Grandma was born on Rotoroa Island, where The Salvation Army ran its addiction programme and where my great-grandparents were Salvation Army officers. My parents were also officers and I spent the first four years of my life on the Island. They never hid from us why people were there, but there was never any judgement. My sisters and I learnt from our parents about caring for others, helping them find God, and that ‘but for the grace of God, go I’.
When I left school I worked for ANZ Bank, working my way up from ledger clerk to business banking. But I wanted to do more than make money for the bank. I prayed, ‘Lord, open or close the door’. In my devotions I read that when we pray for God to open a door, we have to take a step towards the door, so I applied for redundancy and happily received it.
I saw a job advertised as a trust accounts officer at The Salvation Army’s Addictions Services (formerly the Bridge Programme). Applications had already closed, but I thought, ‘I’ll send in my CV anyway and see if God opens the door.’ That was 16 years ago, and I’ve worked here ever since.
I am now the business administrator. I oversee budgets, financial management, liaise with IT and report to funders, including the Ministry of Health. If I do my job properly, I’m helping people in their recovery from addiction by ensuring finance and funding is in order. It’s the same for everyone who works here, from the clinical staff to the administrator to the cleaner—we’re all doing our bit to help people recover.
When I started here, a guy was going through the programme who had been on Rotoroa Island when I was under a year old. I thought, ‘Good on him, he’s still on his journey of sobriety.’ A lot of past clients remember my parents and my sisters and I as children, and there’s almost always a spiritual connection. Many have told me the biggest difference in their longterm sobriety was finding God. In the Christian faith we find hope. There’s hope in the birth of Christ, the death of Christ and in the resurrection of Christ.
Just after finishing at the ANZ Bank, I met my wife, Tala. We have a daughter, Iulieta who is now 17 and has just become a mumherself. And we have also have two sons: Jonathan (14) and Levi (11).
I accepted Christ as my Saviour at a very young age. Like many others, I’ve been through difficult times, including when my father died of cancer in 1995, but God has always been there for me. I often ask God ‘why?’ or ‘how?’, but throughout my inner turmoil I never doubt that God loves me. His plan for me is always better than mine, even if I don’t understand it.
I liken it to a bush climb up a steep hill. It’s a hard slog when you can’t see past the next tree, and you’re deciding which paths to take. Then, when you finally get above the bush line, you look back and see the path you’ve taken, and how God has directed those decisions. There’s still a lot of hard slog to go, to get to the top of the hill, but you can finally see where God is leading you.
By Mark Brinsdon