'My wife and I vowed to give away our businesses ...'
Peter’s story | Coffee refills and the business of God
“My wife, Charlene, and I moved to Sydney in 1992. We didn’t know anyone, so we both joined local community groups to meet people. Charlene took our daughter to a dance group, and I joined the local cricket club. Weirdly, we both met people who were part of the same small church plant, with only 20 people in it. What is the likelihood of that? There are 20,000 people in North Richmond.”
“Neither of us were Christians at the time. My wife met a lady called Carole who invited her to that church. I met a guy called Mark, who was the youth pastor. He had a Jesus sticker on the back of his cricket bat. I asked him if he was mocking Jesus. My Catholic upbringing had provided a reverence for God, even though I had no personal faith.
“He said, ‘No, no, I love Jesus! In fact, I’m off to Bible College.’
“My wife started attending the church whilst I stayed home. Then one week, Charlene was running late for church and I offered to go with her. I knew that Mark was preaching his first sermon. After that, I never stopped going. I started helping on the set-up and pack-up team. It was a way to serve. I’m a practical person and a businessman. Back then I’d just started my first business, a nursery and wetland design company.
“I became a Christian a year later. I was driving home from church on a dark country road in an old ute. I thought to myself, ‘If Satan offered me a new ute in return for serving him, would I do it?’ The answer was no … and then I realised that I was on ‘Team Jesus’. It became real, and it’s become more and more real, ever since.
“In 2000, my mate Mark and I were struggling with the discipline of a daily devotion. We had a desire to read the Bible in a year, but we kept failing, so we decided to meet every Monday morning, 5.30am at Maccas to read the Bible together, journal and pray. We did that – the pastor and the businessman – every Monday at 5.30am. Then we added a second day – Thursdays at 5.30am. We did it for ten years. It was a powerful decade! We drank a lot of Maccas coffee, free refills in those days. Towards the end of that decade, God expanded our hearts, and Maccas runs, to all of Western Sydney. We read, journaled and prayed at most of the McDonalds restaurants in Western Sydney. And then out of that time, came a vow and two visions.
“My wife and I vowed to give away our businesses to support gospel and church ministry in Western Sydney. The accompanying vision was to manage them for God, and create a Kingdom business with a $100m turnover. The second vision was the creation of a regional ministry to support pastors and churches. It became Greater West for Christ, which is a regional ministry of the Baptist Association of Churches.
“It wasn’t all easy. In 2011 and 2012, we almost went bankrupt. We had some favourable bailout options, which would have served my career and family well. But each one needed me to turn my back on the revelations from the previous decade. I said no. The stress of that period included two hospital visits with internal bleeding, both on the day before critical creditors meetings. But we persevered, and over time, some pretty miraculous things happened. In 2021 the Kingdom business is a reality. We have over $30m in turnover, and our businesses include Greater West landscapes, childcare, chaplaincy, finance, funerals – all linking the churches to their local communities, as well as training and equipping of pastors, administrators and leaders.
Looking back, I’m blown away by God. He’s used my gifts and love of business and my great friendship with a pastor. He keeps arranging things for me to do. Recently, someone sent me a verse from Galatians. ‘The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him.’ (Galatians 3:12, The Message). That sounds like me.
“I really want to keep embracing the things God has arranged for me. Right now, we’re actually discerning something new. I’d love to use my business skills in catalysing organic faith-based groups. Maybe I’ll tell you about that in ten years’ time.”