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Nov5Wed“Who would want anyone like me to be a member of their church?” I used to ask myself. But Someone did. November 5, 2014 by Daniel Lawrence
What is it about that place? I kept asking myself from the driver's seat of my bus. I drove past The Salvation Army's North Toronto Community Church every day on my route, and I'd watch the people going in and coming out. Everyone seems to be so happy. I'd often thought of dropping in to see what it was all about but something always held me back. I wonder if they'd accept a guy like me?
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- Faith & Friends
Side Door Salvation
Unlike many, I wasn't a stranger to The Salvation Army. I knew they weren't just about thrift stores and Christmas kettles. I knew that they helped people—because I was one of them.
You see, I lost myself when I was in my 20s. I'd felt as if I was an outsider, that my family had abandoned me. To compensate for what I believed was their betrayal, I started partying and drinking, and I grew up thinking that life was just one enjoyable mess.
For decades, I stumbled through life with that attitude. I became a penniless wanderer, travelling the world. I hitchhiked all over Canada, from Montreal to Vancouver and back again. As a result, I got to know many Salvation Army facilities. I'd stayed in Army shelters, slept in Army beds, ate Army food and drank Army coffee more times than I could remember. But for me, it was one thing to accept The Salvation Army's selfless support and generosity at the side door, so to speak, quite another to attend one of their church services by walking up to the front door, as I saw others doing on my bus route.
“God Sent Me”
Eventually, I straightened out, got married, had kids and found a job I loved. But there was something missing from my life. I'd walked away from God years ago but I realized I needed Him in my life now more than ever, if not for my sake, then for the sake of my kids.
And that's when I noticed the Salvation Army church. I knew what I had to do.
I finally worked up the nerve to go visit the church one Sunday morning. I was nervous, but my trepidation was groundless. The congregation welcomed me unreservedly and made me feel like part of the family. I loved the fellowship, the caring and the community, and I still do.
When I met one of the pastors, Captain Deana Zelinsky, she asked me, “What brought you here of all places?”
I tried to stammer out a response. So many thoughts went through my mind. The nights I had spent sleeping at Army shelters and eating at Army soup kitchens and passing by their doors so many times on my bus. How could I condense all those wasted years into a one-sentence reply?
“God sent me,” I finally blurted out.
Far from making fun of my response, Captain Deana smiled and said, “Well, you can't do better than that!”
I know it sounded kind of funny, but I meant it. It was as if my life had been leading up to this point.
No one who knew me 20 years ago would recognize me today. A fellow barfly once told me that she'd never seen me without a drink in my hand. I've been sober for years. I've become a loving husband and father. And I found God, the God who never abandoned me even when I abandoned Him.
I wear two uniforms now. At work, I wear my Toronto Transit Commission uniform. When I am off duty, I wear my Salvation Army uniform whenever I can. I became an official member of The Salvation Army last year and I am proud of my uniform. When people see me wearing it, when they see me do good things in God's name, my greatest wish is that they see Jesus through me.