Steve Whiteaker came from a culture where relationships come at a cost. His life changed dramatically when he realised the Salvos were there for him and wanted nothing back.
Late last year (26 October), Warcry featured a story on Jason McDonald, a man who had been in and out of prison since he was 17, lived a life of addiction, crime and homelessness, and arrived at The Salvation Army deeply hurt and broken.
Through the love and care of a Christian couple who invited Jason and others into their home to mentor and support them, and The Salvation Army across the road in Rockingham, Western Australia, Jason’s life was dramatically changed.
He has become a Christian, is volunteering three days a week with the Salvos, studies theology, and is also one of two ‘lead tenants’ at Discipleship House — a new accommodation outreach at Rockingham Salvos.
The idea behind the outreach is to have two mature Christians rent rooms in a secure home and commit to living alongside one or two other tenants invited into the home, mentoring and supporting them and sharing their faith.
The first tenant of the home, 26-year-old Steve Whiteaker, says he was thrilled to be invited. “Since I’ve been here, honestly, it’s been nothing but joy. I’d been praying for the last 10 months just for a safe place, and a grass area for my dog. And I look back in my book and I’ve got all that plus more now. I’m so very blessed.”
Steve has had a long association with The Salvation Army in Rockingham through its crisis care team. His experience with addiction had led him to the point in his relatively short life where he realised he had lost his sense of purpose. “I definitely had no hope and … I knew that the only way to get out of this hole and to have a purpose and live a good life was through Jesus.”
So he started ‘rocking up’ at Rockingham Salvation Army every Sunday. But shame kept him from walking through the front door. He would stand out the front, have a cigarette, and then leave. This went on for many weeks until one day Salvos member Graham Liddle came out and had a chat and encouraged Steve to “Come in and give it a go”.
“I did go in that day,” Steve recalls. “But I was very quick to leave [at the end], too!”
Over the next few weeks, Graham and Steve met for coffee and meals to chat. Steve was suspicious. He had come from a culture where relationships came at a cost. “The world is always tit-for-tat, so I was thinking, ‘What do you want from me? I’ve got nothing to give at the moment, I’m broke.’”
But soon the truth started to sink in for Steve: “I finally realised with Graham that he didn’t want anything from me, but he wanted to give input into my life and let me know that I am loved. I’ve never had a good male role model in my life. Ever.”
That realisation was a game-changer. Steve became more connected at the church, he attended the Rockingham Salvos Men’s Shed, and kick-started his Salvos Positive Lifestyle Program again. Steve also began to pray and write in his journal, believing that God had a plan and a purpose for his life. All this led him to Discipleship House.
The experience of living in a safe, loving home with a focus on being in relationship with God and partnering with him in his work to restore humanity, has already had a huge impact on Steve. “I’m growing every day just by plugging in … I’m just praying that God will guide me with my decisions and lead me to my purpose. At the moment, I know 110 per cent that I’m supposed to be here.”