Donald Elley of Bellingen, the writer of this site

 

I became a Holy Spirit-filled Christian at the tender age of 19, back in Wellington, New Zealand, where I grew up.

I was born in Wanganui, New Zealand in 1956. Wanganui is two hours drive north of the capital Wellington.

My father Rev Reuben Donald Elley was the Presbyterian clergy at Wanganui East from 1955 to 1959 and oversaw the completion of the current church building. I can’t recall why the previous minister left with the building incomplete.

 

New Zealand relatives in 1959: From left Grandad Jim Elley, my mother Valerie, Jim Elley dad’s brother, Georgina my maternal grandma, my dad and little me. My teddy, which I still have, is tossed to the right on the concrete. Poor teddy has no eyes now and one ear has almost fallen off. Otherwise he’s going strong. My mum, Jim Elley Jr and me are the only ones still alive. The photograph was taken outside Island Bay Presbyterian Church in Wellington- New Zealand’s capital.

 

My family then moved to Tawa in 1959 where dad was the chaplain at Porirua Psychiatric Hospital and Arohata Woman’s Prison. In those days Porirua Psychiatric Hospital was called Porirua Mental Hospital. Previously it was called Porirua Lunatic Asylum. Dad was the Protestant pastor at Porirua Hospital from 1959 to 1966.

Dad raised the cash to build an interdenominational Protestant chapel there. Dad wanted all the non-Catholics to have a chapel to worship at when they were in the hospital. The Roman Catholics already had a church there. So dad raised the cash and built the chapel.

With dad it was action all the way. Always responding to need quickly, professionally and with the greatest faith.

If there’s one man I miss on this earth, it’s my father. I’ve had quite a few friends and relatives die in my lifetime now. I miss my dad and my maternal grandmother Madge Brooker the most. Dad died five years ago in 2012 and Nana Brooker died in 1996. I was also close to mum.

My mother is still alive aged 87. She has advanced dementia and doesn’t recognise anyone anymore. I find it extremely hard when I visit her and cry on and off the whole visit. She doesn’t notice my pain and is really nice and godly still. Mum is in her own dream-world of her tired mind, waiting for eternity.

 

My dad. A man of the cloth. Strong, long-suffering, very patient, very wise, witty and very generous. Died 5 years ago. My blogs on dad before his death, on the day he died, and after his passing were well received.

 

My maternal grandmother Madge Brooker. Super godly and super sensitive, super sweet and O so lovely. Her and I were very close as I was to my father Reuben Donald. Madge died in 1996 aged 92. Dad was 87 when he died in 2012.

 

Mum and dad at their 50th wedding anniversary in 2005.

 

Porirua Chapel. Built with funds raised by my father Rev Reuben Donald Elley in 1966.

Porirua Chapel. The old-school electro-convulsive shock machine for “brain therapy”. Ghastly. I’ve never liked that kind of approach to mental health remedies at all.

 

We were at Khandallah Presbyterian Church from 1966 to 1972.

In many ways dad’s career defined my early life. In those days, Presbyterian ministers (pastors) in New Zealand stayed a maximum of 7 years in  given parish. It was thought by dad and his contempories that after seven years a minister becomes stale and the congregation got sick of him, and it was time to move on.

In 1972, dad took up a Professorship at the New Zealand Bible College lecturing in pastoral care and evangelism. His classes were very popular with the students. The New Zealand Bible College is now called Laidlaw College.

It took me a while to find my feet out of the shadow of dad and his Christian ministry. Some folks never exit the shadow of their parents.

It’s not that my father was controlling. In fact, quite the opposite. Dad was perhaps a little too disengaged as a father. Too busy. Very vocational in his ministry. It was all-consuming. This is a young man’s disease and dad was more accessible to family as he got older. Despite the busyness and outpouring to other people, I did manage to spend a lot of quality time with dad over the years.

Dad was also a very funny man. Very silly at times. I don’t think mum really “got dad”. Mum was more serious and straight-forward, whereas dad was extremely complex, highly intelligent and full of life. This was quite miraculous, given that for over fifty years he was a diabetic and very dependent on insulin injections throughout each day.

 

Dad pretending cauliflowers from the family garden were ears and thinking this kind of stunt was hilarious. Not bad cauliflowers. Once dad accidentally put a shovel through my nose when I was two and trying to help him dig up the potatoes in the family garden.

 

Dad thought silly glasses and hats were funny.

Classic dad. In the 1960s to 1970s, there were lots of these metal creatures in children’s playgrounds all over New Zealand with a hole where the head was so people could stick their heads through and make silly expressions. You can see dad was a natural for this type of theatrics. He wouldn’t care who was watching and would think it was hilarious to muck about like this.

 

My favourite photograph of dad

 

Mum and dad making a grand entry into their granddaughter Alana’s and her husband Jeff’s wedding with everyone applauding. Dad holding his trusty shepherd’s crook which he bought in Israel and was with him to the end. I now have it. Dad came out of the old folks home for this occasion.

 

Classic dad