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'Sisters' in frontline service

'Sisters' in frontline service

'Sisters' in frontline service

11 June 2021

Rockhampton Salvationists Robyn (left) and Sandra love to serve together.

By Naomi Singlehurst

Rockhampton Salvationists Robyn and Sandra love to serve together. Despite their cultural differences, they see themselves as ‘sisters’ in service and life.

Robyn’s story

I was born in 1952 in Clermont, Central Queensland. I’m from an Indigenous family of nine children – six girls and three boys. Mum was a single parent, and it was tough to raise a family alone in those days.

In the 1960s, I was adopted by Mum’s brother and his wife, who had another child. We moved a bit, so I went to different primary schools, and I have a grade nine secondary education. I really enjoyed doing crafts and cooking and won prizes for sewing and cooking in country shows. 

In 1989, I was blessed with a daughter, who now has two children – a boy and a girl. Sadly, my biological mother died in 2003. 

I was employed as a tuckshop convenor in a primary school for about eight years, then as a childcare assistant for five years, but eventually had to give up the childcare job for medical reasons. I stayed home for a while, but I was very lonely and sad.

I was also very shy and scared of meeting people because of my culture, but finally, I decided to go to The Salvation Army in Rockhampton for someone to talk to and get some assistance for food. 

There I met two ladies, and they prayed for my daughter and me. I soon joined craft lessons, started going to church, Bible lessons and Home League, then became an adherent, then later became a soldier.

I had met Sandra 40 years ago, through my family. We lost touch, but seven years ago, we found each other, and not long after, I started coming to The Salvation Army.

I was pleased when Sandra started coming back to church. She told me I was the sister she never had because she only had brothers. It doesn’t make any difference what age or colour we are; we’re in the same family in God’s kingdom. I am very blessed that we found each other; we are great sisters. We even think alike.

Together with Sandra, I volunteer to help with welfare and with The Salvation Army Emergency Services when required, collect money for the Red Shield Appeal and help with ‘Christmas Under the Stars’. I enjoy volunteering, talking to people, helping people and making people laugh.  

Sandra’s story:

I have been in Australia since 1959, arriving from England a week before my 14th birthday. It took a while to settle into my new home, but I love Australia as it is home to me now.

I had a lot of different jobs but didn’t go to church. I met my first husband while working out west [Queensland], where my family had a café, and then we moved back to the city. God gave me a beautiful gift – a baby girl, but sadly she never knew her father as he ‘went to glory’ when she was only nine months old.   

Later, I met a nice man. We married and had four boys. All my children went to Sunday school, and my daughter joined The Salvation Army youth group. She loved learning about Jesus and making new friends. She eventually became a leader in SAGALA (The Salvation Army Guarding and Legion Activities), which brought her brothers into the corps. My daughter and one son got enrolled at Rockhampton Corps.  

One year, my daughter took me to a Salvation Army congress. At the end of the meeting, people were asked to go to the Mercy Seat. I was sitting by myself when a hand went on my shoulder, and a voice asked me to go forward. When I looked, no one was there. It was the Lord talking to me, so I did what he asked.   

When I returned to Rockhampton, I also joined the corps, but, sadly, after a while, I lost my way and stopped going to church. My life went on hold. I lost my second husband and became lonely and lost. Then one day, my granddaughter, aged six, asked me to go to church with her. So, I did … and have been going ever since.   

One Sunday, I was asked if I could do some volunteer work for Welfare Connect, so I went along and learnt to do phone messages and have been doing it now for seven years.   

Through the church, God gave me a lovely ‘sister’ in Robyn. We have known each other for just over 40 years but were not that close until we met again in church. Now we do everything together for our church.   

We belong to The Salvation Army Emergency Services, where we do meals, food and drinks in bushfires and floods. We also do breakfast for about 50 to 60 people on our ‘homeless day’, when everyone helps those in need. We also do family sausage sizzles at a local park, cook takeaway at ‘Christmas Under the Stars’, and do Red Shield Appeal.

When Cyclone Marcia came [in February 2015], we helped hundreds of people, filling out forms for food and help. There were four of us helping, including Robyn and me. We met a lot of nice people, and we worked from Monday to Friday for four weeks. Now, we both do welfare Monday and Friday, and it is very rewarding knowing we are working for the Lord.

Knowing you are helping others gives you a wonderful feeling. It’s good having Robyn in my life, as I did not have a sister, only brothers. Robyn and I share a lot, from work to family. My own family think of Robyn as one of the family. Age, colour, country of origin does not make any difference. We are all God’s children, which makes us one in God’s eyes.

Naomi Singlehurst is Content Specialist - Mission, in The Salvation Army Brand and Marketing Department.

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