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Jul30TueThanks to The Salvation Army's Canadian Staff Band, a couple turned to God July 30, 2019 by David and Diane Shatto
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- Faith & Friends
I remember sitting in my room when I said, “I renounce Christianity.”
I had become an agnostic. I was skeptical there might be a God, and I fundamentally felt no connection with Him.
People have used the name of God to do horrendous things, I thought, such as the Crusades. It seemed to me that Christianity was a propagation of human oppression of others. I felt I had been brainwashed by the institution of the church.
When I decided to renounce Christianity, I realized my plan for my life had to change. God wasn’t in control anymore, and so plan B for my life was to immerse myself in science and technology.
UCLA became my secular cathedral of greatness. My first job there was as a programmer-analyst in the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics. But I’d achieved everything I’d wanted to. I didn’t see any real meaning for life after that.
I wondered what I should do. Should I just grind out a few more years of service and retire? I didn’t see true purpose in life.
My wife and I were going to cultural events. We were doing things to try to find a sense of purpose in the world.
In May 2016, The Salvation Army had an international band celebration in Long Beach, California. I got tickets for it because I thought, Wow. That has got to be the pinnacle of brass band music.
The next day, the Canadian Staff Band was at The Salvation Army’s church in Torrance, California, and my wife and I decided to go. In the middle of the service, there was a soloist who sang It Is Well With My Soul.
When I heard the song, I realized, all was not well with my soul. And that’s when everything changed.
God told me, “That’s what you’ve been missing. That’s what you’ve been looking for.” He wanted to have a relationship with me. The walls I had against God just fell down, and it was an overpowering experience. I didn’t have arguments that held up against that experience.
Since that morning, my life has never been the same.
Even if you’re achieving all of your goals, all of your dreams, there’s something more that human beings need, and that is to have a relationship with God.
To atheists and agnostics I’d say: “You’re missing something that affects your soul. If you realize that all is not well in your soul, look to Jesus. A relationship with Him can make you well.”
Although I considered myself a Christian, and I raised my daughter as a Christian, I rejected the church. I just thought the church was a social institution. I saw the people outside the church as more authentic than the people inside it.
My husband and I had reached the point where we found our meaning in secularism. But deep down, I was still living in confusion, wondering where I belonged in all of this. Where did I fit?
When I was sitting in the concert and the conductor said, “We’re not here to show off our musical talent. We’re here to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ,” I was thinking, Is this propaganda? But my soul was being stirred.
When the band played a piece called The Pilgrim’s Progress, that moment changed my life. Wow, I thought. It’s describing my journey. I thought God was working in my heart to tell me the church is more than just a social institution. It was as though He was saying, “I want you to know I’m in the church. There are people in the church I’m working in. You don’t have to feel like you don’t belong there.”
Perhaps there are some people who are involved in religion for the wrong reasons, or see the church as just a social club. But God wanted me to focus beyond that, to see the power of God in people who worshipped Him in spirit and truth.
It took me back to the days when all the people that I knew in the church were sincere. The people who truly believed in what they were doing and saying, who loved me and taught me about God. Ultimately, the concert changed the course of our lives, and I will be forever grateful.
The Canadian Staff Band
Though a Salvation Army territorial band has been in existence since the 1880s, most of the band perished during the sinking of the Empress of Ireland in the St. Lawrence River in 1914. While attempts were made to restart the band shortly after, it was not until 1969 that the group was reformed, and as they celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, the Canadian Staff Band sets the example for all aspects of Salvation Army banding in the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Throughout the past five decades, the band has both led and participated in countless worship services, congresses and concerts, in Canada and around the world.