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From frontline to theological college

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This is a text-only version of an article first published on Thursday, 18 September 2014. Information shown on this page may no longer be current.

FATHER of two, Jason 'Griff' Griffiths, joined the Army at 17.

He tells Jo Duckles his journey from the frontline to theological college.

Griff, as he is known to everyone bar his mum, was first featured in the Door back in 2010, focusing on how he kept in touch with his wife Rowena and daughters Cerys and Iona during tours of duty.

Four years later he has retired, settled into life as a theology student and Street Pastor co-ordinator and is preparing for ordination. "Just prior to leaving the Forces I was moved to a unit in Abingdon.

At that point we were in Germany and we decided we'd settle the family in Milton Keynes, says Griff, 44, who retired from the Army in August 2011.

A mechanic who worked his way up to Staff Sergeant, Griff says his faith journey began back when he was a cadet and grew when he joined up.

My family take a 'hatch, match and dispatch' approach to church.

When I joined the Army there were more opportunities to find out more and see what the Lord was doing in my life," he says.

"It was a gradual building up of Christian knowledge and in 2003 I began to feel that instead of being sat in the pews I should be doing more.

I didn't know exactly what, but just that I was called to do more within the Church and share the good news," he says.

Garrison churches provided an ecumenical experience of Christian denominations and traditions for Griff, who is from north Wales originally. As his faith grew, he found himself being an intermediary between the Padre and his colleagues.

"People would come and talk to me and I would explain that it's not the Padre they need a relationship with but God," says Griff, who feels he was well supported in prayer by Rowena and their Christian friends.

Leaving the Army wasn't without its difficulties, not least when the former distance runner discovered he had arthritis.

And it was not until he was studying at Wycliffe that he realised he was dyslexic.

"I was only assessed at the beginning of this year.

I thought everyone struggled with essays.

I realised I didn't have to suffer by myself but could get support if I asked for it. "I think that's one of the key things about the military.

You think you should know this so you won't go and ask.

If I'd started asking about it earlier I'm sure I would have been able to get it sorted.

I had strategies to get round it.

As an engineer I worked with diagrams rather than writing in terms of expressing what was needed.

I'm a hands on experience and teaching person. "Since leaving the Army Griff has got into gardening.

"I've been settled in our current house for the longest since I got married and it's great because I have got a garden.

I like turning my hand to things.

I enjoy engineering and fixing things," he says.

During his Army career Griff says he had a "great time".

He served in Kosovo, Bosnia and Northern Ireland and had a spell as a recruiting sergeant, often seeing the potential in young people that may have been easily written off by others. Since settling in Milton Keynes the family have become members of St Mary's Church, Bletchley, where Griff joined fellowship groups and prayer groups that helped him to develop. Eighteen months after leaving the Army he became the Street Pastor co-ordinator for Milton Keynes.

"I lead by example and leading volunteers is very different from leading soldiers.

I believe in getting people to take ownership of a task.

If you do that they are more likely to do what you want them to do, if you show them the reasons why.

Street Pastoring is a challenge and it's very eye opening.

I'd say I'd been doing it for 10 years in the Army.

I used to get a mini bus, drive people out for a night out and pick them up, steering them away before trouble started. "Of course the Army was a very different environment from a theological college.

"Theological college is about absorbing information, and mulling it over, not diagnosing but theorising.

That change has been hard going," says Griff, who was set to start at St John's College in Nottingham this month.

"With God's will, three years down the line I'll be ordained with a view to going back into the Army, into chaplaincy.

There are a lot of steps before then, but that is what I've felt God has put on my heart since 2003.

The Wycliffe course was paid for by the MoD, as part of a funding pot for retiring personnel to help them re-train. "Wycliffe has definitely opened doors for me and helped me become much stronger in what God's got for me," says Griff, who says his military friends were not surprised by his new career direction.

"Some of them asked why it took me so long and said they could have seen me as a Padre quite a few years back," he says.

"I was still quite a few steps away then.

I've had to walk the path that God has provided. "

Griff and Rowena have two daughters, Cerys, 15 and Iona

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