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29 November 2021
Brayden, left, and his siblings have been collecting for The Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal all their lives.
Words Naomi Singlehurst
Very few people could say they had been a Christmas volunteer all their lives, but for 17-year-old Salvos volunteer Brayden, that is close to the truth. As a baby, Brayden came to the Salvos with his parents, who volunteered with the Salvos every Christmas. As soon as he was old enough, Brayden began unpacking and sorting toys.
Last Christmas, Brayden supported hundreds of community members by helping at the North Brisbane Salvos’ ‘Lavish’ Christmas support initiative. “We are really community-driven, and I love being involved and helping out,” Brayden says.
“I loved seeing and meeting all the different people that came through for ‘Lavish’. I was taking the toys out to their cars in wheelbarrows, and I really liked talking to them [and] hearing their personal stories.”
Brayden says that what struck him most was that so many of those he met had lives much like his own, but whose circumstances, such as illness and unemployment, meant they were struggling.
“They were all just everyday people,” he says. “It was lovely connecting with [those] who just needed a bit of extra help because of their situations. Seeing people with smiles on their faces coming through and getting presents they may not have been able to get otherwise was amazing. That little bit extra just helped them out so much. What I could do helped make a real difference to others and meant a much happier Christmas.”
Brayden gets great joy from volunteering and the sense of camaraderie with other volunteers. He also plays in the Salvos worship team on bass guitar or drums and sings.
“I love serving not just [at the Salvos] but also in school,” Brayden shares. “I just love serving the community in different ways and hope maybe to be a musician or music teacher one day and [also] stay involved with the Salvos as a youth leader and in the band into the future.
Distributing to those in need is part of Brayden's volunteer work.
Christian faith is a deep motivator for Brayden, and Christmas is a time he feels he can respectfully share his faith with others who may be interested, without pushing it on them in any way.
He says: “Christmas to me is about connecting with people, with family and with God and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Helping others and sharing why I help at Christmas is a great way to live out and communicate my Christian faith.”
Brayden encourages anyone looking to reconnect with their faith, or to explore it, to consider attending church at Christmas time.
He says: “I would say to anyone interested, ‘give church a go’. There will be heaps of different people there who find Christmas a really good time to connect. Everyone [is] learning about God, reconnecting with God, or connecting with God and learning about Jesus. It can be life-changing!”
Salvos Youth Minister Brett Scotland says it is exciting to have an age range of volunteers, including teens, helping at Christmastime.
“It is really exciting to see the future of our church being carried forward in not just words, but real actions, by young people [including Brayden],” he says. “In all the busyness of their world – school, family, music, sport – they are engaging in church stuff and reaching out to help others. And they are not just doing it but doing it and enjoying it.