Chaplain builds on hope for armed forces in Timor-Leste
When Peter Olds became a chaplain in the New Zealand Defence Force, he knew his experience as a pastor would be helpful.
He didn’t know he needed to be handy at carpentry too.
The Sandringham resident joined the Defence Force two years ago and is currently serving in Timor-Leste, providing spiritual support to troops in the army, navy and air force.
Between helping out soldiers in need, he has built furniture, replaced termite-ridden floors and acted as a general handyman.
The former Balmoral Baptist Church pastor is loving his new career.
“I like the thought that I am able to do something worthwhile,” he says.
“It’s a vocation with a sense of adventure where you can get sent anywhere and do pretty much anything.”
Peter decided to become a chaplain after spending 10 years as pastor at Balmoral.
He spends up to six months away on deployment, helping soldiers, sailors and pilots through emotional and spiritual problems.
When he is not needed as a chaplain, he is put to work in a range of tasks from community patrols to building and fixing things.
Peter has a background in construction and says his carpentry skills have come in handy.
“I have a lot of transferable skills and my background in building and construction has made me quite useful in the times when there are no welfare or spiritual needs to meet,” he says.
“I’ve replaced floors eaten by termites, built furniture and fixed broken water mains.
“I like getting my hands dirty and it’s a good way of getting alongside people.”
Peter says the most memorable part of being in Timor has been the children.
Despite living in bad conditions in tents surrounded by burnt-out buildings they keep a positive attitude, he says.
“The kids there are awesome, so smiley and happy,” Peter says.
“It just gives you hope that things can change and they are the generation that is going to do it.”
Lieutenant Commander Phil Wheavon has worked with Peter for several years.
He says he has all the right qualities to make a good chaplain.
“You need to like people and have a desire to help them and that’s something Peter has loads of.
“He’s got a great deal of empathy for young people and helping trainees through the hard times,” Lieutenant Commander Wheavon says.
Peter returned to TimorLeste this week after a short break at home.
He will be away over Anzac Day and says troops will mark the occasion by visiting memorials around the city.
Mr fix it: Chaplain Peter Olds has found his carpentry skills useful while away on deployment in Timor-Leste.
On duty: Peter delights children in Timor-Leste with a stamp on the hand.