As an infant, I loved words and had my own names for things. I lived in books as a child, while growing up on the West Coast of NZ's South Island, and my nick-name at school for a time was 'the walking dictionary' – a moniker which puzzled me then.
My parents were not well off, I was the eldest of four, and the commercial subjects they wanted me to take at secondary school were ones that would enable me to get a job. So at 17 I took a job in a bank, and then another one in an insurance company. By the time I had mastered each job, I was thoroughly bored, even though during those four years I had lived in Hokitika, Blenheim and Nelson.
When I was 21 my eyes were opened to other possibilities and so I began a commercial teachers' training course in Christchurch. The course tutors encouraged us to attempt university study as well. I took the plunge and took both Accounting 1 and English 1.
Much to my astonishment I passed both subjects, gaining good marks, and having loved the study of English, I then went on to complete a BA in English literature.
None of this would have happened without the awakening to faith I experienced at the age of 15. During a visit to NZ, Billy Graham challenged young people to commit to live a life of adventure with God. That resonated with me. I'd been sent to Sunday School so I had some background to draw on.
My first real tentative steps in faith were encouraged by involvement in Crusaders at school, by teaching Sunday School myself, and by going to two Crusader camps in the mountains while I was at school. There I saw attractive women leaders who were role models of faith, adventure and fun.
During the following years as I stepped out even further in faith I was involved in many camps as a leader. University student conferences and meetings helped give me a strong theological and practical foundation for my faith.
For two years I worked for Scripture Union in the South Island, visiting schools and running camps, and networked with many wonderful people, (some of whom became my flat-mates, and another later became my husband) and had many adventurous experiences in the outdoors.
I also taught in secondary schools in Christchurch, which honed my own English skills. After marriage, and with three children, I accompanied my husband to Auckland while he underwent training for the Anglican ministry. I also completed a theological degree while we both cared for our children.
In parish ministry one of the roles I picked up was the editing of a monthly parish magazine. Instead of returning to teaching I had been offered some work editing a national quarterly Christian magazine. The skills I learned on the job were also used later when I took a position with the Church Missionary Society that involved using my writing and editing skills.
After we retired to our house in the mountains I have also completed a couple of proof-reading projects for those with English as a second language who are doing PhD theses. I am also supporting my husband (also an English literature graduate) as he is currently writing a book, and our house has books, magazines and the like in every available space. And despite our remote location, the world of words is available to us through the internet.
I still love words. I love the way in which apt phrases and expressions can convey great depths of meaning. (And I deplore the lazy, shoddy and inaccurate use of language, which means I am in danger of becoming a crusty pedant.)
I am delighted to find that by becoming a Panellist I now have contact with young people gifted with language, creative in thought and in the angles they take on issues, and ready to step out in faith, when they put their writing 'out there.' I'm glad to be able to support them a little, though I suspect I will gain more from their work, than they will from mine.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html