Military man found the acceptance he longed for
A desire for the love and acceptance he lacked as a child sent Ross Hall into gangs and the military before he found his everlasting worth.
The son of an ex-serviceman turned violent alcoholic, Ross attributes his childhood rebellion to an unfriendly family environment.
"Mum used to say that it wasn't dad's fault;" Ross recalls, "that he was different after he came back from the war – struggling to cope with family life, even though he had a wife and children who loved him."
Lacking love from a father unable to give it and from a mother too busy providing for the family, Ross looked to the streets for a sense of family and belonging.
"I got caught up in gangs, selling and using drugs, from the age of nine," he says, and explains how his life started getting out of control.
"The gangs owned me and firearms and violence were a part of everyday life."
At age 18, after he had been involved in a violent incident and was facing serious jail time.
With this in mind Ross took advice from his father to join the military commencing 14 years of service at 21 years old.
There, he found the sense of belonging he had sought his entire childhood.
"The military became my new family. It provided necessary discipline, friends, a sense of belonging and I began to feel valued," Ross says.
Then, in 2009, Ross thought he was going crazy during a nine-day patrol when he heard the words 'John, three, 16' continuously running through his mind.
He sought out the medic for a diagnosis and was referred to the psych doctor, who in turn referred him to the chaplain.
"The chaplain listened and shared that John chapter 3 verse 16 was a verse in the Bible that says, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life,'" Ross says.
Ross pondered on this message from God and, a week later, the chaplain explained the significance of Jesus' sacrifice – how He had died on the cross so Ross could be forgiven from his life of crime and all the things he had done wrong.
Ross was also told how much God loved him, with an abundant, unconditional fatherly love he had always craved.
"My life was changed as I received forgiveness and new life. There were many tears of joy that day."
But it turned out a life with Jesus did not mean everything would be smooth sailing.
After returning home, still affected by the trauma of the war, Ross felt everything was falling apart when his marriage of 10 years suddenly ended.
One day he randomly got on a train, recalling: "I didn't care where I ended up because I was planning to end my life."
The train took him to Warrnambool and he began living on the beach there.
Veteran Affairs soon discovered this and put him in contact with someone to try organize emergency housing.
"I was in a dark place and felt disconnected from God, thinking that God had left and given up on me," he says.
But God was not finished, as Ross realised through a 10-week 'Positive Lifestyle Program', which helped him regain some stability in life and reminded him he was a person of worth.
"Partway through the program, I felt the love of God in a powerful way and recommitted my life to God," he says.
Ross began attending a Christian church in Warrnambool regularly, volunteering in different areas.
He realized people there loved and accepted him for who he was, as did the Lord Jesus. Completely forgiven, he could live his life free from the guilt and loneliness he associated with his past.
"I still struggle at times," he says. "But I know that these people love and support me and that God is always there for me and will never leave me." •
Courtesy Salvation Army Warcry magazine