Ross Hall says despite his struggles, God is always there for him.
Life was not always easy, growing up in Hamilton, New Zealand. Dad was a returned serviceman, an alcoholic and violent. Mum used to say that it wasn’t Dad’s fault; that he was different after he came back from the war—struggling to cope with family life, even though he had a wife and children who loved him.
As a child I was rebellious. I sought love from Dad, who was unable to give it, and Mum, who was too busy working and providing for the family.
Life got out of control. I got caught up in gangs, selling and using drugs, from the age of nine. The gangs owned me and firearms and violence were a part of everyday life.
By the age of 18, I only saw my family occasionally. I was involved in a violent incident and possibly faced serious jail time.
The judge spoke to Dad and said that something had to change otherwise I would probably die at a young age. He suggested joining the military and at the age of 21 I commenced training, remaining in service for 14 years.
I started in the catering area as I enjoyed cooking. I also learnt to read, write and sign my name. I worked hard.
The military became my new family. It provided necessary discipline, friends, a sense of belonging and I began to feel valued.
On tour, in 2009, I found Jesus.
On a nine-day patrol, I kept hearing the words, ‘John 3:16’, go through my mind. I thought I was going crazy so I visited the medic, who referred me to the psych doctor, who in turn referred me to the chaplain.
The chaplain listened and shared that ‘John 3:16’ was a verse in the Bible that says, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.’ Then he told me to think about this message from God.
During that week the message got stronger and stronger. A week later the chaplain explained what Jesus had done for me by dying on the cross and how much Jesus loved me. My life was changed as I received forgiveness and new life. There were many tears of joy that day. After returning home, life was turned upside down when my 10-year marriage came to an end.
I was devastated and still affected by the trauma of war—life seemed to be falling apart. I was in a dark place and felt disconnected from God—thinking that God had left and given up on me.
Not long after this, I moved to Melbourne. With little hope left in life, I got on a train and didn’t care where I ended up because I was planning to end my life.
The train took me to Warrnambool and I began living on the beach.
Veteran Affairs put me in contact with SalvoConnect to try to organise some emergency housing.
The case worker at SalvoConnect suggested I take part in a 10-week program called the ‘Positive Lifestyle Program’. I thought I’d give it a go as I didn’t have anything to lose. It helped me face some of the issues I had and I decided it was time to get my life back on track.Captain Darren Aitken helped me regain some stability in life and he reminded me that I was a person of worth.
Partway through the program, I felt the love of God in a powerful way and recommitted my life to God.
Darren invited me to a service at Warrnambool Salvo church and I reluctantly accepted. I was afraid of being judged and turned away because of who I was and used to be, but they welcomed and accepted me and I quickly became a regular part of the church, volunteering in different areas.
On 8 September 2013, I became a member of the Warrnambool Salvation Army.
I still struggle at times, but I know that these people love and support me and that God is always there for me and will never leave me.