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Still sent into ministry

Still sent into ministry

After 30 years of ministry within The Salvation Army, Bruce Heather has recently retired. During this time he has managed several Family Stores across the South Island, but for the last two decades his primary role has been as a Salvation Army Court and Prison Officer in Invercargill. Bruce describes this job as ‘ministry’ rather than ‘work’, sharing that this chaplaincy position grew far beyond his expectations and provided him with opportunities to meet many interesting people.

Bruce’s days often began with a visit to the cells at the police station to deliver breakfast to people who had been arrested overnight. He would then accompany and support those who had scheduled appearances at Invercargill Courthouse. His days would typically end with visiting up to 160 prisoners at Invercargill Prison. To do this job he says that you need to ‘have a bit of toughness, but also kindness and most importantly, no judgement.’

Offering a friendly face and practical support, Bruce made deep connections with prisoners while in prison, as well as helping reintegrate them into their communities. He describes his role as rewarding and he enjoyed being able to contribute to and witness people turning their lives around. Bruce’s strong connections have led to him being invited to one man’s daughter’s christening, and officiating at several weddings and funerals.

Bruce sums up his passion to walk alongside prisoners with his own version of Luke 6:31, ‘The way I see it, you need to treat the guys the way you want to be treated. Everybody deserves a second, third or even a fourth chance in life.’ He adds that when you treat people with dignity you have no problems working with them.

Reflecting on his time in this chaplaincy role, Bruce says, ‘It was a wonderful privilege to be in people’s lives at a difficult time for them.’  Never having stepped inside a prison previously, at times this role was challenging and confronting, but Bruce held the belief that God had put him in this position at this point in time. He cites Isaiah 6:8-9 as verses that he and his wife Ann draw their strength from.

‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
He said, “Go and tell this people:
Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.”’

Bruce is quick to credit Ann for providing him with necessary support when the job sometimes took a toll on his wellbeing. Ann also worked within the prison, so understood the nature of the work. While Bruce will miss his ministry as a Salvation Army Court and Prison Officer, both he and Ann are looking forward to more time with their family and to travelling throughout New Zealand with their caravan in their retirement.

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