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Restarting life as a Salvation Army soldier

Dave Parker (centre) with Tamworth Corps Officer Tony DeTommaso (left) and John Austin (right) at his soldiership enrolment ceremony.

My life changed two and a half years ago when my wife unexpectedly left me after 33 years of marriage. It took me more than 12 months to get over it. And you’re never really over it, but I’m a new person now.

I’ve got myself a little motor home. I’m 78 this year, and as far as my little motorhome goes, I’ve probably got between two and four years before I can’t drive much distance anymore, so in the next couple of years I’m going to try and do as much travelling as the budget will let me!

I recently went out to Condobolin, where I come from, and I visited a mate and his whole family down on the riverbank for Easter. And he has great-grandkids – there were 23 in his family and me and another mate. This was something new to me because my mum died when I was nine, and my dad was one of those guys who just went to work. So, I didn’t have that normal young person-type life.

So, out there on the riverbank with my childhood friends, it was just so nice to see a whole family get together and every one of them there – all generations. In my whole life, I’ve never had anything like that. And my mate says to me: “Are you going to come again next year?’ and I said, ‘For sure!’”

God is opening up a new form of family for me.

My call to soldiership in The Salvation Army really came from my dad. He was overseas during the Second World War and came home on a hospital ship in 1944. I was born in 1945. When I was a little, he always talked about The Salvation Army. He said, “When we were in El Alamein, in all those places, you would turn around and there was a Salvo there. Everywhere there was a Salvo to say a prayer for you or say G’day to you. Dad said they were the only people on the planet that really cared – The Salvation Army.

That was the main reason I wanted to become a Salvation Army soldier. To be there for people, like those Salvos were there for my dad. I’ve probably been there for a few people already, and I’ll be there for a few more yet.

I’ve been worshipping at The Salvation Army as my church for probably 10 years or maybe longer. We did a lot of work here in Tamworth in the early COVID-19 lockdown days. The whole area at the back of the church was full of groceries and all sorts of stuff, and in those days, I had a pretty new 4WD ute and a big enclosed trailer. I went out to Manila for a day with this big trailer full of groceries and handed groceries out all day. That night we loaded it again, and the next day we went all the way to Narrabri and did the same thing in Narrabri. We probably had five tonnes of stuff in it.

During these past few years after my wife left, God’s really been there for me. My relationship with God is different now. Life started when I became a soldier, that is when my new life started. And life is pretty good!

(As told to Lauren Martin)


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