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Door-to-door on rescue mission

FRUSTRATED about the domestic violence, depression, crime, self-harm and suicide, a Gisborne church leader has stepped up.

House of Breakthrough’s Norm McLeod says he is sick of the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach and wants to help.

“I am going door knocking . . . not to try to convert people, I’m just trying to help rescue people before they go over the edge.

“I want to help build a fence at the top of the cliff to help give people some better options in life than the most tragic.”

He has worked at the coal face of human conflict for more than 30 years.

“In that time, I have learned some basic keys to help people discover how to restore harmony and peace back in the most horrific of circumstances.

“This peace-keeping work has taken me on a journey from standing between warring gang members to speaking with wealthy professionals whose marriage has fallen to pieces.

He says it has taken him to extremes from negotiating with housing agencies on behalf of people trying to obtain a house to negotiating with a crazed knife- wielding man in a violent armed hostage stand-off situation.

“Some of the more extreme cases have been where I have been approached by people who informed me they were about to cause grievous bodily harm or outright murder. I’m happy to say all of those recanted on their choice of action and several families are safe.”

These keys are based on common sense, life experience principles and values, says Mr McLeod.

“Although I had wonderful parents who loved me and I was never abused, I drifted into the world of bikies, drugs and alcohol abuse. This in turn led me into a rebellious lifestyle and I was often at the other end of the law.

“Through a series of bad choices and a relationship break-up I travelled through the thought of suicide and lived under the shadow of depression for 13 years.

“This affected me daily and the only way I could cope with it was to waste myself on drugs, alcohol and parties.

“I would also have mood swings which would result in violent and anti-social behaviour which often landed me in court,” he says.

Until he dealt with the root issues of his behavioural problems, he was a “train wreck” and brought misery and conflict to many people who crossed his path.

“But what hurt the most was that I brought misery and pain to my parents and wife.”

The year 1979 was the defining moment where Mr McLeod and his wife decided to turn their backs on their dysfunctional way of life and learn to live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“The response was overnight, I experienced a sense of peace that settled my heart and allowed me to think straight.”

He has been actively involved in giving relationship counselling and specialist counselling in Gisborne for more than 28 years.

“Over that time, we have worked with hundreds of families helping bring about personal and family restoration.

“However, I see and hear the Gisborne stats of domestic violence, depression, crime, self-harm and suicide just to name a few of our social evils plaguing young and old in our beautiful city and community.

“I’m frustrated after I read of a tragedy in the paper and often have thought, ‘I wish I knew them, perhaps I could have helped them’.”

He is going to focus on helping men in Tairawhiti.

“There’s an old saying, if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.

“Therefore, every week I’m going to go to the mountain. To reach men before they go over the cliff, I’m going to go door to door and I’m going to simply give whanau my card and say if they need me call me.

“I can no longer just stand by and watch the social fallout in my city.”

If any man rings, it is confidential.

There is no cost or catch, says Mr McLeod.

“Forty years ago, someone helped me, someone believed in me and gave me life- changing advice which saved my life and marriage and family. Now I’m paying it forward.

There are no strings attached.

“It takes a village to raise a child. I’m under no illusions that it’s going to take more than my efforts to help bring change.

“I acknowledge and recognise the many other social programmes doing good work in our community and I tautoko (support) them.”

Norm McLeod
THERE TO HELP: Norm McLeod is on a mission to reach men before they go “over the cliff”. “I’m going to go door to door and I’m going to simply give whanau my card and say if they need me call me.” Pictures by Paul Rickard