As the Christmas lights faded on the eve of 2015, Mike McMillan entered the New Year feeling empty and directionless.
Two months earlier he lost his wife, who he nursed through a five-year long battle with cancer. This very same woman was the one who saved him from a life of self-destruction, alcoholism and violence.
Suddenly, he faced a future without her – with four children to care for.
“I didn’t know what to do. I just knew I couldn’t go back to full-time work or the management role that I’d had before,” Mike recalls.
Despite this, questions from concerned friends kept coming about his future. After considering his options, he made the decision to become a qualified horticulturalist.
He was set, or so he thought…
What began as an innocuous text message exchange snowballed into a chain of events leading Mike down a very different ‘garden path’.
“I texted a friend to let them know that I was going back to study. They texted back, ‘what are you going to study?’
“What happened next, I cannot explain, but I typed into my phone, c-h-a-p-l-a-i-n-c-y,” says Mike.
Expecting a less than flattering response, Mike was instead greeted with a shock reply… “That’s brilliant. You’d be fantastic”.
Ten days later, Mike met with the Scripture Union Queensland (RTO 30548) training team to discuss starting his Certificate IV in Youth Work (CHC40413).
“I don’t come from a strong Christian background, and suddenly I was surrounded by all these people who had years of experience in youth work already. I felt so unequipped. But then I remember speaking with a young bloke in the course who’d already done all these amazing things, he wanted to hear my story. So I told him.
“He said, ‘God’s been preparing you for this job for 48 years’,” Mike recalls.
For Mike, growing up in a broken home where alcoholism and domestic violence were common, the idea of God being there wasn’t so obvious.
“I had an abusive childhood. I became a drug addict. I battled with alcoholism and I was just a mean, nasty, violent person, until I met my wife. It’s because of her that I became a Christian.
“So when this young guy said to me that God’s been preparing me my whole life for this, I suddenly realised the journey that I’ve been on, which has included some horrible times, it wasn’t for nothing,” Mike says.
The past 18 months have been a whirlwind for Mike, who has since completed his Certificate IV in Youth Work.
While his qualification gave him the option of pursuing a variety of youth work roles, his heart is set on chaplaincy.
Earlier this year Mike secured employment as the Brassall State School chaplain. It’s an achievement he says has been made possible by the support of the Scripture Union training team and the practical skills he acquired during his studies.
“The trainers have just been amazing. As somebody who was entering the classroom for the first time in decades, they just made me feel so at ease. I don’t know how I would have got through without their support,” he says.
It is because of the faithful support of friends like you that Mike is now equipped with the skills he needs to bring hope to young Queenslanders in need.
“I just want be that person I never had growing up. For the young ones that may be going through what I went through, I want to be there to let them know that they’re important, that they’re valued and loved.”
Visit training.suqld.org.au to find out more about starting your qualification in Youth Work.
Scripture Union Queensland RTO 30548
Certificate IV in Youth Work CHC40413
Please note: The completion of a qualification with Scripture Union Queensland (RTO 30548) does not guarantee employment in school chaplaincy with Scripture Union Queensland or other school chaplaincy employing authorities.