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8 November 2021
Peter was able to reconnect with his kids and regularly watched them play sport on weekends. Getty Images.
Words Bryce Davies
For much of my time as an officer (pastor) with the Salvos, I worked in recovery services – long-term residential alcohol and other drug treatment centres – where there was usually a detox unit.
Participants underwent an eight-month live-in program and progressed through stages towards greater levels of freedom and depth in their recovery.
They were kept busy throughout the day with work therapy. This included gardening, cooking, or working at Salvos Stores, making deliveries, serving in the store, or sorting donations.
There were daily group sessions and weekly case-management appointments. Support was given for participants to attend doctors, psychologists, and other appointments.
It was wonderful to witness the transformations. Those who were broken and estranged from loved ones were stabilised and often reunited with family and friends.
There are a thousand tales to tell, but today I want to share Peter’s story.
Peter’s drinking had cost him dearly. His wife had left him and did not allow him to contact their young teenage children. Peter worked in the automotive industry and was intelligent and articulate. He loved books and had a dry but witty sense of humour.
As Peter stabilised, he loved being part of the Salvos church on Sundays and attended regularly, even after his time at recovery services was over. Eventually, his family re-engaged, and he started to see his kids and attended their sporting activities every weekend. Christianity was important to him, and he devoted himself to developing a mature faith. He eventually became a Salvos member.
I am an inherently disorganised person, and Peter saw this as an opportunity. He took me on as his ‘mission’ to the world. He became my personal assistant and started accompanying me wherever I went.
We attended Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal meetings and corporate information sessions. He gave me company, as well as a second set of eyes, ears, hands, and feet to get things done. Peter was quiet and reflective and would not say anything in many of our meetings, but he would take notes and chat with me afterwards about his insights. He was always encouraging and believed in me and what I was trying to achieve.
Peter also accompanied me on my Friday night pub run [collecting money for the Salvos] for many years. He became one of my most trusted and loyal friends.
Over time, Peter became part of our family. He often attended our extended Christmas Day lunches and visited our home for meals and coffee. He always gave my kids presents for Christmas and birthdays – usually a good book, with a thoughtful card and a sincere hug. He never forgot.
Peter’s children eventually became a key part of our annual Red Shield Appeal Doorknock and loved it. It became quite a tradition for us to do the Doorknock together each year.
Peter worked at the same Salvos recovery services that saved his life. He gave back to as many others as he could, what was given to him. His life improved in so many ways.
I will never forget the moment after our pub collection one Friday night, alone together in the car, when he told me he had cancer and had just six months to live. It was devastating news.
Peter deteriorated quickly and was hospitalised for most of his remaining time. My pub collection then included a stop at the Royal Brisbane Hospital every Friday night to visit him. He was a contented and cooperative patient. He was at peace with his death and was just grateful for the years of sobriety and service he had in recovery.
Peter died, and I did his funeral at the rehab chapel to a full house. His funeral was a fabulous testimony to his recovery and influence for good. I didn’t cry then, but I sobbed and sobbed that afternoon. Peter was a dear friend, and I miss him. We were a good team.
In his memory, there is a simple plaque that his devastated children and I placed in the rehab gardens near the chapel. He died deeply loved and respected, especially by his kids.
Major Bryce Davies is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in Queensland.