A Salvationist's Journey Back Home

Mar 27, 2019 | by Elizabeth Budelman

What would you do if your guardian angel called you home? In the case of Tom Robertson, he followed that call home.

Tom was a young boy when he first stepped foot in a Salvation Army. Growing up in Canada, he and his family began to attend The Salvation Army Sunday School at the Danforth Crops in Toronto. Thanks to a couple, Isabella and Earl Downer, Tom was able to receive the call to be saved when he was in first grade. He continued to be a faithful soldier into his early adulthood, but then, Tom left The Army.

In late September 2017, Tom went to bed but said he was abruptly awakened by an angel. Oddly enough, it was his mentor, Bill Lorimer. Bill, who was Tom’s bandmaster and surrogate father, said he needed to “reach out to the family.”

Little did Tom know, Bill passed away months before and it had been nearly 50 years since he was last in touch with Bill. So, Tom took to Facebook where his journey started. After some searching, he was able to find his surrogate sister, Suzanne, and mother, Joyce. The family often wondered what happened to “their boy” after he left the family in his early adulthood. This lead to emails back and forth, which ultimately lead to a meeting with Joyce and his sisters.

In December 2017, Tom was reunited with his surrogate family. While meeting up with the Lorimer women, he learned more about Bill. While Tom was away, Bill continued to play his trombone, which led to him to play the euphonium and tuba. The women talked with passion about his brass instruments, and while they spoke, Tom felt the motivation to continue his mentor’s legacy and pursue the tuba. He then arranged to acquire Bill's tuba from the family. Tom said he knew this was the path he needed to take to “go home.”

It took persistence and encouragement from his wife, but Tom finally recovered his skills from 50 years ago. As he continued along the path, Tom decided to rediscover the Army. One Sunday, he found his way to The Salvation Army Milwaukee Cold Spring Corps and met Stan Kelley, a soldier at the Corps and The Salvation Army of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan’s Executive Director of Development. After Tom told Stan his story and passion of pursuing the tuba, Stan connected him with Steve Hull, Divisional Music Director, a close friend of Bill’s.

 Steve then invited Tom to band practice at The Salvation Army Oak Creek Centennial Corps, a place where Tom started to get even more affirmations that he was on the right path.

In June 2018, Tom attended the production A Long Way Off, a musical that retells the story of the prodigal son. The musical was a portion of Commissioning, a time when Salvationists come together to renew their commitment to God through worship services and various activities like music, youth groups, and much more.

Before the play, Tom said he decided to sit next to an older couple who just so happened to be retired officers who served with Bill Lorimer’s parents in Winnipeg! On top of that, their family members were in the Toronto Centennial Band back in 1967. Tom was overwhelmed by how the Lord had led him this far, and knew that this was no coincidence but rather a sequence of events that were initiated by his guardian angel. Since that day, he has played at the Oak Creek Corps using Bill’s tuba.

All of this led him to rekindle his faith. This past February, Tom put on his uniform for the first time in 50 years, and was even able to give his testimony to The Oak Creek Corps one Sunday. He told the church of his journey to find his way home again and renewed his commitment to his soldiership.

When asked, Tom said his homecoming had meant everything to him.

“Its impact is all pervasive. I had the courage to proclaim that I am Christian. The questions that I have asked have all been answered,” he said. “God has led me to where I should be and back to the path that He had set for me.”

He says that he is so thankful for the unconditional love the Lord has manifested through this journey.

Tom said his favorite aspect of being back home in the Army is the fellowship of his Christian family. When he sought out The Salvation Army last Spring, he said he was welcomed back with open arms. Although he has found himself in a new country, his family is just the same. They share the same faith and values even though they have parallel journeys.

Tom said a friend once told him, “You may leave The Army, but The Army never leaves you. You look like you are finally at home.”

 With a smile, Tom said, “I have found that to be so true.”

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