'At 16, I developed bone cancer in my left leg'

Rob’s story | Called to chaplaincy

“I was raised in a faith-based home. As a young person I had a knowledge of God, but I didn’t have a heart relationship with Jesus. Then, at age sixteen, I developed bone cancer in my left leg. The only way to treat it was to amputate my leg five inches above the knee.

I went from being a normal, able-bodied kid, running around, to facing a life-threatening illness. I remember lying in bed, straight after the amputation, not knowing if I would live or die, and calling out to God, saying, “Okay God, if you’re out there, I need you now.”

It was as if God actually heard my prayer! I experienced an incredible feeling of inner peace and warmth. It was a new strength inside me that I hadn’t felt before.

Afterwards, they were concerned I would develop secondaries in my lungs or liver, so I had 18 months of intravenous chemotherapy. It was really traumatic. I remember thinking that if the cancer didn’t kill me, the chemo would!

After school, depression set in. What could I do now? In terms of my faith, there wasn’t much there, except that early cry out.

“I realised I needed Jesus as my Saviour, not just for my physical need.”

But my cousin came to visit me. He was a Christian, and we were close. He said that during my time in hospital his youth group had been praying for me. I thought, maybe God answered those prayers? Maybe that was the peace and strength I experienced in hospital?

But I was also angry with God and questioning. Why had this happened to me?

I started going to youth group with my cousin, and that was when I started to understand sin. I realised I needed Jesus as my Saviour, not just for my physical need.

I turned 21, and it was the 5-year mark since my cancer diagnosis. The routine scans showed that I was all clear. There was no cancer. Something happened in my spirit in that moment. It was completely transformative. I started to thank God. I was still alive! Previously I’d been given a 20% chance of survival, but I was alive!

I asked God to forgive me, and I invited Jesus into my life as my Lord and Saviour. I prayed, “For the rest of my life, let it count for you. Let me serve you, Lord, with everything I have.”

“So many people out there are hurting, and we need to bring them the love of Christ.”

Within a year, I was off doing mission work with YWAM. I met my wife, Julie, there. We have two sons, Michael and Jason. I went to Bible college. It was during that time that I knew my calling was to chaplaincy. It was my heart and drive and passion. I’d seen the spiritual side of life being a crucial part of a person’s recovery. I had found my hope and strength in Jesus, and I knew others needed that same hope.

I’ve now been working with Mission Australia for 28 years; as a chaplain for 24. It’s been my calling. So many people out there are hurting, and we need to bring them the love of Christ. At Mission Australia, amongst other things, we run short-term crisis accommodation for men who are homeless. They often have a background of drugs and alcohol, or they’ve come out of prison.

I started running a weekly session called ‘Coffee with the Chaplain’. We just chat, or we share a devotional or a prayer. It’s been great. Many of the men have shared with me. And I’ve noticed that as I’ve listened, and sometimes shared my story with them, there are points of connection. They see that I understand grief and trauma. They want to keep talking. It’s God at work in their lives.

Rob's story


Most of them have had a previous encounter with a chaplain in prison or in rehab, so they’ve had an opportunity to come to know Jesus. They want to keep growing in their understanding of Jesus. That’s what I love about chaplaincy! It’s about how Jesus works in our lives over time.

Of course, there are hard days. But I know my strength is in Christ. The verse I hold on to is 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God’s answer for me is always about his grace. He says his power works best in weakness – which kind of sums up how I get by each day. It’s his grace.”

Rob’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click to read more Faith Stories.

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