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Warcry: From strength to strength

Julia Nicholls tells her story to WarcryJulia Nicholls dealt with the past to build a brighter future

My life was quite a mess before I came into contact with The Salvation Army. A long time ago I was raped, but I didn’t press any charges. This caused me to suffer from depression and anxiety, and for eight years I was addicted to prescription pills—not to get a high, but to help me sleep so I didn’t think about any of these things.

I went through rehab at The Salvation Army about five times—they kept taking me back. I don’t know what happened, but finally I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something about this’. My whole mindset changed and they put me on the suboxine program.

I’ve been clean now for three years. About nine months ago, I started volunteering with the Salvos at the thrift shop in Leopold (Vic.). I wasn’t working and wanted to give back to the community and do something with my life. Because the Salvos had been part of my life, I thought I’d give the Salvos a go.

When I walked into the op shop, I was a nervous wreck. My anxiety levels were high and I was depressed, but I remember being touched by the kindness and generosity of the staff. A fellow volunteer, Linda Velic, greeted me with a cheery ‘Hi’ and, at the end of the day I told her I would come back again. 

I went to shake her hand and she said, ‘We don’t shake hands around here’. She gave me a big hug and I thought, ‘I’m in the right place’. I felt instant warmth. It was good.

After a few months, I was invited to a ‘family gathering’ (similar to a church service) run by Bellarine Peninsula Corps Plant. I went—and no-one else turned up. I spoke with Lieutenants Diane and Peter Hobbs (ministers), and they listened to me moan and groan about my life. 

I remember two things from that day. Firstly, they said to me that I couldn’t reach my full potential unless I addressed a few issues in my life. The other thing that happened, which really touched me, was they prayed for me. No-one had ever done that for me before. It brought tears to my eyes, that I was worthy of a prayer—in their and God’s eyes.

I started coming to more of the gathering days for brunch and I got to see Jesus working in other people’s lives. I’m not ashamed to say it looked enticing and I decided I wanted a bit of that. I asked Jesus into my life and now I’m a different person.

On Di and Peter’s advice I sought counselling and, miraculously, things started to become clearer and I became stronger. I decided to make a police statement about the rape from my past. I can’t explain what a cleansing experience it was; to tell someone in authority was simply amazing for me. God was definitely there for me in that—I wouldn’t have got there without him or without the support of Di and Pete.

For anybody else who’s experienced an assault, I’d say deal with it. What really helped me was getting the help of The Salvation Army and Jesus. I’ve found talking about it is therapeutic. I’m still in the process of being healed, but I see myself getting through this, and getting more involved in the Salvos, learning more about Jesus and continuing praying.

I am privileged and humbled to be associated with such loving and enthusiastic people  as Pete and Di. I wear my Salvo top with pride, so that I too may be able to help someone like The Salvation Army has helped me. It’s good to be a part of the Bellarine Peninsula Salvation Army community because they talk about God and Jesus and how to live a life like Jesus, and that’s something I aspire to.

Other stories from Warcry

To read other stories from past issues of WarCry, click here.