Linda Peterson has found a loving church family at Cairns Salvation Army.
My story starts out in Sydney, where I was born and abandoned by my mother, who gave me away to a woman sitting on a pub step.
I was returned to my grandparents to be raised. They were Christians and I loved going to church and Sunday school with them.
We moved to the Blue Mountains where I was happy, but my life changed forever one afternoon just after I turned 16. Pop told me Nana was in hospital, but not to worry because she would be home soon. I was so upset.
I had a church activity that night and dressed in my best outfit, hoping someone would take me to visit Nan, or at least take Pop and me the next morning because he didn’t drive. Not one adult there took a second to listen to my tearful plea. I left feeling distraught and let down, and was determined to never go to church again.
About 1am I was woken by banging on the front door. It was our next door neighbour with a message, ‘Tell your grandfather that his wife has passed away with a cerebral haemorrhage.’
You can’t imagine how I felt waking Pop to give him that message. He said, ‘Thank you’, and went back to sleep. I felt numb. I went to bed realising for the first time how life really is: you are on your own.
Some years later, I married. My husband didn’t tell me he didn’t want any children until I was expecting our son. He wanted me to end the pregnancy, but I was determined to keep us all together, which I did, under much strain. It was not easy for a few years, but it seemed to sort itself out.
After 28 years of marriage, however, my husband announced he was leaving me. I was devastated, having worked so hard to earn an income and buy our home.
This is where Victor, my second husband, joins my story. He has an acquired brain injury, but he helped me to move after my marriage ended and was a support when I was so low during that time. He came around every day to see if I was okay.
One day he suggested going to Far North Queensland for a week or so. I loved the beautiful tablelands and beaches and decided I was going to live in Innisfail. We moved there, then Victor and I decided to buy a home and get married. At this time I started to think about God—he hadn’t let me down in the past, it was the people in the church, so I started praying again.
We were flooded out during Cyclone Rona (1999) twice in two weeks, so moved to higher ground. Not long after this, my van broke down. The RACQ mechanic who helped me was a Christian man from the local Uniting Church, and we became friends with him and his family. I prayed even more.
In 2006, we felt the full brunt of Cyclone Larry and knew we were in trouble. We prayed so hard for the safety of those in our area. At that time, Victor worked several hours drive from home, leaving me to battle with the insurance claims and rebuilding work. We had a lot of problems and it was a traumatic time.
In 2008, I received a letter from The Salvation Army family tracing service saying someone was looking for me—a cousin, Gwenneth. I felt so blessed to discover my cousin and her husband were officers in The Salvation Army. Victor and I felt that God had given us a huge gift—a family we really belonged to.
In 2011, when Cyclone Yasi hit, I was recovering from an operation. Nevertheless, when a friend who was leading The Salvation Army’s cyclone recovery team asked me if I would like to help with emergency relief, I jumped at the opportunity because the Salvos had helped us so much.
Last year, on Good Friday, Victor and I became soldiers (members) at the Cairns Salvation Army Corps. For the first time, we feel that we have a true home church.
Last August, a Red Shield family store opened here and I feel honoured to be one of the volunteer supervisors. We have a wonderful group of volunteers, including Victor who loves helping in the shop. God has shown him that he has friends and that people appreciate him. If it were not for The Salvation Army, Victor and I would both still be lost.