Stella Derham is only 17 years old but is already volunteering in various ways at Linwood Corps, the church where she grew up. She shares the value of finding God through her family’s faith and serving in her home church.
I grew up in Christchurch and have lived here my whole life. I was born into a Christian family, and attend Linwood Corps with my parents and younger brother. My great-grandparents were actually corps officers back in the day, so I come from four generations of Salvationists. My parents originally went to different churches, and I think they actually met at an Easter Camp. I started connecting with God when I was younger and still do today.
My grandparents have always valued what’s right and that’s helped in the upbringing of myself and my brother. My grandma’s probably one of my biggest role models. She always says that God’s with us all the time. As a family, we always go to church on Sunday morning and then go to her house for lunch, which is a family Sunday tradition. My grandparents have always been there, and I think it would have been different if they weren’t always at church.
Due to my family’s involvement in the Army, my brother and I were involved from a young age. I helped out when I was five during the Christchurch earthquakes. The only thing I really remember is the white crate boxes for food parcels. Even now, during the holidays, I still volunteer. I go in to help with the foodbank, or at Christmas time I’ll go in and help with the Christmas hampers. I’m always really happy to see the smiles on people’s faces.
I was enrolled as a junior soldier when I was only seven. When I was first enrolled, there was a woman who took me through the course. But then through my bronze, silver and gold levels, my grandmother actually took my classes. I enrolled as a junior soldier the same day one of the older senior soldiers had their special anniversary. There was a cake and I got to cut the cake with her. It was special becoming the newest young soldier, celebrating with the oldest soldier.
I always knew God existed because people had told me, but I’d never actually thought of him myself. When I was 13, I went to my first Easter Camp, where I first encountered God. One of the speakers spoke about healing and asked if there was something that we needed healed. I’ve always had issues with my ankles, they were always sore. Miraculously that night, they just stopped hurting. This then kicked off me going to youth councils and being involved in Linwood Corps’ Youth Group.
I now volunteer at the kids church (Kingdom Kids), and also the kids camps. Every Sunday the children run up and give me hugs and they’re always happy to see me. One thing I’ve noticed is they always play a promo video up on the screen every Sunday, to count the kids down to go out to their programme, and it has actually got photos on it from when I was still at Kingdom Kids, when I was only 12 or 13 years old.
When I was five and six, I was always at the front during worship dancing—young, energetic, happy, spontaneous dancing. Now I see the young girls at the corps dancing too. I started it and now a lot of the families who weren’t there when I was a child do it too.
I’ve been in the music team since I was 12 and sing in the music team every week. I’ve always been into music. From age 13 I was in the music team at youth councils for three years, singing and playing the bass. I’ve always had a love for music and am quite passionate about it. My dad is in the band. My dad plays the trumpet and has always been involved. My grandma used to play the piano when she was younger. I think I saw what they were doing and got interested in music too. I mean, I’ve sung pretty much my whole life. People have said to me, were you born with a microphone in your hand?
I also do barista volunteering. I got barista training at school, so I’m a school barista. People at church found out and they were like, ‘Oh, we should have a barista at church’. So we ended up getting a coffee machine. Now I make coffee before and after church every Sunday. I’m practising for when I have to do them at school. It’s really cool. It’s pretty much just the regulars who always like them. But it’s kind of cool when new people end up wanting to try it. I’m behind the counter where no one can see me, but the people who do see me making coffees come up and have a chat with me.
I’m in my last year of school this year. I’m Head Girl, and play lots of sports, so that’s keeping me quite busy. But I always find time to go to church. Even if I go to university or wherever I end up after school, I’ll still try to keep going to church. I also want to become a youth leader because this year is my last Easter Camp. So I’m hoping to go as a leader next year.
There have been a few times when I think, God’s not there and nothing’s helping; nothing’s going along as it should. But then I just look back at my family and remember that he’s still there. It’s just that not everything in life is always good.
I think always going to church is a good thing. I’ve just always been there, and then I got involved in heaps of stuff. I’ve always loved helping people and volunteering. If young people do that too, that will take a whole lot of stress off lots of adults. I would say to young people to always try to be happy and look at all the good things there are in life.