9. Corruption in high places
Never had I experienced a lengthy period of unemployment all my life. It took a while to accept it. Yet I felt a huge relief to have the government and the bad employer off my back. Anything was better than the stress at work. Overnight I was thrown into the world of non-workers in the 45 plus bracket. Pottering around the yard, fixing the gate or a leaking pipe and tending to the garden were the order of the day. But at 48 years old, I felt too young for the scrap heap.
The government paid for a course for me (as an unemployed person), to learn how to transform an idea for a small business into reality. I attended with eagerness working on a plan to combine driving lessons on the road with lectures in schools. The business plan, drafted after hundreds of hours on the P/C, dozens of phone calls for research attending lectures, was impressive. But I never got the chance to follow it through. My depression that had started months earlier took its toll.
Parallel to this course I enrolled in another privately run Workshop (lets call it Entrepneurial Workshop), paying nearly 3000 dollars to learn entrepneurial skills hands on. The year-long program involved lectures by successful business leaders, a weekend workshop where teams were formed to think of a new product or service. The end result was a business plan by each team that was then entered into a national competition.
Right from the start I felt ‘left out' in the workshop. Were dark forces already working against me? What had I done to be treated like an outcast? I had difficulty joining a team. Nobody wanted me. Was it because I was already stressed? But there could have been another reason. At the first contact with the leadership of the Entrepneurial Workshop I recognized a prominent business woman. I knew her company had close ties with the MCA.
Weeks later I noticed something that confirmed my suspicion of a orchestrated plot against me. In the list of participants the space for my home phone number was left blank, as if I was not connected to the telephone. My work number had one digit missing. It would turn out to be a rather remarkable number: the number 5.
One day the workshop manageress called me into the office to discuss my involvement in the program. It sounded strange and unnecessary to me. What was there to discuss? Arriving at the office, I had expected another person than this business woman with ties to the MCA. (The person arranged was a lawyer but had been “called to court” at short notice). A further anomaly, which I am good at detecting, was that the interview was conducted in a small side office. My highly sensitive mind imagined that this was to record the interview without my knowledge. I also suspect circumstances were arranged for certain people to get to know my plans and boycott them. This was the start of a paranoid period in my life that set the wheels in motion for the first freefall in the roller coaster ride.
The stress of losing my job, the workload of the business plan for the unemployment scheme and the Entrepneur Workshop were too much for me. “The world works against me”, I kept saying to myself and believed it. I remember a particular remark I made to an official of a Christian College. As we walked to a class room building to familiarize myself before using it for lectures I said to him: “I am going through a Joseph experience”. I don’t know what made me say it. My plans at this school went as far as taking bookings for the evening road safety classes I was to conduct. But nothing ever came of it. My mental illness had taken hold.
Before commencement of lectures at the school, I was to go to Tasmania visiting an old friend, who I used to work with in the late 1970's.. We had spent many weekends hiking and camping in Tasmania while we lived there. I got to know him very well; we worked for the same company. I was on my way to Melbourne to spend the Saturday night April 24th, 99 in a Youth Hostel. I was booked to sail on the Ferry to Devonport, Tasmania the next morning.
Things turned out differently. I loaded my green Suzuki Wagon R+ with sleeping gear, some food and my bicycle. But instead of being excited about the holiday, I felt uneasy, paranoid. Fear gripped me just a few kilometers from home. On the spirit of the moment I turned around, went to a phone booth and rang a parishioner whose son had borrowed our large family vehicle. We had lent it to the young couple, home from Mission Training College. I figured that the Mitsubishi Magna would be less conspicuous if I was followed, thinking it would be safer than the green Suzuki, everyone recognizes from far away.
Changing vehicle made little difference to my intense agitation and anxiety. Driving up the freeway outside Adelaide my mind entered a tug-of-war between fear and reason. One moment it shouted you’ll be killed, if not on the boat then on a lonely country road, while riding your bike. The next moment the gentle voice reminded me of my faith and urged me to trust God.
But the fear would not leave me. Just as a Telecom van with a load of electronic gear in the back was passing me, a small, red sports car pulled out ahead of me. My mind linked the two. Only a few days earlier I purchased my mobile phone and knew that I could easily be traced via a mobile phone. The telecom van was the one that had followed me. Now the red sports car was taking over, I reasoned. To this day I don't know if it was just my imagination. The fear I felt, however, was real.
I exited at Murray Bridge and had a chocolate milk and sandwich while my mind tried to control the raging battle. The mobile phone became my enemy. I nearly tossed it away into bushes when the reasoning side of my brain suggested dumping it into a Charity bin instead. At least it won’t be destroyed and lost forever. The fear remained. If I was being followed, they would have ways and means without my mobile phone. I turned and drove back towards Adelaide on the old highway. I was sure that whoever was after me would receive the message that I was on the way back to Adelaide and they’d wait to ambush me somewhere. My brain was in turmoil, spinning out of control.
Approaching the metropolitan area of Adelaide I decided to use Greenhill Road. Just as I turned the final bend at Burnside a green Ford ahead of me pulled out. My mind knew it, I was under surveillance. For a few kilometers I played a game of cat and mouse trying to loose the stalking green Ford. I must have broken a few road rules at the time.
Where would I go? I would not feel safe at home. Going to friends was not an option, they would not understand. Near the house of Kevin, a Christian business man I had only met a few months before, I suddenly turned right from the main road, hoping my escort would not see me. I drove quickly into the driveway of my friend's house, thinking I had lost the enemy's pursuit and feeling safe for the moment.
I asked if he knew of a hideout for me for a few days. He was very caring but must have been surprised at the unusual visitor. He tried to contact my pastor. There was no answer. As I talked to Kevin for a while some of my reasoning returned. I suddenly felt conscious of what I was doing. I thanked him and drove home. Isobel was surprised to see me, expecting me to be on the way to Tasmania. I immediately went to bed, exhausted.
The next morning I felt better. It was Anzac Day in Australia, the day we remember those killed in the war. As I did most mornings I read “Every Day with Jesus” by Selwyn Hughes. It was an old edition (May/June 1991). The scripture that morning was Psalm 94. It speaks of corruption and the evil in the world. The writer pleads with God to show himself in Verse 2. In Verse 16 it challenges: Who will rise up for me against the evil doers? Because I felt so much better I decided to attended church with Isobel.
Unlike most Sundays in the past 28 years of our marriage we arrived in church early. I was hurriedly running around the foyer looking for the pastor. I wanted to ask him, if I could give a short word from the pulpit that morning. But the pastor was on duty at an Anzac Day ceremony that morning. Psalm 94 kept reverberating through my whole being. I must tell them, warn them; enlist help to stamp out corruption. My Life-Mission that would take me from the depth of despair to heights, I could never have imagined, was launched that morning.
Outwardly no one noticed that anything was wrong with me. The service started and progressed as usual. Suddenly I stood up during the singing and slowly walked up to the front of the church. It felt like in a trance, not in control of my body. I sat down in the empty first row, while the singing was still in progress. Immediately after it finished, as the visiting speaker was about to be introduced, I stood up, walked the few steps to the microphone and gestured to the assistant pastor I wanted to say something. On the platform in front of the congregation of approx. 250 people, he could not really say no. I had hijacked the meeting.
I first apologized to my wife and assured everyone, that no one is going to be embarrassed. It was too late, everyone already was, but I did not care. I was on a mission and nothing mattered. When the assistant pastor gestured to the sound technician to turn off the recording of the church service, I looked over and directed him to keep it running. Everyone was even more embarrassed. If what I said was recorded, so I reasoned, my words could not be twisted later. I never found out if the tape kept running or not.
“This week I have been getting up early, praying and reading God’s word,” I started. ”This morning God gave me Psalm 94”. I read the entire Psalm, all 23 verses. I then prayed aloud that I would say the right words and that nobody would twist what I was saying. I had nothing prepared. Public speaking had never been my strong point. Yet I spoke fluently, like on a pre-recorded tape, surprising myself.
“I believe there is corruption in high places in Adelaide,” I continued. The room was hushed; you could hear a pin drop. “In the last two months I have been attending a workshop on Greenhill Road... I am in fear of my life...” I don’t remember anything else of what I said.
The assistant pastor, who stood behind me, at this point placed his hand on my shoulder and interrupted me. I didn’t protest.
He offered to say prayer for me and promised to talk to me after the meeting in private. I agreed, but emphasized to him to pray that God’s will be done. He prayed for me briefly and the meeting continued.
I did not protest and quietly sat down again beside my wife. A moment later, while the main speaker gave his address, a fellow parishioner motioned me to follow him outside into the foyer. I was very confused and frightened. Maybe, this brother will listen to my story now, I thought. He must be that interested that he can’t wait until after the service, great. But once outside the main auditorium it was the opposite, this person rebuked me in a sharp tone of voice.
I felt even more frightened as I found myself surrounded by three or four men bombarding me with questions. I never forgot one comment made by the head of our prayer team: “Don’t you know I have direct access to (he mentioned a very senior politician)?” I did not answer the question but wondered why he’d said that. I had never mentioned a politician, let alone such a prominent person.
"These people are not helping me, I thought, as I tried to answer their piercing questions: “I was followed on the freeway…! They knew where I am because of the mobile phone…!” I defended myself.
“Who is trying to follow you”? Why would they want to kill you”? I was exhausted from lack of sleep and anxiety. I collapsed in mid sentence, trying to justify my action. A gentle voice woke me after I don’t know how many minutes: “Dieter, are you all right?” It was the soothing voice of Jonathan, a man I came to love. He naturally cared for people. In the meantime someone had called an ambulance because I had fainted. Going to hospital was the last thing I had in mind. I feared being taken away, locked up and forever left to rot in a mental institution. Then my story would never be told.
After the preacher had finished his sermon more men entered the small room I had been ushered into. I recalled and tried to convince them, how I had been followed, that I was under surveillance and feared for my life. They did not believe me. No one knew how to handle a fellow parishioner, who suddenly seems to have lost his mind. When after half an hour arguing I walked back through the foyer to go home with Isobel, I overheard someone mention "…should be investigated”. “Maybe someone believes in me?” I thought.
1. More in number 2. A sound mind 3. Now I'm found 4. Candle and the Wind
5. Realm of Nature 6. All in his Hand 7. The Wonder of it All 8. To Think God loves