8 MINUTE READ
from Luke’s Journal CMDFA 2020 Vol 25 No 2
Dr Geoffrey Booth
As a child growing up in post WW2 suburban Melbourne I attended Sunday School like so many others of that time. In retrospect it didn’t really mean much: it was just something you did with your parents and siblings before the roast lunch and the afternoon trip to see the ‘relatives’.
At age 11, in 1956, on the Torquay (Victoria) main beach, following the ‘Altar call’ at a CSSM (now Scripture Union) evening meeting, something inside me made me raise my hand and led me down to the front: deep inside, I really did believe in Jesus!
Apart from this event, I can’t remember anything else specifically happening. But, from that time on, and throughout my life, many ‘miraculous’ things happened:
• never being killed or seriously injured, despite a number of very close calls
• actually getting into (and graduating from!) Medical School in Melbourne
• somehow obtaining both residency and research positions at a major teaching hospital and university in Sydney.
During my ‘teenage’ years, although I drifted away from the church and prayer, the Lord never left me. For example, as a first-year medical student I was introduced to beer. I enjoyed ‘having a few’ with my mates at the pub next to the University. I felt great. I was no longer shy. I became ‘a leader’ – but of the wrong kind! Unbeknownst to me at the time, but by God’s grace, ‘I realised’ that alcohol and Geoffrey did not (and do not) make great companions. The urge to drink ceased.
My subsequent career in the extraordinary medical specialities of Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Medicine was a revelatory time of learning, learning and more learning as I was privileged to walk with greatly distressed people in their chaotic times of medical, emotional and social needs. I was aware of ‘spiritual need’, but, at that time, I had no specific framework with which to address this (critical) dimension. It was not until the late years of my medical career, at age 68, that I became aware of the Lord’s persistent gentle calling: although I had lost contact with the Lord, He had never lost contact with me.
In 2013, as a support person to someone I dearly love, I started to attend Wednesday night Chapel Service at the Dooralong Transformation Centre (DTC). This was a Salvation Army residential community on the Central Coast for persons suffering addiction to alcohol +/- drugs and gambling.
The DTC residents attend various Sunday Church services in the Central Coast and Newcastle areas as part of their residential program. One Sunday it was the turn of Newcastle (Hamilton) Salvos to host such a service.
Di (my wife, see her testimony below) and I decided to attend this church service. At the entrance we met Ian O’Dea, a previous colleague we had worked with at Rankin Park Rehabilitation Centre. Ian introduced us to his wife, Pam. We introduced Ian to the beloved person who we were supporting. To our great surprise, Ian told Di and I that Pam and he were Senior Pastors at a Church called Northlakes Salvo’s (NLS). He invited us to attend their Church.
Although I had lost contact with the Lord, He had never lost contact with me.
At the Newcastle Salvation Army Church that night, something life-changing (and life-saving) happened to both Di and myself. We decided to ‘give Church a crack’ and the next Sunday, with some apprehension, we attended NLS. From that time on, we were lovingly welcomed and embraced, to become brothers and sisters in Christ both within the NLS Church and the worldwide Community of Jesus believers and followers. In December 2014, together with 6 other new believers, Di and I were baptised at the NLS Church. I would like to share an example of the way the Holy Spirit worked in the beginning period of my new walk with Christ. In early 2015, a surgical colleague referred a person with a number of ‘challenging’ medical, emotional and social issues. I turned to my new Christian brothers and sisters for assistance. Following their inputs, this person subsequently became a member of our Church. Eventually, her small family came to Australia. Other members of this ethnic community were also drawn to our Church and subsequently, a young leader from within this community arose, bringing to NLS a series of powerful Christian messages.
Di and I have since been entrusted with a Pastoral Care Ministry within our church, as well as a Church Service Ministry to a local nursing home.
Via the Holy Spirit, we continue each step along the transformation pathway towards becoming the persons that God made us to be. All of this because we finally heard, listened to, and became obedient to Jesus as our Lord.
Personally, I cannot express this any better than the following verses from the song, 100 Billion X.
God of salvation You chased down my heart Through all of my failure and pride. On a hill You created The light of the world Abandoned in darkness to die. And as You speak A hundred billion failures disappear. Where You lost Your life So I could find it here. If You left the grave behind You so will I. I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done. Every part designed in a work of art called love If You gladly chose surrender so will I.
Dr Geoffrey Booth – Area Director Rehabilitation Medicine, Newcastle (Hunter New England Area Health Service-Royal Newcastle Hospital/John Hunter Hospital), Emeritus Consultant, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Medicine, John Hunter Hospital – retired from Medical Practice July 2018.
1. Romans 12:2 (ESV): “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.
2. So Will I (100 Billion X): Hillsong UNITED – Official Lyrics.
Dr Dianne Pacey
I had always thought that I was a lucky person. Life seemed to go pretty well for me. I was born into a ‘good’ family in the mid-20th century; a great time for a woman to be born in Australia. I had access to education, never went hungry or worried about a roof over my head. Surprisingly, I was admitted to Medical School despite being a single parent without an HSC; at a time when Gough Whitlam made the Single Parent Pension available and had removed tertiary education fees.
I loved my job working as a doctor. I had the good fortune of pursuing Rehabilitation and Pain Medicine and looking after people with chronic disabilities. I was inspired by the way they dealt with life and their ongoing challenges. Life was good. I had a great job, loving family, material security, good friendships, and good health. I did struggle with a work/life balance and had had one episode of reactive depression but I do not remember feeling an absence in my life; the so-called ‘God-shaped hole’.
Six years ago, Geoff (see his Testimony above) and I happened to find ourselves at the Salvation Army Hamilton Corps supporting a family member. It was to my great surprise that night that I had an experience of the love of God so powerful that I could not deny it. An elderly Salvation Army lady in her blue serge uniform, showed the grace and love of Jesus in an amazing way. That night we happened to run into Ian O’Dea with whom we had worked at Rankin Park Hospital and his wife Pam, part of the senior leadership team at Northlakes Salvation Army. They invited us to that church and this began our journey of regular church attendance.
God has a love for us independent of our circumstances, our self-perception or anything else.
By the good grace of God, Geoff followed not far behind me in experiencing the love of Jesus and we accepted Him as Lord and Saviour into our lives. We came to know that there is a love for us independent of how we might feel even about ourselves, that God has a love for us independent of our circumstances, our self-perception or anything else.
I began to follow Jesus, learning his teachings through the Bible and the church. I began to practice this ancient spiritual discipline of being a Jesus follower and I began to experience a God who is all around us and in us. I learnt about sin, both conscious and unconscious, and there was a change to the deep posture of my inner being.
I gave up things that do not relate to my relationship with Jesus and experienced a decline in anxiety. I developed a deep trust in God and peace. I gave up practising medicine and now find myself working in a school as a Chaplain, and have been greatly challenged by this. I have had to depend totally on God’s Spirit to guide me in this work, as I am completely inexperienced in this area. I have learned much and He continues to encourage me to depend not on my own resources but on Him.
As I reflect on the past, I have the realisation that someone else is and has always been leading my life. But now I am set free. I now ask myself,
“What are the invitations of Jesus in this phase of my life?”
“What is Jesus trying to do in my life right now?” and,
“How do I say yes?”
The end goal of my journey now is to live in God’s presence and love.
Dr Dianne Pacey worked at Royal Newcastle Hospital on the clerical staff. She gained a Bachelor of Medicine, specialist qualifications in Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Medicine. Currently, she and Geoff are co-leaders of the Pastoral Care Team at Northlakes Salvos. She volunteers in aged care and addiction rehabilitation facilities. She also works as a School Chaplain.
Back to issue: Breath of Life