David Swain felt like an exile when he ‘ran away’ to Wales, but it was there that God brought him back from captivity.
I grew up in Levin, in The Salvation Army Corps—along with my parents, three brothers and two sisters. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the people in the Levin Corps were my village.
But as a young man I was captive to some poor choices. I went to London; I was a long way from God and did things I deeply regret. After my marriage failed, I ran away again to Wales. I was like Jonah, trying to run away from God.
But Wales was the place God restored me. It was the place where I felt the Holy Spirit softening my heart, calling me back to the Lord.
I was able to restart my teaching career. I also set up a business as the founder of touch rugby in Wales—setting up a competition in Cardiff in 1991 that continues today. I was able to fulfil my passion for rugby and refereeing, as I climbed the ladder to become a premier referee.
I married a local lady and we had three fantastic kids—Joseff, Bronwen and Luke. It was the birth of my son that made me re-evaluate my life, and return to what I had learned in The Salvation Army: ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36, KJV). I was led to the realisation that the most important thing in life was to walk with the Lord.
I had a karanga and a desire to come home to New Zealand. The verses in Jeremiah 29 spoke to me in a very powerful way—God told the Israelites exiled in Babylon to make lives for themselves: build houses, marry and have children. ‘ “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile … Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me with all your heart and I will be found by you,” says the Lord’ (v. 12–14).
I was an exile in Wales. And like the exiled Israelites, I was told to stay put, get involved in the local community and be prepared to be there for a long time. So I got involved in my local church, leading worship and encouraging others in their walk with God. We are a church of prodigals—people who are returning to God.
After 20 years teaching, I sought voluntary redundancy. I said to God, ‘You open a door and I will walk through it’. He did just that by showing me a school for teenage lads who had emotional and behavioural issues, and I took a post there.
God used me to mentor lads in the school. There were three Christian mums who told me they had been praying for a Christian man to teach their sons—together we were able to disciple these lads.
And so, God has brought me back from captivity—not a physical place, but the captivity to sin, fear and regret. He listened to me, heard my cries and allowed me to find him again.
As this goes to print, my parents are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary—I’d like to honour them for giving a lifetime of unconditional love, not only to their family, but to all who have been blessed to journey with them at different times in their lives.
by David Swain (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 2 June 2018, p11 - You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.