Meet Doug, Maroubra Salvation Army's good and faithful servant
5 December 2017
Turn up for a free breakfast any morning of the week at The Salvation Army centre at Maroubra, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and you’ll find Doug manning the barbeque.
Head out for some late-night shopping at nearby Westfield Eastgardens and you’ll see Doug at the collection table. He collects the post, does the gardening, chats with people who drop in to the centre for assistance with food or bills and serves them coffee and tea.
He’s a tireless volunteer who clocks up sometimes 38 hours a week of service. And it’s all for Jesus and for the love of others.
“I’m 110 to 150 per cent committed,” he says. “My motto that I use is, ‘look out for one another, care for one another, respect one another, love one another as you would love God’.”
Doug’s warm smile and readiness to help in any situation believe the hardships he has overcome to get to this point.
Growing up in a small New Zealand village, learning difficulties and dyslexia made his school years a struggle. “I was in real mischief,” he now laughs. “I got in all sorts of trouble at school ... I crushed the school lawnmower with an electric roller and stuff like that!”
What are now tall tales of childhood pranks was, at the time, a pathway to destruction for Doug. By the time he hit his teens he had started to drink and was introduced to gangs by his cousin. “I was a person who had a bit of a disability,” he says. “I was very vulnerable.”
Listening to Doug speak of his early years, many people would assume they knew how the story ended: drugs, trouble, maybe even some jail time. It could have gone that way, for sure. But God had other plans for Doug. He had grown up in a Christian household and during those turbulent teenage years Doug believes God opened his eyes and lay down a commission on his heart.
“I got on the wrong side and started drinking and getting in heaps of fights. I saw a lot of people with needles and I thought, ‘Hey, there’s others worse off than what I am’. I gave myself a little gentle persuasion (a ‘kick up the bum’) and said to myself, ‘Hey, I can do really good in this world, God’s put me here for a reason and it’s to do ministry’ and I fell in love with it and then I started coming to church and helping out at the Salvos.”
Doug’s new passion – to love God and to serve others – took hold and he found himself volunteering with The Salvation Army in Christchurch in between his shifts as a professional cleaner. He was at The Salvation Army’s divisional headquarters in Christchurch on 22 February 2011, when a 6.3 magnitude earthquake devastated the city, killing 185 people.
“You would have to have been there to see it, to imagine it. All the screaming and seeing some of the bodies and all of that,” he remembers.
After picking himself up from the bottom of the stairwell, where he had fallen during the quake, Doug helped others around him and immediately began serving those affected. He helped usher guests of a nearby hotel to safety, he handed out water and blankets to the shocked survivors and he helped man The Salvation Army’s emergency services catering units that served the community in the days, weeks and months ahead.
It was during those countless hours of volunteering that Doug and his wife’s home was broken into and looted. They lost most of their valuable possessions, including their wedding rings. Shortly afterwards they decided to relocate to Australia, where they had family support, and start over. When they began attending Maroubra Salvation Army, they fell in love with the corps’ servant heart.
Despite the affluence of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, there is also a lot of need. Every week the doors of the centre are open to members of the community. Those in need can attend a community breakfast every Monday and Tuesday, a lunch every Thursday and access emergency assistance and financial counselling by appointment. Doug’s a regular volunteer and known by most who attend. He cooks the barbeque breakfast and helps out at the tea-and-coffee station.
“I’m just really glad that I can help others that may be more worse off than what I am,” he says. “I’ve been working one on one with members of the community here that come for community breakfast and lunch and all that.”
And since moving to Australia, Doug has also picked his studies back up and completed a TAFE course in nursing and aged care, despite his learning difficulties.
“I don’t mind getting out there and getting my hands dirty – whatever it takes to get the job done,” he says of his volunteer work with The Salvation Army. “I can go home at night, put my head on the pillow and relax and know that I’ve done a well job, a day’s job.”
By Lauren Martin