Haydn Lea writes - I have been one of the ‘young’ writers for a few years now. Like others, I have been given the opportunity to share some of ‘my story’.
I was born in Perth, in 1989. I guess that means I am technically an 80’s kid, but naturally, I do not remember any of it. I was the second of three children, so I am a middle-child, which might explain a lot about me.
I did not grow up in a Christian home, but nor did I grow up in an anti-Christian home. My parents encouraged us kids to make our own decisions, and they would support us either way. I certainly had plenty of Christian friends, and would occasionally accompany them to church or youth groups.
Overall, it was a stable, working-class home life. There were no major events or traumas to speak of, and I only went to one primary school and one high school. During high school, I started dating a Christian girl named Shamsa, who would come to play an unbelievably significant role in my story.
Joining the RAAF
Immediately after finishing high school, I applied for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). I joined as an Airfield Defence Guard, who conduct all of the ground combat for the RAAF. I posted to Queensland, and eventually specialised in marksmanship and reconnaissance.
Shamsa had started university in WA, and a year later joined the Air Force on a scholarship. This meant that she was able to move to Queensland and continue her studies there, closer to where I was living.
Journey to Faith
As I mentioned earlier, I was not a Christian growing up. I had a vague awareness of the broadest contours of Christianity, and had at times been open to the concept, but had never progressed any further than that.
When I joined the RAAF, I received a small camouflage Bible at basic training. I began to read this in what little spare time I had there, and attended a chapel service for recruits each Sunday.
Once I graduated and moved to Queensland, I maintained contact with a Chaplain there, and continued reading my camouflage Bible. I got to a point where I accepted that God probably existed, and prayed to Him when I wanted help with something.
When visiting Shamsa (she still lived in WA at the time), I went to her church with her. After the service, her pastor challenged me to think through what I believed, and fully commit to God if that is where I was lead. I met with Shamsa during that week, and God finally removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. Shamsa prayed with me, took me to Koorong to get a Bible, and my new life began in earnest.
I went back to QLD, Shamsa moved over not long after, and we began attending a Baptist church in 2009. I was then baptised there on my 20th birthday, and married Shamsa the following year.
Call to Ministry
In 2011, I deployed to Afghanistan. I had started working around the Middle East with an Air Force team, but due to my particular qualifications, I was re-tasked and attached to an Army team in Kabul. My main role was close personal protection (bodyguard) and vehicle patrols around the city.
I was there for 6 months, so got myself a ‘read the Bible in year’ devotional book, and committed to reading two of these a day—hence I would read the Bible in its entirety whilst I was there. The rest of the team certainly noticed this, and people soon started coming to me with any spiritual questions they might have.
During our time over there, many Australians and other allied personnel were killed. There were barrages of rocket attacks on our base, and direct attacks on our team. I soon found that amidst all of the chaos, fear, and uncertainty, people were coming to me for spiritual support.
In my prayer and devotion, I started to feel that maybe God was calling me to military Chaplaincy. The day after privately thinking this, other people there started to tell me that I should consider Air Force chaplaincy. New people arriving in Kabul started to seek me out, because they were told that I was soon to be a Chaplain, and the person to speak to for spiritual advice.
I decided that God was calling me, and like all good Biblical calls, it was happening in the desert.
Road to Chaplaincy
When I returned to Australia, I applied for a position as an Air Force Chaplain. Eventually this was approved, and I was given a scholarship—the Air Force paid for me to study ministry and theology, and become an Ordained Baptist minister.
I did these studies in Queensland, and loved every moment of it. God blessed me with a voracious appetite for theology, Church history, and Bible study. By the end of it all I graduated top of all affiliated Australian theology colleges twice (once for my bachelor, and then again for my masters).
Once I was ordained, I trained as an Air Force officer and began working as an Air Force Chaplain in Adelaide.
I have completed my time in Adelaide, and as of this year, I am working as the Chaplain for our Air Force members in Canberra. Shamsa is working here as a Logistics Officer, in the very same building.
We have two daughters, a 3 year old named Amira and a 1 year old named Ayla.
We are well settled into this current season of our life, but as always, are excited to see what God does in and through us next.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html