The Antidote to Despair
“I receive such great satisfaction from making Christmas just right for families. No matter who they are, or where they’ve come from, an extension of God’s love touches the hearts of families every year. The first year we helped Connie and her kids at Christmas placed within me a new sense of hope. Every year, my heart is stretched that little bit further in understanding that what I do has far more impact on others than I realise.” – Major Belinda Spicer
Connie Wilson lost her job through no fault of her own. She had been diagnosed with cancer and had no money to buy Christmas presents for her four children. Her husband was working permanent night-shifts just to put food on the table, but the bills had started to pile up, including the one for her potentially life-saving chemotherapy treatment.
Despair sat like a stone in her stomach, while butterflies of anxiety fluttered in her chest.
“I was feeling bad that I had cancer, that I wasn’t able to work, and that I couldn’t afford to buy the kids anything,” Connie remembers.
Asking for help wasn’t in her nature. The family were never flush with money, but they always had enough to get by. If it wasn’t for a chance meeting with Salvation Army Major Belinda Spicer (Mission Leader, Liverpool) a few years prior, Connie would never have known there was an antidote to her despair.
“I met Belinda because our eldest sons played rugby league together,” Connie says. When Belinda invited Connie to church, she and her kids went along to check it out.
“I liked the worshipping, it was just beautiful. The kids felt welcomed; it felt like their own little personal family away from home. They loved it.”
It was as though God was planting the seeds of hope in Connie in preparation for the day – 26 July 2015 – when despair would start to settle. It was that day Connie discovered a lump in her breast. The doctors confirmed it was breast cancer.
A few months later the shop she was working in closed down. The family was juggling the extra bills associated with her cancer treatment and all of a sudden, the fine balance was broken. They could no longer make ends meet.
Connie describes Major Belinda Spicer and others at The Salvation Army in Liverpool as her “angels”. They connected her with her local Salvation Army Food 4 Life market, where she now gets low-cost groceries, fresh fruit, vegetables and bread. But the best thing, though, was just before Christmas when Major Belinda told Connie about The Salvation Army’s Christmas Cheer.
Through the Kmart Wishing Tree and other generous donations, Connie and her husband received a bag of new gifts for each of their children.
“I don’t know what we would have done without it,” says Connie. “Christmas was absolutely beautiful.”
“Connie’s Christmas hope was a great source of encouragement for her, amidst her sickness and circumstances,” says Major Belinda. “As The Salvation Army, we are bestowing love and grace upon families when we give Christmas toys.”
Connie’s situation has not changed. She is still undergoing treatment for her breast cancer. The family is still trying to scrape through on one income. Life is a struggle.
But the despair has lifted because Connie and her family are no longer alone. The anxiety butterflies don’t flutter in her chest as much because Connie knows she has support – people she can turn to for help.
“Connie and her family have seen their lives transformed, mostly through Jesus’ love and grace, and the support and love of a church family,” says Major Belinda.
So, what is the antidote to despair?
“Hope through Jesus has been the anchor that has kept Connie going,” says Major Belinda.
You [God our Saviour] are the hope of everyone on earth. - Psalm 65:5 (NLT).
How will you share hope with other people this Christmas?