvation Army sign and hoped that I'd find people inside that would accept me.”
She gathered together her courage and went inside. She met a family services worker there who made her feel welcome immediately. “She read my letter, and instead of judging me, gave me a hug and assured me that I had come to the right place. She invited me into her office and spent time in prayer with me. Before I left, she invited me to come to her church.”
Joy went to church that week, but it wasn't easy. Until she walked through the doors, she wasn't sure if she could do it. Even though she had been freed from prison, she still felt as though something was fencing her in. She was carrying her shame and her guilt with her everywhere she went.
During the church service, she told her story to a few of the members. “They listened to me and were so happy that I was there. I truly felt welcome. Before the service was over, a few of them prayed for me.”
By the next week, she was having doubts about going back to church. “I was ashamed. I told myself that everyone in the church would know my story and judge me.”
Then came the moment that would finally free her. “Major Smith had mailed me a letter from England, telling me that she was praying for me and hoping that things were going well. She told me to find a church that I would feel comfortable in, that would welcome me.
“I realized then that God had been working in my life. He had brought me to a church that would welcome me and accept me. He needed me to let go of my shame and put everything into His hands. He wanted me to put my trust in Him and believe that He had washed my sins away. I went back to that church and was accepted.”
Years later, Joy is a Salvation Army soldier and remains a committed member of Corps 614 in Toronto. She often prepares the meals that follow each service, and brings a sense of joy to all who know her. She also volunteers at the Army's Homestead, a centre for women with addictions, and with correctional and justice services. Just as she was welcomed in the past, Joy now invites friends and family to her church.
Joy believes she was in prison for a reason. “I knew from childhood that there was a God, but if I hadn't been in prison, I wouldn't have realized how great He was.”