Yarmouth woman's story of renewed faith
2010: A Great Yarmouth ex-servicewoman has told how her mother held on to life to give her an opportunity to renew her faith. Sarah Redford, 59, (pictured left with Lieutenant Rob Symons) had frequent conversations over eight days at the bedside of her ailing mother with the local Salvation Army leader, who had answered the care home’s call for a vicar to administer last rites to Sally Pitts.
The medics at the local Marine Court Nursing Home did not expect Sally, who was stricken with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Syndromes, to make it through the night of 7th May 2008.
’The home manager couldn’t find a vicar but she contacted The Salvation Army,whose then-leader Captain Nigel (Byrne) offered to be with me, even though Salvation Army ministers don’t do last rites but pray for everyone involved in a situation like that. Nigel really helped me deal with the trauma. Mum held on that night and she kept holding on, and Nigel kept coming back to pray and chat. I was sad, obviously, but we couldn’t understand how and why Mum was hanging on. Now I know!’
It was a full eight days before Sally died, aged 88, by which time her daughter’s previous apprehension to church had been eroded. ‘I had always had a faith but didn’t always follow it. I was a member of another church but went because I felt it was the right thing to do, not because I really wanted to. That’s changed now.
’Nigel and Mike (Wallis) one of the local Salvation Army church leadership team kindly came to Mum’s funeral and when I first came to the church, I found out that the congregation had been praying for my peace and comfort throughout this period. It gave me such a warm feeling to know that people who didn’t even know me were doing that. I felt the impact of those prayers.
’Still I wanted to be sure of what I was doing, so I went through the Adherents Course with Nigel, learning about what The Salvation Army was all about and what it would mean if I joined. The course was held at the Citadel in Great Yarmouth and in October 2008 I became an Adherent member of The Salvation Army.
‘In November 2009 I spoke to Lieutenant Rob (Symons) one of the church’s new leaders about becoming a soldier. He and I sat in Sainsburys for over an hour for each of the sessions going through the soldier’s course while people stared! I didn’t care because I needed to know what I was getting into.’
It all sounded fine to Sarah, who decided to become a soldier (a full member) of the Salvation Army church in Great Yarmouth. But where would the part-time teaching assistant find the £200 to pay for the traditional Salvation Army uniform?
‘I constantly asked God to help me, questioning whether I was doing this for the right reasons. At that time, I picked up a voicemail message telling me I had won a mobile phone from entering a flower competition. I called the company back and I was told I could have a cheque for £250 instead! There was my uniform money! That was a real blessing and an answer to prayer. Now, after careers in the Army and Prison Service, I am back in a uniform!’ Now an active member of The Salvation Army church, which is also led by Lieut. Rob’s wife, Lieut. Georgina, Sarah is enjoying “having a second family at the church” and being able to help others.
‘I’m not sure I would have been able to appreciate God fully when I was younger. I feel an extra sense of God’s grace. Now I understand why Mum held on as long as she did, to give me a chance at the new life I now have. If a person cannot live without liquid for two days, how could Mum survive for eight? It’s because God was opening a door for me. Captain Nigel was meant to come to the home and I am so thankful that he did.’
’As a Christian minister, it is a real blessing when anyone makes a commitment to serve God in any church,’ said Lieut. Rob. ’To see someone deepen in their faith and desire to serve God and want to live out their faith publicly with boldness is really exciting. Some would say that the church needs “leaders” and whilst that may be true, what every church actually needs is “Soldiers” - those who will take up their “mantle” in proclaiming the good news of the Gospel, play their part in the Kingdom of God, the part that God has especially written for them.’
’Sarah’s enthusiasm and eagerness to share her faith is really refreshing to see and is an infectious example to others. She lives out the Christian life and demonstrates it in practical ways, always wanting to befriend and help those in need. As ministers, that’s what we pray and work towards every day. As Christians, we believe that there is a God-shaped hole in every person’s life that only God can fill,’ continued Lieut. Rob.