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Filling the void

Filling the void

Filling the void

Salvos Stores area manager Bronwyn Vinen says the Army helped ‘activate’ her faith. Photo Kian Worthing.

By Bronwyn Vinen

I moved from tasmania to townsville in 1999 with my now ex-husband, who is in the military, and our two young children.

It was a move I didn’t want to make as it signalled sure deployment for my ex-husband, which did happen.

When he returned six months later, I decided to return to the workforce. I have a background in retail management and had been with a major company for 13 years.

I applied for a job as a store manager with Salvos Stores. I knew a bit about The Salvation Army through Red Shield Defence Services and chaplaincy.

Salvos Stores were restructuring at the time and I was offered an area manager role. My mentor was Freddy Choo, the former retail and marketing manager of Salvos Stores, who made a big impact on my life both professionally and personally.

I was attending a Uniting Church at the time but got to know a few Salvationists in the area. Majors Isabel and Norm Beckett were also significant mentors for me at the time. They gave me a clearer understanding of a faith journey.

They spoke everyday language I could understand, they referenced Scripture to real life and are exceptional leaders and teachers.

I started to attend chapel as the Townsville Riverway Recovery Mission was being built and learned a lot about recovery, homelessness, suicide and disadvantage.

I knew these things existed, of course, but working with people affected by them was life-changing for me. It was heartbreaking at times too – seeing young people the age of my children in devastating situations.

Seeing how and where The Salvation Army worked also showed me faith in action, and a lived, active, personal belief. It also showed me that being involved in ministry opened up a range of pathways to faith, and growing faith.

I grew up in a nurturing family, although Dad died when I was only six. I went to Sunday school with my six siblings, attended the Church of England, and we were encouraged to give thanks, volunteer, live generously and share.

Faith was there, but it wasn’t active. In talking to Captain Brad Whittle (Manager, Riverway Recovery Mission), I realised that I’d been praying, which was a wake-up call for me.

I’d also been associating Dad with God because I knew he was in heaven. The Becketts and in recent years Majors Beth and David Twivey would often come to the store and chat with us.

Beth was someone I would always check in with and share my thoughts. Together we started Warehouse Chapel – leading a chapel in the warehouse for staff, volunteers and interested customers.

This is something I would like to develop here. Now the void in my life has been filled – with God and serving others.

I am trying to encourage others to experience a faith journey through chapel at Fairhaven (Gold Coast Recovery Services), Palm Beach Corps (Freedom Chapel) or helping at Still Waters (Gold Coast Crisis Accommodation).

This is definitely more than a job for me. It is a way to help people and reignite, or discover, faith. I had a faith before The Salvation Army, but it wasn’t active.

The Army opened the doors for me to a personal, living faith in Jesus.

* Bronwyn is the Area Manager of Salvos Stores on Queensland’s Gold Coast, overseeing 13 stores from Murwillumbah in Northern NSW to Beenleigh, 35km south of Brisbane.


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