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Following God the real way

Following God the real way

Following God the real way

The acceptance Ben found in his corps band was a key part of the turnaround in his spiritual journey as a teenager. 

By Ben Hateley

As an officers’ kid, I’ve been in The Salvation Army my whole life, but I haven’t always been a good Salvationist.

My relationship with God was stagnant and fractured in many respects. I didn’t connect amazingly well with people in my corps and it meant I felt a bit disenfranchised with the church in general – it just wasn’t engaging me in any way.

I had some friends who liked to have a drink, so I started just doing that. I almost felt more accepted in that world than in the church world. I started getting into the party scene when I was 14 and was drinking pretty heavily.

When I turned 17 I went right off the rails. My family moved from Victoria to Adelaide and that’s where it all fell apart. I actually became quite involved with the church youth group, but at the same time I didn’t change my behaviours on the side.

Eventually, the truth came out that I wasn’t being the responsible leader that I should have been. I was stepped down for a period of time from youth leadership so I could make crucial decisions about who I wanted to be.

I had damaged relationships with my friends and parents. And I was doing damage to myself. Because of the lifestyle I’d been living, that same week I was admitted to hospital. Doctors told me if I’d gone even 24 hours later, I would have had to go through dialysis.

All through this, I certainly still had a faith, but I wasn’t living it all that well. Then my dad suggested I join the corps band. I’d played trumpet and cornet before, but I wasn’t all that keen.

I had nothing to lose though, so I went along and ended up sitting between a bunch of older guys, and they were excellent. They didn’t particularly care where I’d been or what I’d done.

They just talked to me like I was any other person. I stuck with this for the next seven years, mainly because it was a good community. I enjoyed the music, but I came to realise that music for God is an act of worship.

So I poured myself out, and allowed God to come in. My life today compared to my 17-year-old self is chalk and cheese. I work for The Salvation Army in the public relations department in South Australia, and focus mainly on school and community engagement.

I went to The Salvation Army’s international Boundless Congress in 2015, wanting to make the most of every opportunity but also to seek out opportunities to “pay back” God and the Army back for the investment in my life.

Through connections at Boundless, I was later invited to be a keynote speaker at a conference in Nigeria where I shared the Word of God with 2000 young people there.

This was absolutely incredible compared to where I’d been seven years before and was a massive turnaround in my life. I realised that, unless you turn around and start to live an active Christian lifestyle, these things don’t happen by chance.

For a period of time I could bluff my way through life. I could talk the talk without walking the walk, but that’s the short-term way of doing life. Now I try to be genuine in what I do – when things are and aren’t going well.

I know that even though sometimes my personal life isn’t going so great, when I am doing things that are in the will of God, then I am still okay.

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