Thursday, 18 August 2016


Robbie is a soldier who grew up as a fringe dweller on the edge of town in drought ravaged sheep country. He experienced the challenges of a homeless family knowing what it was to really struggle and even face horrifically terrifying events as a child. These things though could not prepare him for the shocking realities of battle he had experienced in the Middle East. Robbie may be a central fictional character in the narratives I am expressing, but he is also an expression of the challenging realities I have personally faced, and also the empathetic acknowledgement of what others are dealing with. Robbie (from the fictional platform of my writing) can express and engage at a deep level what many people grapple with in their day to day realities. Perhaps this can also help people find solutions to their issues: solutions that are perhaps less about solving things from our own strength, self-focus and material success, and more about discovering purpose, hope, meaning and even supernatural answers in life from The Source of all Life.

I am a School Chaplain pastorally caring for many students, staff and families often in very difficult circumstances. I am also engaged in discipling University students, ministering in indigenous communities, and serving in development opportunities internationally. Life is like a battlefield for many of these people. All of these opportunities give pause for me to reflect on the vagaries life throws at people, but also gives opportunity of seeing people call on help from outside themselves when all goes wrong.   
I am presently supporting our returned servicemen and their families by bringing attention to the scourge of depression and the high incidence of suicide among their ranks. The 22 day challenge sees me doing 22 pushups per day and remembering their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder struggle (

Today (the 18th of August) marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam. An incident recognised in the history of military service in Australia as one of the most horrific and heroic battles experienced by our soldiers. This is outlined clearly in a documentary I recently watched directed and produced by Damien Lay (battle of Long Tan Documentary Trailer . For 3 and a half hours just over a hundred Australian soldiers held off over 2500 North Vietnamese soldiers in a rubber plantation to the East of Saigon. 18 Australians and more than 500 Vietnamese were killed.
Many of the returned soldiers who shared their stories on the documentary wept as they recounted their terrifying ordeals, acts of sacrifice, and what could only be related as incidents of miraculous survival.

In reflecting on all this I began to consider what many of these soldiers testified that when soldiers face life and death in the field, they cry out for spiritual direction. Others have related a similar notion that in the heat of battle there are no atheists. When faced with desperate, impossible situations people cry out for help beyond themselves. This is not just the reality for soldiers in battle, it is a human condition. As one soldier has related:
“What really sustains, in my view, is something more than this – something far bigger than ourselves, something bigger and deeper than we can imagine or rationalise for ourselves.”
This same soldier gives this account of a battle he found himself in:
“My platoon got involved in a fierce gunfight – two of the enemy were killed, two of my soldiers were shot and one died. Everyone that day was really frightened, despite our denials. That experience told me that even the toughest of men, when the chips are down and the reality of life and death confronts, are reaching out into the spiritual dimension, beyond the rational “(Richard Dannett).

It is a well attested reality that people in the thickest of battles in the traumas of life people call out to God for help.
Fundamentally,  Life (when under trial) begins to recognise that there must be, there needs to be,  a higher source to rely on for help.
That’s why my character Robbie ends up coming to the end of himself in my story telling. It is not just to tell his story, but to relate the human story. Perhaps others can relate. When we come to the end of ourselves, when we need more than what we have to give or think we can handle, when things are impossible, we need a power higher than ourselves, we need a Saviour, we need The Source of all Life to reach in to our existence with His merciful hand and do what is only possible with Him.

 So I will continue to do my 22 pushups each day for 22 days. I will keep bringing hope to the generation of young people and families I work with. I will keep promoting the reality that we also don’t just have the opportunity to call on this Saviour when everything is falling apart, but perhaps more vitally He is there to do our Life journey with (through the struggles yes, but also) in relationship with us every day through the highs and the lows.

Oh, and I will keep expressing this reality through the interwoven complexities of my characters and their experiences, not just because it tells a good story, but because it is our human story and that means that perhaps this story telling can help others reach out for their Life Giver. 


Here with a friend he met in Vietnam. Ex Viet Cong. Who also testified of a Saviour who helped him survive after having his arm traumatically amputated by a tank shell in battle, 


  1. Great post Shane. Life sure is a battlefield, even for one such as I who has never worn an army uniform. :) It's deeply moving for me to hear of the work you are doing. Yes, the world is in great need today. Praise God He uses the battles the enemy brings our way for His Own Purposes. Bless you for stepping out in faith and doing all you do. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for your post Shane. I recently read Jamie Zimmerman's book and it gave me a wonderful appreciation of the battle soldiers experience when they come home.....
    Great to hear you are a school chaplain, so many opportunities there!!
    May the Lord strengthen you as you work in your own battlefield :-)

  3. Thanks for your post, Shane. It's a good to be reminded that fiction can speak deep truths to us.

  4. Thank you for the work you do, Shane. :-)