Faith has been the instrument of change in Donald’s life.
Growing up in a Salvation Army home, faith was always a part of my life. Ours was very much a home of service to others, looking out for each other and for those in need.
My four older sisters learnt to play a brass instrument so it was natural that I would learn one as well. The Salvo bandmaster saw some ability in me and helped me form the skills that have built my career.
I remember making the decision to be a Junior Soldier (member). I was sitting next to my sister at the corps meeting (church service) and said, “I think I’ll go down the front and say thanks to Jesus.” Most of my friends growing up didn’t go to church but I had a core group of young people that I could share my faith journey with. It was always a balancing act for me, having a faith and living to values despite what others may think. This has become something that I have learnt to do with much more conviction. I do not believe in a ‘Bible smash to the face’ approach to faith. Relationships, conversations and being open to other views strengthen my own faith and are also a way for others to understand the faith journey.
There are definitely times I have had to make a conscious recommitment to faith. At uni, I reached a fork in the road and had to make a decision about what I should do. It was a pretty tough time, but God placed a mentor in my life who totally changed my perspective on faith and my music journey.
Bill Broughton (internationally renowned composer and musician) pulled me aside one day at uni. I had met him once the year before and he freaked me out by remembering my name and my connection to the Salvos. He spoke to me about a conviction that I should do more with the musical gifts God had given me and he committed to sharing time with me. That journey continued for many years and not a day goes by that he is not resonating in my mind. With his recent passing, that wisdom is now something I feel charged to pass on.
In 2013, I was diagnosed with exhaustion, then a few months later with anxiety and depression. It was a huge wake-up call. Like a lot of men, particularly from the country, I thought I could battle through on my own. This wasn’t the case and I made a decision to own that diagnosis and fight publicly for my restoration to full functionality. God provided me with amazing support in the music circles I perform with, particularly in The Salvation Army, people who really understood what was happening. Slowly but surely, God provided opportunities for me to rebuild, grow in faith and rediscover that place of peace in his presence.
I firmly believe in carrying out life in a way that shows faith. The most obvious outworking of my faith is my involvement in the Salvo Big Band. I am connected to both faith-based and secular groups in my community. I’m influential in arts and cultural decisions, and am active in the performing arts both as a board and creative team member for a number of organisations. My day job is a secondary school teacher and year level co-ordinator. All of these allow me to demonstrate faith as well as gratitude. By being an example of Christ we never know the impact that one moment of generosity or support can have.
For the past year and a half I have published a daily gratitude post on Facebook. I am blessed to have great friends, especially a group of men who are a wonderful support. I am blessed to have a family that supports me in my journey and who I love and support. My music is a blessing not only to others, but to me. I am able to live many dreams and experience many things from it.
I am blessed to have trials in life because they teach me to never lose focus on what God is doing in my life. I am blessed with colleagues who care for each other. I am blessed with students who ask questions and make life an adventure every day. I am blessed with mentors who advise and keep me moving forward. I am blessed to know that life is always going to be about the prize at the end and enjoying the journey to get there.