The Greatest Commandment
Georgia Braun from Kāpiti Corps shares her journey of discovering Jesus during her high school years, and the significant role that family—both by blood and by connections of faith—has had in her life since.
I was born into a wonderful, quirky and blended family. My parents separated when I was five, resulting in my younger brother, Harrison, and I navigating constant moving, grief and, for me, anxiety that developed into obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). However, I knew I was always loved, and my family are the most important people in my life.
I didn’t grow up attending church; I was a strong atheist. I would often mock others who believed, yet I would find myself talking to the roof and ‘praying’ to someone greater than me on sleepless nights.
My incredible mum is not a Christian, but for some reason she decided to send me to St Catherine’s College—a Catholic high school in Wellington. I remember seeing a Bible on the stationery list for school and turning my nose up at the thought of purchasing a Bible. I would sing worship songs, not because I had a relationship with God, but because it was what we had to do.
In 2011, my childhood friend Gemma invited me to Miramar Corps. I was introduced to many lovely and welcoming people on my first Sunday there. For some reason, I kept going back and became more curious about the songs I was singing and the Scripture I was reading.
My life changed in 2012 at Amplify, a Salvation Army creative arts camp for young people at Silverstream. I was at night church when the preacher metaphorically likened humans to plants. He discussed how we are capable of being replanted and re-potted, saying there is new life and growth in Jesus.
I was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit; I felt a tangible shift of joy within my body and truly embraced God for the first time. From that point, and across my last two years of college, I sang ‘Here I Am to Worship’ at school from a different heart posture—from a place of adoration instead of from the teachers making me sing.
Ever since that evening in 2012, I have loved God as my Father, embracing my faith as something that is true, life-giving and a relationship of joy, where I am always learning to become more like him. I was a young 15-year-old girl, walking half an hour to church by myself, and yet I never felt alone.
Major Elizabeth Hutson from Miramar Corps has been my mentor since 2012. She used to meet with me in the carpark at school over lunchtime to teach me how to pray, and she has been faithfully praying for me ever since. She stayed in contact with me when I was overseas, and every few weeks she still checks in. She stood beside me as I became a soldier of The Salvation Army, and she officiated at my marriage to Teghan, my incredible Canadian husband. Elizabeth has demonstrated to me what a faithful, steadfast encourager and prayer warrior looks like. She continues to be a model of passion, devotion and faith in the valley and on ordinary days.
I attended Miramar Corps up until last year, when we moved to Waikanae and started attending Kāpiti Corps. I have followed God around the world and met Teghan in Hawaii at a Salvation Army discipleship programme, Revolution Hawaii. It was on the beach in Hawaii when God first placed social work on my heart, and at the end of last year I became a registered social worker. During my social work degree, I truly realised how whānau (family) does not need to be biological. My testimony of becoming a Christian and journeying as a follower of Christ is a testament to the gracious, generous and loving families and individuals God placed in my life to love, embrace and teach me.
My brother, Harrison, is now a Christian. He has such a pure and deep faith, and we complete a Bible study every day together. It is an answer to prayer for me and the best thing ever. My dad has also recently been curious about Christianity and has been getting along to St Luke’s Church in Waikanae. He says he is believing in God more and more because of how my brother and I live our lives, and he recognises God as being everywhere. He says that when he walks into church, he feels like he belongs there.
I believe that church should be a place where everyone can feel welcomed, and as a social worker with a heart for the people that society generally perceives as the ‘down-and-out’, I am constantly reminded that we are simply called to love others. This is the greatest commandment, to love others and love God.
As a social worker, I work with rangatahi (youth) who are often experiencing so much in their lives: addiction, abuse, homelessness, abortion, disconnection, racism… the list goes on. We are called to be people who love and embrace others, both inside and outside the church building, because that is what is required of us—to put love into action.
My work has helped raise some questions around this for me: how often do we examine our biases towards others? How often do we embrace others and foster a sense of belonging for them? How do we show that we believe every person is worthy of love? I want my life to foster the belonging, the identities and to love others because they are worthy—and because Jesus, who died for us when we were not worthy, calls us to.