18 December, 2020
Pregnant Homeless Unemployed and on the verge of suicide but there was still hope
The Christmas period is often a time when many people feel alone and hopeless. This festive season is expected to be harsher than others due to the economic hardship many are suffering as a result of COVID-19.
The Salvation Army recently released figures showing a huge jump in those that are struggling economically as a result of the pandemic with the Salvos working to help those in need over December.
However, if there is anybody who understands what it’s like to be down-and-out it’s Salvation Army Corp Officer Jisook Wunderlich, 41, from the organisation’s Emerald branch.
Because years ago a heavily pregnant Jisook was homeless, unemployed, experiencing family difficulties and on the verge of suicide.
Originally from South Korea, after studying in Canada, she had immigrated to Australia to join her Australian husband Marcus in 2007 and to make a new life for herself.
Marcus had hoped for a career in the military but was refused due to fears that Jisook could be a South Korean spy.
With both of them unemployed and about to be evicted from their temporary accommodation - and after a gun had been pointed at them by a mentally unstable neighbour - Jisook felt desperate but too proud to contact her family in South Korea, who she was no longer so close to, because it would have been too humiliating to show her life in Australia was a failure.
“I stood looking at the doorway in my house trying to work out a way to hang myself,” said Jisook.
“Everything I had worked for and dreamed of had come to nothing and there seemed no point in continuing especially as I had nothing to offer my baby who was almost due.
“I had been brought up an atheist and didn’t believe in God as my father had told me that most Christians were hypocrites who said one thing but did another.
“However, I had temporarily joined a Korean church in Canada due to feeling isolated and because I missed Korean food,” explained Jisook.
But as she stood in the doorway considering how to end it all something very dramatic happened.
“I had a spiritual epiphany where I saw a vision of Jesus being crucified on the cross.
“He looked at me as he sweated with blood pouring from his wounds and asked if I was in pain,” she recalled.
“Suddenly it dawned on me that my suffering was nothing compared to his and I even felt as though I was part of the crowd throwing stones at Jesus on the cross with my attitude.”
The experience had a profound effect on the Salvation Army officer.
“Previously my sense of joy in life had been based on adventure but now I realised I was no longer the captain of my ship and became a Christian the following morning.”
Jisook and her husband were later employed by the Salvation Army after she came into contact with Salvo volunteers and decided she wanted to be part of the organisation.
Emerald has now been home for the Wunderlichs for seven years and their family now includes three children, a son of 13 and two daughters of 11 and seven.
“I get so much satisfaction from my work and I love the Emerald community,” said Jisook.
Part of the satisfaction is helping people who have gone through a similar experience to the one she went through years ago.
“One of my clients in Emerald had gone through a relationship breakdown and had become homeless living in his car,” said Jisook.
“He had actually gone through the process of slitting his wrists in despair but was found in the nick of time by colleagues as he lay bleeding on the floor.
“He was rushed to hospital in a critical condition and when he recovered we allowed him to sleep at the Salvation centre where we all prayed for his full recovery.”
When the Salvos were able to talk to him he explained he had had a strange dream while in hospital.
“He dreamed about a Man who was walking on water who had reached out a hand out to him as he called out to the Man not to let him go,” said Jisook.
Marcus subsequently explained to him who the Man was who he had seen walking on water and his life too changed forever.