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Appointed to His Service

Appointed to His Service

Paul Teal is a soldier of Whanganui City Corps and a Community Ministries navigator.

I always knew that there was a higher power than myself. I knew about God. I felt his presence with me, and felt like he might have a plan for my life.

I had lived as a gang member, addict and alcoholic for many years. When I would get in trouble, I would always pray in the cell and promise God that if I didn’t go to jail then I wouldn’t do it again. But I would always get into trouble again. My lifestyle was affecting the people I loved the most—my wife and children—and my teenagers were starting to realise what I was up to.

When I went to Wellington Bridge to go through the recovery programme in 2018, people there started telling me about God, but I would just brush it off. I remember saying to God that he would have to show me he was real for me to believe in him. 

During my time at the Bridge, I attended a New Zeal meeting at Wellington City Corps. I was there for the free donuts and coffee, but I ended up having an encounter with God. I was up on the top tier of the auditorium and the speaker was inviting people to come to the mercy seat to know God. I don’t remember getting out of my chair and walking down the stairs, but it was as if God picked me up, and somehow I ended up at the mercy seat. I knew I needed to change and let everything go to start afresh, so in that moment I opened my heart to God. There was a man who prayed with me, and he put his hand on my shoulder. After being there awhile I thought it was time to return to my seat. When I looked up, I saw the man on the other side of the church, but I could still feel a hand on my shoulder. God showed me that he was real, and I believed in him from that moment on. I was wide open to what he wanted from me.

On the right path

I completed my time at the Bridge, returned to my family in Whanganui and continued my journey with The Salvation Army. My wife and I became soldiers in 2019. The signing of my covenant was important, as it showed my commitment to live for God, but it also showed how God found me at the right time and changed my life. These words Paul wrote are special to me because God sees me worthy of his calling:

‘I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 1:12–14).

Now my family is on this faith journey with me. Since God found me, I’ve seen a big change in myself and in the atmosphere in my house. There’s peace and calmness. There’s no need to hide things. We pray over dinner at the table; it’s short and sweet but it’s the beginning and it brings me warmth that my children are on the right path.

A God-given dream

For over 20 years, I’ve wanted to be a social worker, but my addictions and my lifestyle wouldn’t allow me to do that. I would keep on saying to myself that next year I’ll get into that, and I never did. For me, it was when God found me that he gave me the opportunity to sort my life out and fulfil that dream for myself. So just over four years ago, I applied to Massey University to do a diploma in social work, which they declined because of my past lifestyle being a liability. This really disheartened me and made me think that because of what I had done in my life that I wasn’t going to be able to achieve my dream. It really gave me a kick in the guts. Then one day, I was on my way home listening to Radio Rhema, and there was an ad about Bethlehem Tertiary Institute’s courses. I heard they offered Christian-based social work qualifications. I applied to become a social worker, and they gave me the opportunity to start my course.

Four years on, in December 2023, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work, thanks to the amazing people who helped me through this time of study. I’m sure God put those people in my circle at the right time to help me achieve my dream.

The hard times aren’t as hard

I’m now employed full time at my local corps as the Community Ministries navigator. I work in a great team with faith-based people, and receive support, encouragement and help through The Salvation Army. I enjoy my role, being in community and working alongside whānau (family) and individuals who tell me their stories. People find me easy to talk to, and I can relate to their situations. It feels good to see people set goals and accomplish those tasks that help toward fulfiling their dreams, while increasing their mana (authority), and working towards life transformation.

There’s been a few God moments over the last six months that have shown me that God has this plan for my life. He put me on this right path for the first year of my recovery and I’ve continued to walk in that, learning to trust more deeply in him and his timing. God knows what I need and when I need it, and I’ve been learning that there’s a big difference between need and want. Sometimes it is hard but having God with me means those hard times aren’t as hard as they used to be.

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