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Lisa Martin follows faith to LaGrange

It was worth the wait.

Lisa Martin, a native of Australia, made her way across the globe and re-located to the United States in 2007.

In March, 14 years after Martin arrived in Seattle to begin her life in this country, she achieved a long-time goal when she became a United States citizen.

Martin, the director of the LaGrange branch of The Salvation Army since 2018, began the process of becoming a citizen not long after she came to the United States, but she had to start everything over after she spent two years in Australia.

When Martin returned to the United States in 2015, she found out that she would have to begin anew her quest for citizenship.

“Because I’d been gone, I had to start again, which means I had to wait five years before I could put in (for citizenship),” Martin said.

Last August, Martin drove to Montgomery, Alabama to take the citizenship test, which she passed, and the waiting continued.

“I go there, and pass the test, and they said it’ll probably be two or three months,” Martin said.

Finally, in March, Martin got the word that the wait was over. At long last, she was about to become a citizen of a country she’d called home for nearly 15 years.

With her dog Banjo accompanying her, Martin returned to Alabama and received her Certificate of Citizenship.

Before COVID-19, Martin would have participated in a ceremony with other new citizens, but that’s all changed now.

“It was a drive-thru,” Martin said. “You drive up, roll down the window, they give you the thing to swear, and off you go.”

The experience may have seemed anti-climactic, but it was nonetheless an impactful moment for Martin, who finally achieved her citizenship goal, one 14 years in the making.  

“God is just awesome,” Martin said. “That’s all I can tell you.”

Following God’s plan is something Martin has always done.

It’s what brought her to the United States after marrying an American, and it’s the reason she moved to the southern part of the country a few years later.

Martin, who has a background as a minister, was invited to speak in Selma, Alabama, and she ended up making that her home in 2009.

“A week before I was meant to leave (for Alabama), I heard the Lord say to me, pack up your car you’re leaving,” Martin recalls.

Martin later moved to Prattville, Alabama before returning to Australia where she remained for two years.

Once again, she felt the calling to come back to the United States, and the fact that her daughter, Emily, was living in Alabama made the decision to return easier.

“My daughter, Emily, had moved back a year before, and she was living between Prattville and Selma with her husband, and in 2014, my grandson, Noah, was born in Montgomery,” Martin said.

Since coming to the United States, Martin had held a variety of jobs, all of which involved helping people in some capacity.

In 2018, Martin’s journey went in another direction when she became the director of the LaGrange Salvation Army.

“I worked for Salvation Army in Australia, but it was only for a year, but I knew how they operate,” Martin said.

It was an ideal fit.

With Martin’s background as a minister, her eagerness to help others, and her outgoing personality, she settled right into her new role, and she’s been on the job for nearly three years now.

Martin runs the Salvation Army store, and she also oversees the organization’s other charitable services.

“We do a family store, and we also operate social services,” Martin said.

For Martin, it’s all about being there for others, and sometimes that can simply be praying for someone in need.

“They come in and tell you’re their life story, and the next thing you know you’re praying with them,” Martin said. “Anyone who wants prayer, we’ll pray with them. We’ll do it out there (in the parking lot). We don’t care.”

Martin noted that the number of people needing help has increased over the past year because of COVID-19, and she knows it can be difficult for some to ask for assistance.  

“We have seen and heard a lot,” Martin said. “People come in in need, and it’s almost like embarrassment. They said I’ve never had to ask for anything. We say that’s OK, how can we help you? We’ve been there. I say to them, it’s fine, that’s what we’re here for.”

So what’s next for Martin, now that she’s officially a U.S. citizen?

“I thought, this has been 14 years,” Martin said. “So, Lord, now what? I know the purpose he brought me here for hasn’t been fulfilled. So, now what? I still want to know.”

For the moment, Martin is grateful that she gets to help people, and to share her Christian faith with others.

“A lot of the regulars, they know,” Martin said. “They’ll just come and pray, because they know they can do that. That’s awesome. They said, I’ve just had church, this is awesome. That’s what I love.”