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Used what God has given me

Capt Kelvin Turner
Posted September 3, 2019

Retired officer Captain Kelvin Turner has packed a lot into his 77 years! A real Kiwi cowboy, inventor of the long cream donut, and pioneer of The Salvation Army’s hospital release work—Kelvin insists he’s always just used what God’s given him.

My father was killed at work when I was six years old, but I was raised by a loving Christian mum. I was 15 when I joined the small corps of Avondale in Auckland, where I met my wife Pauleen.

I worked as a cowboy in Port Waikato, running wild stock on a massive farm on the mountainside. These were huge beasts, but I loved it. One day a bull charged me, and it was only my accuracy with the stock whip that saved me. I managed to catch the tip of his nose with my whip and turn him away just in time.

God had given Mum the gift of prophetic dreams. It was not always a gift she appreciated, as she dreamt of my Dad’s death and an uncle’s accident. So, when she phoned and said, ‘Honey I want you to come home because I dreamt you were trampled to death by a bull,’ I didn’t doubt her.

But that was not the end of my whip-cracking days. God took this skill and used it to attract large crowds for open-air meetings and the sharing of the gospel. One of my specialties was using my whip to snuff out the flame of candles—without touching the candle itself. Often volunteers held the candles—I never snuffed any volunteer out either!

Avondale Corps was full of bakers in those days. The local corps sergeant major hired me as his baker’s apprentice. In time, I became a master-baker pastry cook. Sometimes our customers would complain about getting icing sugar on their clothes when eating our round creamed donuts. So, one day I rolled one lengthways, added cream and a slice of banana flanked by two dobs of raspberry jam. And that was the birth of the long donut—still loved by Kiwi today!

After we became officers in the late 70s, Pauleen and I founded ‘Hospital Release Centre’ work. Long-term patients in psychiatric and psychopaedic hospitals throughout the country were being placed back into society. Some had been in care for periods exceeding 45 years.

We began by taking in two men—one with Down syndrome—who had been institutionalised for nearly 40 years and simply had nowhere to go. It was a very harsh time in our nation’s history, and this mass release of people who’d been so used to the routine of institutionalisation, developed into a rapid increase in suicide. So, before long we had a scheme with a waiting list.

One day we were interviewed at officer’s councils and the boss of the day said, ‘I would like you to meet Kelvin and Pauleen Turner, who are piloting a brand-new Salvation Army scheme’.

We pricked up our ears because we didn’t know we were piloting anything—we were just meeting the need of the moment, which has always been a hallmark of Salvationism. All these people found a new family within the Army and came to the Lord.

I always just offered up to the Lord the skills he’d given me, and he used them accordingly. I was a champion with my whip, and I’m still a champion for my Lord!

by Capt Kelvin Turner c) 'War Cry' magazine, 24 August 2019 p11. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.