Australia

Prayer-led rehab centres to go national

Just occasionally you meet a Christian who makes you cry. And then laugh. All within the same minute. Then he leaves you like jelly as he prays to his “Dad” to lift you – a princess, a jewel – to the Gates of Heaven.

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Such a one is Peter Lyndon-James. The former ice addict, bikie, criminal and now pastor and leader of a rapidly growing series of drug and alcohol rehab centres south of Perth has an extraordinary gift for living out the word and leading people to God.

“Rehab is chockers – we’ve just got another house. Our hostels are all full and the whole organisation is about to double.” – Peter Lyndon-James

Shalom House, the Christian rehab centre he founded by accident in the Swan Valley in 2012, has a reputation for strictness. Addicts have to give up drugs “cold turkey”, even cigarettes, and attend church three times a week. But through a holistic residential rehabilitation programme, addicts have the opportunity to bring restoration to all aspects of their lives, including finances, relationships, emotional issues, employment, education and training.

And Shalom House cannot keep up with demand. Right now, Shalom House has 11 properties with 140 men and 70-plus staff and is about to double in size.

“Everything is growing. Shalom House itself is totally full. We can’t fit any more people in the church. Rehab is chockers – we’ve just got another house. Our hostels are all full and the whole organisation is about to double,” Peter tells Eternity.

“The works programme is full. Everything at Shalom is just literally at capacity and we’re right on the verge of rolling self-funded rehabs centres right across Australia. We just need a hub …. to put our offices, our Shalom Works [maintenance service] and our auditorium all into one building so that the administration will be all from one place.”

“We actually use a lot of prayer ministry, taking the axe to the root, and getting out the unforgiveness, the bitterness and resentment.”

Peter’s story was featured on ABC Television’s Australian Story last year under the title Breaking Good and a team is returning in two weeks to do a follow-up programme. Next month, members of Shalom House will perform a play called ANYMAN at the Perth Fringe Festival, which traces the story of addiction from men in rehabilitation.

It’s lucky that he thrives on pressure because he has also entered politics, winning a seat on the local council. He flies to Canberra this week to attend the Australian of the Year Award, for which he is a nominee. He has already been named Western Australia’s Local Hero in the Australian of the Year Awards.

Peter Lyndon-James at the Australian of the Year Awards.

Meanwhile, he is ready to send out teams of men, whom he has trained and discipled, to lead rehab centres in other parts of Western Australia and across the country.

“But we still need the houses in the community – we’ve got the go-ahead from Kalgoorlie and also from Collie, we’ve also got pre-approval in Geraldton, and we’re getting asked by other states to start rehabs.”

Until now, Shalom’s programme has been focused on men and married couples, but now Peter is responding to demand for a women’s programme and is training up staff to start it.

“We don’t give people coping mechanisms, we actually use a lot of prayer ministry, taking the axe to the root, and getting out the unforgiveness, the bitterness and resentment and the inter-generational stuff,” he says.

With 95 per cent of his “fellows” being Christian, Peter believes the secret of his approach is not pushing religion “down people’s throats”.

“At the end of the day, I sit back and I’m just dumbfounded how God does what he does, and how he gives me the strength to do what it is that I do.”

“A lot of people want nothing to do with religion because of what it’s done and what it causes and how it restricts the lifestyle that they want to live,” he says.

“But I’m really good at communicating my faith in a way that is relevant to all people from all backgrounds from all denominations and from all levels of Christianity.

“All we do with religion is we lead them to Christ and when we lead them to Christ we disciple them to hear his voice and be led by his Spirit and teach them to have a relationship with who he is … he’s the one that brings conviction to their heart.”

Now working alongside his wife of 27 years, Amanda, as one of his three PAs, they both work full-time as volunteers, believing that what they are doing is from God.

“Me and my wife say basically he [God] has ruined our life,” Peter jokes.

“I think about him when I wake, I think about him as I go about my day, I think about him as I put my head on the pillow – I can’t get him out of my mind. Everything else to me is just dust and ashes.

“I just thank him for the privilege that he allows me to get on my knees in the morning. I thank him for the privilege that I can actually open his word, to say his name, just to know that he’s real in my heart.

“This morning I got on my knees, like I do every day, and I just shut my eyes and I just said ‘Dad, Dad, thank you for the privilege that I can pray to you this morning, Dad,’ and I just felt this little bank of his presence. I sat with my Dad and I just said, ‘it’s too hard for me; I don’t know what I’m doing, but just go ahead of me today, Dad, and help me to come behind you’ … and at the end of the day, I sit back and I’m just dumbfounded how he does what he does, and how he gives me the strength to do what it is that I do. He’s a logistical mastermind. He’s amazing, he’s gorgeous.”

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