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Aug26WedWhat would it take to bring Roma Whittle back to God? August 26, 2015 by Diane Stark
"If I can't minister to these people, then what am I doing here?” Roma Whittle asked herself.
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She was attending The Salvation Army's College for Officer Training (CFOT) when she happened to meet a family who had just lost their father.
“I couldn't pray with them,” she remembers now. “I just sat there and cried. And I realized that if I couldn't help anyone, I didn't belong there.”
So Whittle packed her things and left the training college. And that day, Whittle walked away from her faith, too.
Whittle was raised in Lewin's Cove, N.L. When she was a teen, she was invited to attend the youth group at a Salvation Army church, and she was enrolled as a senior soldier at the age of 16.
“I wanted the commitment,” she says. “I felt God calling me to full-time ministry, so I became a member of the candidates' fellowship and began the process to enter CFOT.”
But then everything changed. “When I was in Grade 12, we received devastating news,” she explains. “My father had surgery, suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with cancer. Over the next year, his health deteriorated until the doctors told us that there was nothing else they could do for him.”
Whittle prayed, but saw no change in her father's condition. “I kept asking God to heal him, but nothing happened,” she recalls. “It felt as if God wasn't listening to my prayers. I began to wonder why I was bothering to pray to a God who clearly didn't care about me.”
Whittle's father passed in May 1993. He was just 52 years old.
“I was bitter and angry with God,” she says. Despite that, she relocated to attend CFOT that fall. “I was doing what I was supposed to do, but my heart was no longer in it,” she says.
And then Whittle found herself with the family who had lost their father. “I hadn't dealt with my own father's death, so it was impossible to help anyone else through their grief,” she says.
“I took my uniform off and hung it in my closet. I became the god of my own life. I did what I pleased and didn't worry about what God thought.”
For the next 20 years, Whittle lived her life away from the Lord. In April 2001, she met Dwayne Whittle. “He was raised Catholic, and that was fine with me.”
The couple married in January 2002. After they started their family, they knew they needed to find a church to attend.
“Dwayne wanted a closer relationship with God,” Whittle says. “I supported him, but didn't want that for myself.”
After trying out various churches, friends invited them to attend the corps in Conception Bay South, N.L. Whittle was hesitant, but her family wanted to go.
“That first Sunday, my children walked right to the front of the church and sat in the very first pew,” she says. “It was not where I wanted to be.”
After a few months, Dwayne answered an altar call and went forward to accept Christ. “He wanted me to go with him, but I just couldn't,” Whittle says.
Walking With God
In September, Major Barbara Pritchett, corps officer at Conception Bay South, visited the Whittles. “She asked me how things were since Dwayne had accepted Christ,” Whittle says. “I told her I supported his decision. That's when Major Barb said something I'll never forget. She looked me right in the eye and said, 'Dwayne needs more than your support. He needs a partner who will walk through it with him.' ”
Major Pritchett's words worked in Whittle's heart. On Thanksgiving Sunday, Whittle knew the time was right. She went forward and rededicated her life to God, and in November 2014, was reinstated as a soldier in the Army.
Whittle now devotes much of her time to service in her corps, and was recently commissioned as the corps secretary.
“Those years of living without God in my life were like walking through a dark tunnel,” Whittle says now. “I realized that God hadn't moved away from me; I moved away from him. But I'm so happy to be walking with him again.”