The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
Jan9WedAmanda Rivait's Salvation Army family supports her as she struggles with Huntington's disease. January 9, 2019 by Ken Ramstead
"I spent most of my younger years being mad at God,” says Amanda Rivait. Her father died when she was young and while she had grown to love her stepfather, he and her mother separated. Shortly after, Amanda’s mother became sick and was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a disorder that results in the death of brain cells and leads to progressive dementia.
- Filed Under:
- Faith & Friends
“I blamed God for that as well,” she says. “How could God allow a child to go through so much hurt?
“I was determined that I was not going to get pulled into this God thing.”
A Turn Off
But when Amanda was in Grade 9, a friend invited her to volunteer with her at a weeknight children’s program called Dustbusters, which was run by The Salvation Army’s Chatham-Kent Ministries church in Chatham, Ont. This was how her friend planned to get the 40 community service hours required for school.
“I needed to get those hours, too, so I said yes,” says Amanda. “I had no idea it was a church program; I didn’t even know The Salvation Army was a church.”
All she knew about The Salvation Army was that they had a food bank around the corner from the house where she used to live, but that was it.
“When the program started,” Amanda says, “I was surprised the songs were all about God. To be honest, I was a little turned off.”
After the opening songs concluded, Amanda’s group moved from station to station learning about God and His love.
“Still determined that God didn’t love me, I made it through the evening without allowing myself to be drawn in,” says Amanda.
The following week, however, her friend asked her if she was going to volunteer again.
“I said I would, but only because I loved spending time with her,” says Amanda.
But as weeks turned into months, Amanda found herself beginning to enjoy herself.
“I wasn’t going to admit that to anyone, though,” she smiles.
Then one week, Amanda’s friend and the Salvation Army youth pastor asked her if she wanted to go to a youth group program on Friday nights at the same Army church. To her surprise, she went.
“I was beginning to open myself up to the possibility that maybe God did love me after all.”
An Amazing Church Family
After almost a year of volunteering at the children’s program and attending the youth group, the pastor invited Amanda to attend a Sunday morning worship service.
“I thought it couldn’t hurt to give it a try,” she says. That evening, she convinced her mother to take her and her five siblings.
“On Sunday morning, I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect,” Amanda recalls. “The only experience I’d had with church was the few years my mom had made us go to another church when I was younger, and the only things I could remember from that were the old people and the awful music!
“I was quickly drawn in by the music and the pastor. The Salvation Army church welcomed us with open arms. Everyone was so nice, and I had never felt so connected.”
Amanda’s family has been a part of the church ever since. As for her, she became a Christian thanks to the youth group.
“Since I accepted Jesus, I’ve experienced many trials,” continues Amanda. “However, I have walked through them with God and my Salvation Army church family by my side.”
Her mother’s Huntington’s has progressed to the point where she is now in a nursing home.
“I wanted to give up on everything so many times,” Amanda says, “but my church family has been so encouraging and supportive throughout the entire process. They even visit her and send her cards.
“They are amazing people.”
Journey of Faith
Huntington’s is neurological and can be hereditary. Every child with a parent who has the disease has a 50-per cent chance of inheriting it. This has always weighed heavily on Amanda’s heart.
“I wanted to know but I also didn’t want to know,” she says. “And I had no idea how I would react knowing this information. I spent many days praying to God and asking Him to give me peace over this situation.”
This past March, Amanda decided it was time to be tested. After six weeks of waiting and praying, she learned that she had tested positive for the Huntington’s gene.
“My heart sank,” she says. “I remember thinking in that moment, Does God really love me? Why would He allow this to happen to me? I’m only 24!”
Thankfully those feelings didn’t last long. Amanda wasn’t going to allow Huntington’s to consume her.
Captain Karen Holland, the co-pastor at Chatham-Kent Ministries, was with Amanda when she received the results.
“There was a lot of silence on the way home in the car,” Captain Karen says. “It was in that silence that Amanda’s faith in God was tested.”
“I decided that day that I was going to be God’s warrior,” Amanda says, “and that I was going to use my experience to help others associated with Huntington’s, especially my siblings, and raise awareness about a disease not many know about.
“I’m not going to lie,” she concludes. “It has been a scary journey, and some days I’m terrified of the unknown future. But I live for today and I know that God has got this. I put everything in His hands and I trust that He will get me through everything that comes my way.”