Captain Doug Newman was a police officer when he felt called to serve in a different way—as a Salvation Army officer.
I am the oldest of three sons, and while that came with certain pressures, these were multiplied by the fact my father was a serviceman. The first few years of my childhood were spent in South East Asia, where he served in Malaysia and then Vietnam. Growing up, I learnt about PTSD and alcoholism, and the impact these can have on family.
Family life wasn’t easy. Rules were strictly enforced and any misdemeanours dealt with severely. Despite this, I always knew God existed. I didn’t understand that a personal relationship with God was possible, yet I always felt God guided my footsteps.
In the late ’80s, I trained and was appointed as a traffic officer with the Ministry of Transport. In 1992, with the MoT and Police merger, I became a police constable. Structure and a rules-based working environment were comfortable for me. In 2002, a series of events led me to question where God was—both in my life journey and in the lives of those I served.
I was first introduced to The Salvation Army in Johnsonville through a work colleague while working as a sergeant training recruits at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua. Walking through the front doors of the corps, I immediately felt at home. I felt accepted, despite my faults and failings.
Shortly after that, I began attending regularly. The corps officer at the time, now our Territorial Commander Commissioner Andy Westrupp, delivered William Booth’s historical ‘Darkest England’ sermon. Unabridged and unaltered from its original language, it moved me like nothing before. Very quickly, Janet and I discovered that The Salvation Army was where God was calling us.
In 2005, we began training as cadets of the Heralds of the Good News session. While training wasn’t easy, I found the personal journey God took me on significant. During this time, my father was diagnosed with cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam. At the same time, his brother, my uncle and godfather, was murdered in West Auckland. It was a time of digging deep, seeking God’s presence in my life and accepting I needed to trust him in all things.
The past 12 years have had their highs and lows, including the passing of both my mother and father from cancer. This meant stepping out of officership for 22 months while we supported family through illness and old age.
However, we recently returned to officership. My current appointment as the Territorial Coordinator of Emergency Services provides me with the opportunity to look at his world with fresh eyes every day—to see the beauty he created.
As I reflect on my life journey so far, the words of a well-known Beatles song come to mind:
‘The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door.’
My long and winding road hasn’t been an easy journey, but it has always led to God’s door.
(c) by Captain Doug Newman - 'War Cry' magazine, 26 January 2019 p11. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.