I grew up on the family farm in Te Aroha, the second oldest of five children. My parents were Salvationists and the gospel was explained to me from an early age. My dream was to take over the family farm and become the most productive diary unit in the region.
But in my late teens, I started having unwelcome thoughts that I was meant to train as a Salvation Army officer. I was a very shy, quiet young man when I left the farm for the officer training college at the age of 22—as my wife Judith, who I met there, will attest.
In those days, men and women cadets rarely talked. I passed Judith a note asking if I could correspond with her. We commenced officership in 1966 and went to our separate appointments, but three years later, we were married. We have been officers for 47 years.
From the earliest times, God would put me in the right place, at just the right time. One evening, I was doing some country visiting, miles from where I normally worked. I stopped for petrol and the attendant said, ‘Did you hear who died?’—it turned out to be the mother of a family who attended our corps [church], and they lived in the area. I would never normally have been in the region but went straight away to visit them.
There are many times when I’ve dropped in on people and they’ve said, ‘How did you know to come?’ or ‘I’ve been expecting you.’
To this day, I’m still fearful when I walk into a situation, but I know I don’t go alone. Time and time again God has proved that his presence goes with me. I’m not confident in myself, but I’m confident in God.
As the National Coordinator of Emergency Services, I was heavily involved in our response to the Christchurch earthquakes. After the 22 February 2011 quake, we were serving 4500 meals a day in 10 different welfare centres, without power or running water. We assisted with a one-stop-shop to help people get everything they need, from food to documentation.
The Ministry of Social Development asked us to provide 100 psychosocial workers—which in our language is ‘pastoral visits’. Again, it was amazing the ‘coincidences’ that God set up. One of our visitors saw a man who had injured his back badly; she was a physiotherapist. Another time a woman had just been diagnosed with cancer, and her visitor was a cancer nurse. This happened time and time again.
I was very honoured recently to receive The Paul Harris Fellowship from the Wellington Rotary Club for services to the Christchurch earthquakes. This honour does not belong to me but to the whole of The Salvation Army, who rallied together as a community to help.
It’s what The Salvation Army does. We were recently asked to assist with a landslide in Wellington, where several were left homeless. We provided breakfast for emergency workers and those who had been evacuated—catering really opens the door to pastoral care. We helped those evacuated to get everything they needed, such as food and clothes from The Salvation Army Family Store.
I’ve had so many incredible opportunities. I’m more convinced now than the day I left the farm, that God put me in the right place, at just the right time to serve him.
By David Bennett (abridged from War Cry, 24 August 2013, p9)