I’m a father of five and have been married to Vanya for 13 years.
I’m of Ngati Toa descent and live on Hongoeka Marae in Plimmerton. Our family attends the Porirua Salvation Army and I work as national operations manager for the Maori Land Court.
I first met The Salvation Army through Vanya in 2003 and became a senior soldier (member) in 2005. Before that, I’d been involved in the Maori side of the Anglican Church.
My spiritual journey started in a Presbyterian church I attended with my grandmother when I was little. At 11, I decided I wanted to be christened in the Anglican Church. I look back on this as my first steps to accepting Jesus into my heart and bringing myself into the family of God. As a teenager, I didn’t attend church regularly, but still had that sense of being connected to God.
At 20, I was the father of a son out of wedlock. God was still part of my life, but I wasn’t tuned in to him. I kept jumping in and out of church, although I became a bit more regular after my son was born.
Going to The Salvation Army at Mana Corps was the next significant spiritual step for me. Every week when the preacher spoke, God was speaking to me. I started to know God in a more realistic way.
One of the things that really struck a chord with me was the kaupapa of The Salvation Army—founder William Booth’s vision of being saved by God to serve others. It was a very active thing and I wanted to be part of it.
I’m still trying to reconcile the intersection between my Maori culture and my Christian faith. I observe the cultural imperatives of Maoridom and respect them, but as my knowledge of the Bible expands, I do test some aspects of my culture against biblical truth. I’m for Jesus first, so I place my culture second. That’s just who I am. Some of my caution probably comes because I was raised in a very Europeanised church. I do carry some baggage from that.
I was recently asked to become corps sergeant major (senior elder) at Porirua. I prayed a lot about it and eventually decided I’d step out in faith and give a hand. It’s a gradual transition, working with the corps officers and those at our Community Ministries centre to think about how we grow things.
There’s a huge need in Porirua. I see it in my kids’ school. There’s a vacuum in some homes. Children have a roof over their heads but not much more. There’s a lot The Salvation Army can do.
My desire for my own children is that they have a relationship with God. I’m just trying to get God in there as much as I can, in the ways that I can.
I stay connected to God by praying, reading the Bible and going to church—persevering in these simple things. It’s easier at some times than others.
Being appreciative for the blessings of God also helps me: the children I have, the wife I have, the job I have. When I find things tough, I reflect on these things and realise there is still lots that I can do in life. It’s all about perspective.
By Steve Gunson (abridged from War Cry, 9 February 2013, p9)