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Aug17ThuFor Carrie-Ann Jones, her mother and daughters, soldiership meant embracing a new church family. August 17, 2017 by Ken Ramstead
Last February, a unique ceremony took place at The Salvation Army’s Cascade Community Church in Abbotsford, B.C., when eight soldiers were enrolled. What made the event extra special was that four of the soldiers were from one family representing three generations. Valerie Pilgrim, the grandmother, was enrolled along with her daughter, Carrie-Ann Jones, and granddaughters Taylor and Laurel.
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“I grew up believing God was ever-present in my life,” says Jones. But after the collapse of her marriage, she entered into another relationship that turned out to be abusive.
“It was a rough time for me and my children,” she says. “We joke now that we were like the caveman family in The Croods. We looked at ourselves as a unit and mistrusted anyone outside the family circle.”
Their difficult road ended five years ago when they escaped the abusive relationship, but it had taken a toll.
“I drank a lot, which was my coping mechanism. I was very lost, very broken,” she says, “and my children were broken.”
One day, a friend invited the family to attend a Bible study at a local church, and Jones felt pulled to go.
The experience floored her.
“I felt an immediate outpouring of love, and I could feel something changing in my mind and heart,” she continues. “God’s presence was overwhelming.”
The following week, Jones attended the church’s Bible study and brought her daughter Taylor along.
“I didn’t want to go,” says Taylor. “We were going through such a difficult time and we needed to be strong. I felt that church was for the weak, a view I had absorbed from the negative influence of the people in our lives at that time.”
As with Jones, the effect on her daughter was just as immediate. By the end of the evening, Taylor had accepted Christ.
“We looked at each other in awe, in shock about what was going on,” says Taylor.
They both went home to share their joy with Laurel. Curious, she attended church, too.
Within a month, all four of Jones’ children had become Christians. “It was an amazing family transformation,” she says.
On Their Own
Unbeknownst to the family, Jones’ mother had been quietly playing a part in their story at Cascade Community Church.
“While not going into specifics, Valerie shared with us that her daughter and granddaughters were having a difficult time,” says Captain Jodi Dunstan, corps officer. “I didn’t know Carrie-Ann or the kids, but we were praying for them.”
Within a year of her conversion, Jones stopped drinking and smoking with the help of a Christian counsellor.
But while trusting God kick-started huge changes in their lives, “it just didn’t fit us,” says Jones. “We kept growing in faith but we floundered around trying to find a church to worship at. We didn’t feel like we fit in at a couple of them, so we opted to worship at home. We’d survived as a family for this long, we thought we didn’t need anyone to be connected to God.”
A Family Decision
That changed when Pilgrim invited her daughter and granddaughters to visit Cascade.
“It was the right time for us,” says Jones. “We were doing fine by ourselves but becoming part of this larger church family was just what we needed.”
As the family became more involved with the congregation, and the church community got to know them and come alongside them, soldiership was the logical next step.
“It felt as if this is what we were supposed to do,” says Taylor. “We knew that God was telling us that. We knew what The Salvation Army stood for and we knew we could stand behind them, knowing what it meant to live a life of purpose and mission, even in the tough times. It fit right into our hearts.”
But the best was yet to come. When Pilgrim found out that her daughter and granddaughters had decided to become soldiers, she made a momentous decision of her own.
“She wasn’t active in the church before the kids and I found Jesus, but once she saw the changes in us, she wanted what we had,” says Jones. “We attended church together and we became closer as a family. Cascade brought us together but it was all God’s work.”
“I was emotional when I signed my Soldier’s Covenant alongside my family,” says Pilgrim. “It was without a doubt what we all wanted to do.”
“By becoming soldiers, we were putting our beliefs into action by trying to portray in our everyday lives what God desires us to be,” concludes Laurel.