Three years ago, Andrew Mitchell joined the team at Royal Oak Community Ministries where he helps vulnerable people with their debt and money. He talks to us about what’s driven him to work alongside those less privileged than himself.
For many years, I worked as a business analyst at an insurance company. However—having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was younger—and after going through a tough patch with my mental health, I came to the realisation it was going to be best if I pursued an alternative calling.
It was around this time I heard about the need for budget advisors at The Salvation Army in Royal Oak. Something within me felt sure this was the kind of work that I wanted to give my time to. I enjoy spending time with people one-on-one and I am also drawn to the problem-solving aspects of the job. My wife, Sarah, is a doctor and we realised it wasn’t necessary for me to contribute as much financially as had previously been the case.
Three years later, I am loving the role and the difference I can make in the lives of many of those who come to see me for help with their finances. It’s exciting to be able to ensure that people are protected from some of the more predatory lending practices out there. It’s also been humbling to gain some insight into how difficult life often is for people living in severe hardship. It had never really occurred to me that there are hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who don’t have the ability to turn to professional advice if they get into a spot of bother. Overall, the experience has been hugely educational and has enabled me to see what life is like for people on low incomes, many who have to deal with large amounts of debt. Despite legislation introduced three years ago, there’s still a lot of work to be done in the area of responsible lending.
While a career change has been a big transition (one I’m still finding my way with), I feel so privileged to have been welcomed into The Salvation Army in my time of trouble. For many of my clients, it’s a relief for them to talk to someone who isn’t going to judge, who will listen attentively and do whatever possible to help their situation.
I have become acutely aware that Auckland is becoming increasingly segregated. Many middle-class New Zealanders don’t have much appreciation for what’s going on outside their own bubble. I’m quite conscious of the fact that on a daily basis I’m moving between two very different worlds, which can at times be challenging for my own sense of identity.
I feel very much at home in The Salvation Army and especially enjoy the morning prayer—a comforting ritual at Royal Oak Community Ministries. Mornings can be difficult for me, so I rely on our morning meeting to launch me into the day.
I don’t think enough New Zealanders understand just how crucial our Christian organisations are for giving hope and succour to so many of our fellow citizens. I certainly didn’t, until The Salvation Army opened its doors to me.
(c) by Andrew Mitchell - 'War Cry' magazine, 23 March 2019 p6-9. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.