DUNTROON TO DILI: MAYHEM AND MIRACLES TRAUMATIC STRESS AND TRUST IN GOD
Gary Stone with Bob Breen; Echo Books, West Geelong Victoria; 2014.
Reviewed by Barbara Flynn
AMONG the many inspirations received by Deacon Gary Stone during quiet Christian prayer between 2004 and 2014 are these words: “God doesn’t give us a detailed plan for life – He gives us a landscape to explore.”
In essence, this message became a reality underpinning the life journey of Gary Stone.
While a cadet in his late teens at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, he made a public commitment to follow Jesus and be identified as a Christian in the Catholic tradition along with several other cadets who have since remained his firm friends.
In joyful fidelity, he bears witness to this commitment in the experiences of life shared in his biography compiled from extensive diary entries and prayer journalling.
Duntroon to Dili, co-authored with Bob Breen, an author in his own right, and a contemporary of Gary’s at Duntroon, is a compelling testament of a person who specifically chose, with deep faith and trust in God, to live as an advocate for peace, justice and morality.
He openly declares the importance he places on living authentically the Gospel values of service, mercy and peace based on love of God and respect and concern for others.
With the assistance of Bob Breen, Gary describes the challenges and uncertainties which he experienced as a soldier in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) during overseas military deployments as United Nations military observer in Iran then later in Fiji in response to a military coup.
The Iranian deployment saw him in a critical, life-threatening involvement which subsequently affected his health.
While working with ADF in Townsville and later in Canberra, Gary “felt challenged by God with a mission to share the Good News and to encourage, support and affirm other Christians”.
Thus began his studies to become a deacon in the Catholic Church where he ministered as a military chaplain and later as a chaplain to the Australian Federal Police.
Significantly, while Gary’s story provides insights into a life of service given for one’s country and people in countries beyond Australia’s borders, the important message embedded in the fabric of Gary’s life-story is that God’s presence and power are available as a reality in the life of a committed Christian.
There is urgency in his desire to share the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness using prayerful reflection on the unplanned details of his life which “explored a broad landscape”.
His conscious awareness of the activity of the Holy Spirit’s presence companioning him in all his endeavours is palpable.
Absolute trust in God’s providence sustains him.
He is not expecting a detailed plan to be set before him but is open to the surprises that emerge.
His family and relationships with others are of utmost importance in his Christian journey.
“The immense good accomplished by members of the Australian Defence Forces and the Australian Federal Police in their peacekeeping and humanitarian assignments”, Gary holds in high regard and admiration.
He recognises the ADF has equipped him with many life skills and experiences which he desires to use along with strategies he has learnt in his personal quest to overcome the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
So a new chapter begins as he ministers to ex-service veterans, particularly those afflicted with the effects of PTSD.
This story inspires hope and encouragement, giving an example of the integration of Christian spirituality and human potential.
Written in the first person there is immediacy in the telling, inviting continuous engagement in the narrative.
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