A compilation of reflections from military personnel, public servants and their families called My Story, My God was launched at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, chapel in Canberra on August 2.
Unable to attend the unveiling of the book due to COVID-19 restrictions, Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley sent words of support and viewed the event online.
Mrs Hurley said the stories were varied and personal, describing the highs, lows and everything in between that are the part of the “rich tapestry” of Defence life.
Julie Jaensch and Lieutenant Colonel Phil McMaster, from the Forum of Christian Military Ministries, worked together on their idea for a “unique” Australian book for 18 months.
Lieutenant Colonel McMaster thanked the personnel who willingly shared part of their faith story.
“Not all the stories will be for every person, but I hope some resonate and they are willing to commend it to others,” Lieutenant Colonel McMaster said.
It includes anecdotes from every part of Defence, including under the water, helicopter crashes, at the bushfires and a wife delighting in seeing her husband come home from deployment.
Service in submarines can be tough but also rewarding, according to Captain Daniel Sutherland, who found he “instinctively” leaned on his faith while at sea.
As commander of a submarine, Captain Sutherland referred to contending with technical issues and bad weather, such as having to surface
near a typhoon.
He shared his “worst day at sea” when a shipmate was badly injured in rough weather near their home port and another experience bringing the submarine alongside in less-than-ideal conditions.
“I thought it might encourage other people, despite where they work, who’d think, ‘This could be important to me as well’,” Captain Sutherland said.
“Working in a niche area, which submarines are, like many other jobs in Defence, your faith is still of value to you there and it’s applicable to those experiences.”
A diverse range of people contributed to the book.
“I’m hoping people who read it, no matter who they are, will think some of the experiences and stories could apply to their situation,” Captain Sutherland said.
Colonel Matthew Rogerson said his contribution was unusual because it was about seeing success and failure differently.
Despite his best efforts, when Colonel Rogerson started a Bible study group at his barracks, only a couple of cleaning staff attended.
“My initial response was disappointment that only those from the lower levels of the unit came along and none of the more important members of the unit gave it their support,” Colonel Rogerson said.
“While quite a human response, I learnt from it that God doesn’t count people the same way we count people. Everyone is equal.”
Officer Cadet Lauren Hutchinson said there was a big cultural stereotype around Christianity in Defence.
“This especially seems to apply to officers, that we don’t fully participate in military culture because of our beliefs,” Officer Cadet Hutchinson said.
“I wanted to share that it has actually enhanced my training, world views and foundational values, rather than hindering or going against them.
“I feel totally a part of the community and culture here.”
A need for persistence was shared from David Coleman’s experience of running a group at Campbell Park offices in Canberra.
Mr Coleman’s message was while you might not receive encouragement along the way, it might be apparent afterwards that your actions benefited somebody.
“I want people to be encouraged to stay on course, to be diligent and keep doing what is right, even when circumstances make that difficult or unappealing,” Mr Coleman said.
My Story, My God is free to those who work in Defence via the local chaplain.
For areas with no chaplain, contact mcf.office [at] defence.gov.au