Chap­lain builds on hope for armed forces in Ti­mor-Leste

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Lisa Sloan

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.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

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.

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