Peter Pearson’s book, A Blood and Guts Good News Story, has been described as a must-read for anyone on a journey to spiritual maturity. It’s his attempt to talk to men like himself, in a language they’ll understand, about how finding faith transformed his life. Neil Johnson recently spoke to Peter about the experiences that inspired the book, from his work as a shearer, to his 37-year stint with the salvation army.
On a recent trip around Australia, Peter kept a sign on his car promoting his book. “It’s not too religious is it?” people would ask him. He responded by saying that it was just a story of a shearer who found God and became a salvation army officer. “They’d come back to you the next day and say I don’t read, but I’m half way through it already.”
Johnson asked him what inspired him to tell his life story. ““It was to save my marriage actually,” he chuckled. “My wife said for goodness sake, go sit down and tell your story in a book. She said I’m sick of them. That’s how it started.”
“But I wanted to share the gospel in a language that the dinky die Aussie would open up to and be appreciative of. Non-Christian, non-religious people are lapping up the book, because it’s real. It’s about a life, and a lot of humour in it. And people are loving it.”
Johnson imagined that people would be intrigued by the intricacies of such a life story. “People are looking for answers, not advice,” Peter said. “And I tried to share my journey, and to be absolutely real.”
Peter chose his title to announce that this wasn’t the story of an easy life. “It’s about the temptations I went through,” he said. “It’s about the struggles I went through, and the victories I had, and the joy of seeing people find new life.”
As promised, his story did begin with blood and guts. He grew up on a farm which his father couldn’t sell. At eight or nine, his father took him down to the creek to shoot their sheepdogs. “He was so upset, he wounded mine, and it howled on the ground, and he shot it again. And it took me forty years before I dealt with the trauma of that.”
“But it helped me amazingly to relate to people on the land who are going through it tough. You have to go out and shoot stock, because you haven’t got feed for them, or they’re bogged in the dam. It’s tough. And I found a faith that helped me get through those sort of things, and then helped me become an officer in the salvation army, serving those less fortunate than ourselves.”
But first came his career as a shearer, which he took on in hopes of impressing his father. “Well I came home at sixteen, and woke Dad, and said I’ve shorn a hundred sheep! He said what do you want me to do, congratulate you?”
He kept practicing until he could manage 200 per day. Eventually, his work took him to New Zealand, where he worked with a Maori woman clocking up 300 per day. “When I realised she was knocking off every hour to feed the baby, I gave up and came home in disgust.”
“I loved the shearing,” he said. “It was a great experience, and it was honest work. You got paid for what you did.” He loved it so much that he returned to the shed last year as a rouseabout.. “It was interesting. My transformed life obviously was moderated. And the guys respected that. And I was able to share how I’d come to faith, and the difference it made. Because they saw a guy that was real, and not some religious nut.”
He says conversations about faith are the last thing you’d hear at the shearing board. But he’s adamant that shearers are as spiritual as anyone else. “And this book has helped me reach them, because it’s talking in their language. It’s talking from their point of view, but with a religious aspect.”
“Everybody is spiritual; not everybody is religious. And I think a lot of people are disillusioned with religion. There’s so many negatives that are conjured up when we talk religion. But talk spirituality, and everybody has a need for a greater power than themselves.”
Peter wasn’t looking for answers when he found faith. He was just lonely. “I was in New Zealand shearing, away from home at Christmas time, and decided I’d go to church, and couldn’t find the church I’d grown up in, and just wandered into the salvation army.”
After the service, a boy invited him to lunch on behalf of his mother. It was the first of six Sunday lunches in a row, with a family of complete strangers who welcomed him in. “I found a spiritual experience with the Lord that changed my life through that.”
Soon after, Peter moved to Sydney, where he became an ambulance worker. “In six months,” he said, “we got called to six attempted suicides, and four of them were fatal, in one street.”
“We were taking bodies to the morgue, when I wanted to do far more than that. I wanted to get out and share a message, so they didn’t get to the end of the road, so they didn’t get to the end of their resources, and take their own life.”
“It was like a bolt of lightning out of the blue, to realise that these guys were taking their life because they didn’t have a direction. And I did have a direction. I’d found forgiveness, I’d found a direction in life. Goalposts had been set down. And I knew I had to get out there and start sharing how I found that faith with more people. And the Salvation Army was the avenue for that.”
Peter worked with the Salvation Army for 37 years, in various ministry roles. He established rural ministries in Western New South Wales, where he helped hand out 16 million dollars to farmers struggling like his father once had. He worked in churches across the country, from Bathurst to Bundaberg, Ballina to Broken Hill.
In that time, he learned the right and wrong way to help people. During one service, he stood up on his chair and shouted that the Salvation Army’s job was to lift people up. Everyone clapped and cheered. “I jumped off the seat, and said no it’s not. It’s to get beside them, and help them walk up.”
“What gives us the idea that we can reach down and lift somebody up? Are we better than them? No, we’re not.”
“It’s incarnational ministry, of getting down beside people and walking with them. And that’s what the 37 years was. Walking beside people, and giving them hope. And they were the ones that had the answers. They were able to find the Lord, and were able to move on and overcome all sorts of issues they had in life.”
Neil Johnson pointed out that Peter had gone from being a shearer to a shepherd. He asked him what he’d learned from that transformation. “Working with stock, you had to be calm, and confident, but firm. It’s no different in the ambulance work. People in crisis, illness, injuries, needed somebody who was cool-headed and firm.”
“Ministry is very much the same. You just need to get alongside people, and people need a shepherd. And I saw myself as a shepherd. That was my role in the salvation army.”
“Sheep get lost sometimes, and they need somebody to go and look for them, and gently bring them back to the fold. They don’t mean to get lost. They just nibble their way lost. And that was my role, to bring them back. That was basically my passion in officership, was shepherding the flock, and giving them a bit of guidance and a shoulder to cry on, and being there when they needed us.”
In his book, Peter is reaching out to people like himself, and his former mates in the shed, hard-working, hard talking men, who need a unique approach to ministry to show them the power of faith. A Blood and Guts Good News Story is a no-nonsense account, sixty-five years in the making, of a hard life, with plenty of struggles and challenges for him, and the people he served. But Pearson shows us that through faith, any story can become a good news story.
A Blood and Guts Good News Story is available to buy now through the Vision store.
If you want to listen to the audio interview click play below