Peter Hennessy grew up in Brazil, as the son of Salvation Army officers—and from a young age learnt that it was all about loving people.
My parents are Salvation Army officers Lieutenant-Colonels Don and Lorna Hennessey, who served in Brazil for 20 years. I grew up mostly in São Paulo, but we also lived in Niterói, Brasilia, Rio Grande and Porto Alegre. When I was 10 we spent two years in Ashburton, before going back to Brazil. I first learned English while in Ashburton.
When I was 16 we moved back to New Zealand. I worked as a youth worker and corps administrator at Wellington City Corps, and then in a small finance company before this job.
One of the big benefits of being a missionary kid was that my parents always included us in things. If there were appeals, or food parcels to fill, there’d be a line-up of the family filling the bags. We’d go with Mum and Dad and give out the food or presents. You’d see how excited kids were for just a plastic car or a ball, and it made me grateful that God had given us so much.
We were encouraged to see moving as an advantage, increasing our circle of friends and people who were praying for us. They were experiences that added colour to my life.
At the tender age of six, I gave my heart to the Lord. As a junior soldier I was really excited about inviting people to church. Before church I’d go out and whack the drum as hard as I could, and when people opened their windows I’d say, ‘The Salvation Army’s church service is about to start. Come along!’ In some ways I have lost that faith of the child, and I have started to question why I’m not upfront like that any more.
When God says love others, he doesn’t provide a list of exceptions, he just says love others, because we are loved unconditionally by him.
As a youth worker, I ran a weekly Bible study and 21 years later it’s still going. I’ve seen young people grow up, get married, have children and their children are almost old enough to come along.
I love watching young people grow in their relationship with God. It’s great when you can find that little button you can press and they say, ‘I see what you’re saying about God’ and they start moving towards God. They have been just as much part of my faith as well.
At Wellington City, we’ve been blessed with a really great group of young people. Something the corps has done well is to cherish young people, to encourage them and allow them to explore ways to love God.
I work as the territorial information systems group manager—to me, it’s much more than looking after the Army’s computer systems. When I was first asked to come to Territorial Headquarters, I laughed, but Mark Bennett (then iSG manager) told me it’s about enabling the mission. To me, that means helping people to love God and love others.
Our department has the goal of enabling the mission, but even within the department I can be an example in the way I conduct myself. I thought: that’s what I want my life to be—one where I’ve worked towards helping people love God and love others.
by Peter Hennessey (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 30 June 2018, p11 - You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.