The effects of years of painful abuse disappeared when Julie Hardy allowed God into her life.
"I would like to share with you how, by letting God into your life, it will change it forever. It happened to me and can happen to you," Julie says.
She remembers having to grow up fast and look after her three younger siblings because their mother suffered badly from mental blackouts, alcohol abuse and aggression.
"After my parents separated, I spent the next few years in and out of foster homes and ended up living on the streets of Adelaide from 14 to 16 years of age," she recalls.
"By this time I thought that no one cared how I felt and my personal confidence was nil."
By the time Julie was 16, she was in a very abusive relationship and felt that she had no way out.
"This ended up with me losing my children to welfare and made me feel as low as a person could feel. I had no family, no children and felt my life couldn't get any worse," she explains.
"Well I was wrong. In the next few years my father was killed by a train and I had to identify him. My brother also died after being mauled by wild dogs, and I lost a dear friend who never recovered from a severe stroke – he had been a father figure for me when I lived on the streets.
"This really drove me to desperation, with suicidal feelings, as I felt there was nothing left in the world for me."
She moved to Port Augusta with her partner in 2000 but soon found the strength to leave him a couple of months later.
Then, in 2013, Julie heard about a new church building in Port Augusta where she met the ministers, Dave and Claire.
"Although I used to attend church in my younger days, I didn't really understand much about religion and how it can change your life," she shares.
Dave and Claire helped Julie understand who Jesus was and the new life offered to her through faith and trust in Him as Lord and Saviour of her life.
"[Dave and Claire] worked together to free the chains that bound me," Julie explains.
"I felt the Holy Spirit move through me, from head to toe like a warm heat from fire, and all that weight just lifted off me. I immediately felt peace. The strength of the Holy Spirit opened my eyes and heart and I was reborn (spiritually).
"I now see the world in a new bright and beautiful way and I know as long as you have God in your life, there is hope."
Today, Julie says the hurts from the past and all of the things that worried her before now have no effect on her.
"My outlook in life is so different since giving my life to God. I am now looking forward to life and working in the Salvation Army store. Life has changed not only for me, but for my partner and children all of whom attend our local church. We look forward to a wonderful life together with God in it." •
Story and photo courtesy Warcry magazine of the Salvation Army