A NSW pastor has delivered an Easter message of hope to Trinity Senior and Middle School students, detailing the strength of his faith in dealing with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Also, a Burundi refugee and musician shared not only worship, but also a glimpse into how the local church provided him with family when he was alone.
Pastor Dave McDonald told students how be “broke down” when told he had incurable stage four lung cancer, despite never being a smoker, and was given 10-13 months to live.
That was 10 years ago.
The 58-year-old father of four, who remains on chemotherapy every few weeks to keep his cancer at bay, told how privileged he felt to have been granted his “bucket list prayers” such as attending his children’s weddings and being blessed with two grandsons.
But his faith was sorely tested, he told Year 7-12 boys in a series of Easter Mission addresses in the assembly hall.
The pastor of the Salt Community Church at Bonny Hills, near Port Macquarie, said his diagnosis made him “call into question everything I believed”.
“Could God be trusted? Was he real? Does he answer? Does he keep his promises?”
He had since learned that his youngest son, then 12, would go out into the street and scream, ‘I hate you, God’.
He said many senior students were already planning for life after school, but he challenged them to think about life after death – eternal life with God.
“I have always had a terminal illness – the same one you’ve got,” he said.
“Most planning stops short of death, but it seems foolish not to make any plans for the one certain thing in this life.”
He said Easter was a good time to reflect on the meaning of life.
Some people questioned why the very first Easter Friday, the day of Jesus’ death, should be called Good Friday.
“I don’t like to call it Good Friday,” he said.
“I like to call it Really Good, Amazing, Wonderful Friday. Jesus paid the price for everything that keeps us separated from God.”
He said if Jesus died for a reason, then there was hope.
“Wouldn’t it be wise to check it out?” he asked students.
“I invite you to investigate these claims (of eternal life).”
The pastor, who previously lived in Canberra, spent 16 years as chaplain with the ACT Brumbies rugby team.
Copies of his book, Hope Beyond Cure, were made available for students to read.
Trinity Chaplain Greg Webster said: “As a school community we regularly seek to support our students when they are touched by these sorts of events, so David’s voice is an important one to hear. “Perhaps more pointedly, we’re never far from cancer ourselves – loved ones, neighbours, friends, work colleagues – we can all tell a story.”
The event was part of Trinity’s Mission Week and also included acoustic worship with David Nduwimana, the African refugee who sang Australia’s anthem at Bledisloe III last year. David fled the politically unstable African country of Burundi eight years ago. When he arrived in Australia he had an economics degree, little more than a guitar on his back and didn’t know a single person.
Having applied for a protection visa, David wanted to learn the Australian way of life, so immersed himself in the culture. He did so by learning the Australian national anthem. One Sunday in 2016, Nduwimana bumped into Rob Clarke, now the interim chief executive at Rugby Australia, and his wife Kylie at St Matthews Church in Manly.
He was. And Rob Clarke offered him the wonderful experience of singing the National Anthem at the Bledisloe as a way of celebrating his new life, free from fear of persecution in Australia.
A video from the Easter Mission event can be viewed here.