Listen: Laura Bennett chats to army chaplain Father Rob Sutherland (pictured above)
When a soldier returns from deployment in a warzone, it’s inevitable they will return home changed or affected in some way.
The experience is different for everyone, says army chaplain Father Rob Sutherland – it may not be depression or post traumatic stress disorder someone struggles with, but instead a feeling of betrayal, niggling sense of guilt, or a world view without hope.
He believes some of the struggles of returned service men and women are spiritual problems that doctors and psychology cannot fix. That’s why he founded Warrior Welcome Home, a ministry aimed at bringing spiritual restoration to returned defence personnel, and helping them to know that God loves them, and they belong in His family.
Speaking with Laura Bennett, Father Rob, who ministers at St John’s Anglican Church in Gordon, said he is able to help men and women in the defence forces to work through their big questions—because he is one of them.
He served in the army as an infantry officer for 20 years, then as an army chaplain for another 20.
“I’ve had to answer those questions myself,” he said. “When I was a Christian infantry officer [I was] dealing with issues [like] ‘Is it ok to train a bunch of good young Australian men to go away and if necessary kill in the name of our country?’,
“I’ve had to deal with those questions myself, so that’s helped me when I sit down with other people and work through the questions they’ve got.”
Warrior Welcome Home offers Bible studies, prayer, special services in the ‘warrior chapel’ at St John’s church, and sitting and chatting through issues with people, dealing with the issues “that no-one else can talk to them about”.
God Can Heal our ‘Dents in the Soul’
Rob uses the term “dents in the soul”, originally coined by an army brigadier Mick Moon, to describe the way soldiers are affected in some way by military service.
“Dents in the soul tend to come from whatever we believe in,” he said. “So for some people they’ve got their values and their view of the world from school or the media or their family – but we’re trying to say there’s a God-part of this.
“Often we’ve had great Christian men and women in defence who’ve come back and feel that they no longer belong in church.
“If you’re feeling guilty, if you’re feeling betrayed, if you’re world view is shattered, if you’ve lost hope, God has a voice to speak into this. We try to give people space in which to work through what God wants to do in healing this.”