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24 March 2022
Michelle, right, with Salvo Lynn, plays an active role in community outreach and fundraising.
Family finds a faith community at Shire Salvos, NSW
Words Jessica Morris
When Michelle Wheatley dropped into the Menai Salvos Coffee Spot in Sydney with her three-year-old son in 2006, she received more than a hot beverage.
Over a cuppa, she shared how she had started a playgroup but was searching for a new venue. She was told she could rent the Salvos hall and so began a journey that has led to more than 15 years of active involvement with the Menai Salvos (now part of Shire Salvos).
Holding faith in God since she was a teenager, Michelle was no stranger to church life, but she says “something was different” at Menai Salvos. And over the next decade, she witnessed God do something incredible in her life. “I was attending another church further away, and as time went on and my son [Jonah] started kindergarten, it felt like a natural progression to worship in the community in which our family lived and went to school,” she says.
“It was important for me that my children could invite friends from their school and community to their church and the activities. Sunbeams [group for girls aged 6-10] was the first organised group my daughter Casey attended, and she absolutely loved it.
“Next, there were Christmas and Easter performances, and Menai Salvos welcomed our family.”
Michelle says she also began a journey of exploring deeper faith. “I made my first commitment to be a Christian through youth groups as a teenager ... but never publicly, rather in private. So, a public declaration was very special for me,” she explains.
Michelle shows off her medal after completing the Sydney Marathon.
“In August 2016, I undertook classes at the Salvos and was blown away learning the history and DNA of The Salvation Army, their beliefs, theology, discipleship, purpose, and promise. I identified with Catherine Booth in particular, the ’Army Mother’, who raised a family whilst supporting her downtrodden community – no judgement ... she just got stuck into the work.
“So, in August 2016, I publicly stood up and declared myself an adherent of The Salvation Army, a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, a follower, a participant in the worship, fellowship, service, and support of the Menai Corps.
“I believe that actions speak louder than words, and I love supporting our community.”
Part of her community involvement is running. When she is not running children around or running an active career as an Executive Assistant, Michelle is seen in her running shoes. She has competed in several half-marathons and completed one full marathon. This year, her goal is to run a 50km ultra-marathon.
Today, Michelle and her family call Shire Salvos home. And after experiencing the depths of God’s love through community, she loves nothing more than seeing the stranger welcomed home. “Watching people walk through the doors of the corps (church) still fills me with pride, and it honestly feels like welcoming people into my home,” she says.
“It is my pleasure to create that sense of warmth, love, and acceptance to everyone that walks towards us, be it physically or remotely.”