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9 February 2021
Left: Zoe, with her puppy Jessie May, is living proof that God is really there, no matter what your life looks like. Right: Major Sandra Nottle holds the poem Zoe wrote and painted the day she became a Christian.
Words Zoe Faith-Esperance
If I look at my life in a rear-view mirror, things have been unbelievably difficult. I had a traumatic childhood and wasn’t treated well by some members of my family.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced in life was when I lost my surrogate daughter on the same day my husband died by suicide. I don’t know how I got through that day.
There have been times when I tried to die, but I was rescued. I remember seeing Jesus’ face before the police came and kept me alive. God wanted me here.
Before I found Project 614 [The Salvation Army Melbourne in inner-city Bourke St], I was having a bad time living on the streets. I was hungry and mentally unwell, and I was being pushed around. I ran into Salvation Army 614 street teams, and I asked them, “Where’s God? I can’t find him!”
I had no shoes, my feet were very sore, and I ended up in hospital. One day, I found myself outside the 614 building and met Sandra [Major Sandra Nottle, Project 614 leader]. I asked Sandra if she worked there and she explained who she was and what she did. She has become a good friend and means so much to me. It is a joy now to know that when I walk into a room at church, people are excited and happy to see me. Sandra is always like that.
I was led to faith in Jesus at the Benwerren Retreat for women and children, in Yarra Junction, about five years ago.
Before that, I’d had some very rough teenage years, and I found it hard to trust. I used to do sex work, and I had a chunky ring I’d wear to protect myself. I gave my ring to Sandra because I trusted her, and I decided I would not be working on the street anymore. That was the same day I decided I wanted to become a Salvo.
I think God is amazing. On the day I became a Christian I wrote a poem that said, “I have so many things to tell you ... God is really there, no matter what you’ve done ... no matter what you’ve been through ...”
God has helped me heal parts of my life. He got me off drugs; I was using ice. When I went off it, there was a week when I just wanted to sleep. I have relapsed in the past, but I am on a good run.
I have learnt never to count my chooks before they hatch. You have to be realistic in life, protect yourself and listen to your instincts. But that doesn’t mean you have to write God off.
I coped well with the COVID-19 lockdown. I have been doing it a bit hard financially but for a good reason – I have saved up and bought a Shar-Pei puppy. I have called her Jessie May.
Life is fantastic. I just turned 40. I do miss the chance to get out to 614 and sing soprano and alto with their choir. I also sing in the With One Voice choir, run by Creativity Australia. I love singing; it lifts my heart.
I feel part of the 614 family, and even though we are absent physically [through COVID restrictions], we can still call and be thinking of each other.
I was sceptical about God, but it’s amazing I am still alive, considering the life I have lived. I encourage people to take small steps with God until they are comfortable with the big picture. It’s worth it.
As told to Barry Gittins – Marketplace Coordinator, Melbourne Project 614
If you have thoughts of suicide, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.