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    The Long Way Home

    I didn't want anything to do with God, until I reconnected with an old friend. November 22, 2016 by Patricia Frances Dupras
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    As a child growing up in Kirkland Lake, Ont., reading Bible stories before bed was a nightly ritual. My mother, Frances, had a deep faith in God. When I was six, she passed away from cancer, and although I didn't understand it at the time, I blamed God for her death.

    My father worked in a gold mine to support our family of six kids. Life was a struggle, but me and my siblings loved and supported each other. My father's spirit never recovered from losing his wife, and he became ill from working conditions in the mine. At 11, I was sent to live with siblings, first in Thompson, Man., then Montreal and then back to Kirkland Lake.

    The loss of my mother and the instability of my childhood turned me against God—I didn't want anything to do with him. The only time I acknowledged God was to yell at him in tears when one of my brothers died.

    So when I reconnected with an old friend, 40 years after we had known each other as teens, and found out he was now a Christian, I didn't know what to think. John was a part-time pastor and also ministered to the lost outside church walls. I had never known a pastor and had no intention of having a relationship with God.
    In the silence, God spoke to me. “I am here with you, Patricia. I have always been here with you.”

    We met for coffee a few times and he did talk to me about God. We had good conversations about Scripture and I was surprised to find I wanted to know more. He patiently answered my questions and pointed me to resources to help me understand the Bible.

    One Saturday afternoon, I was visiting friends in Toronto and arranged to meet John. As we looked for a café, we saw a vulnerable woman leaning against the side of a building, clearly inebriated. It was a busy street, but no one stopped to help. I watched as John gently touched her on the arm and looked into her face. For a moment, the woman was lucid and tears welled in her eyes. She seemed to recognize the comforter, the Holy Spirit, within John. This encounter brought me tremendous confusion, but it was a turning point in my life.

    On a sunny summer day in 2013, I was sitting by a quiet lake in southern Ontario, reflecting on my life and my mistakes, feeling very low. As I looked out at the lake, it was sparkling in the sun. Then, in the silence, God spoke to me. “I am here with you, Patricia. I have always been here with you.” That sparkling light and warmth flooded my heart and soul. Tears of joy—tears of a lifetime—flowed down my face, dropping into the water.

    When I told John about this experience, he prayed over me. I invited Jesus into my heart and asked him to forgive my sins.

    After this, I continued studying the Bible but didn't go to church—it wasn't my thing. Slowly, my perspective changed, until one Sunday I decided to give it a try. At the last moment, I drove past the church I was planning to attend and went to Kingston Citadel, Ont., where I sat in the last row. I knew The Salvation Army from years of volunteer work—I have helped with Christmas hampers, kettles and a winter warm room.

    The songs, biblical message and Christian love I found that day drew me in and I never left. I felt like I had arrived at my spiritual home. The Salvation Army is the most welcoming and alive church I know—it has become a refuge in a world of chaos and confusion.

    My life has been transformed since accepting Jesus. I can do things I was too scared to do before. I feel such peace and love as I pray. I retired from public service recently and I now have the opportunity to do ministry each day. I try to serve God by sharing the good news of his love and studying his Word daily. I'm far from perfect—I'm a work in progress—but I am loved by God.

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