Jan Warrander couldn’t have imagined where her journey would take her.
I was born in London and spent my first 18 years there. It was an exciting time, especially in my early teens; Rock and roll was happening. It was the start of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and mini-skirts.
My father came from a fairly wealthy Jewish family, but he was the black sheep because of his gambling and then, more so, when he married a non-Jewish woman. My mother was the strength of our family, a woman of integrity. She was clever, creative and a wonderful dressmaker. Even though we were quite poor, I always had great clothes.
I got married at 18, and because I wanted to travel but we couldn’t afford it, we decided to migrate to Australia. We landed at Sydney airport and were met by friends who lived in Cronulla (NSW) and had rented us a little flat there. I instantly fell in love with Australia, loved the weather, the beaches and the laid-back lifestyle and have been here now for 50 years.
Unfortunately, after nine years my marriage fell apart, but I had two wonderful sons who were the joy of my life. After six years as a single mum, I met Richard, fell in love, and we have now been married for 35 years.
Richard was in the military, so we moved around, which allowed me to experience different parts of Australia, but in 1988 we came back to Dee Why in Sydney’s northern beaches. We both had good jobs, so money wasn’t a problem—which was good because I was quite materialistic at the time—but I wasn’t satisfied with my life. I knew there was something missing.
Each day, going to and from work, I passed The Salvation Army building. One Sunday evening I told Richard I was going to a Salvo church service and asked if he wanted to come? I think he felt I’d lost my mind, but I went anyway and heard the message given by Captain David Twivey, which seemed solely directed at me. Had he read my thoughts?
Mine was not a quick conversion—it took months of attending services, asking questions, reading the Bible, talking with other Christians. Eventually, I surrendered my heart to Jesus and he changed the direction of my life.
It began by starting work with Captain Twivey as his assistant and volunteering in the welfare centre. Over the next few years I also worked for the wonderful officers (ministers) at Liverpool and Bankstown Salvos, and all the while God was transforming my life. I then got a call to go work with Captains David and Beth again, this time at Auburn Salvos, where I worked for 10 years full-time in charge of community services and outreach programs.
God took hold even more strongly of my life. When Major Miriam Gluyas became Auburn’s corps officer, through her encouragement and vision, along with the support of the great people of the church, we started many ministries, groups and outreach to refugees. What an amazing time it was, seeing God at work through all our lives.
Five years ago, Richard and I had to make a huge decision. Both our sons were living in Brisbane, we had a new grandchild and I so wanted to be part of her life. After much prayer, I believe God said it was Okay to go and we moved to Queensland. It was a big adjustment to make, but through it all I felt God’s love and strength. I now belong to another great Salvo church at North Brisbane, where I am the welfare worker.
I need God’s strength every day. He is my hope, for now and for what’s to come. He has given me a freedom I couldn’t have imagined 25 years ago and has transformed my life.