Michael Rowles had achieved his dream of becoming a pilot. He was miserable.
Now a pastor at the Deloraine Baptist Church, Rowles, 62, of Glengarry, held a variety of positions in the Royal Australian Air Force from the age of 19 until he was in his 30s.
He worked as a navigator and a weapons systems officer with the RAAF, getting his hands dirty with F1-11s and reconnaissance Phantoms.
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His work even took him to Germany at the height of the Cold War, where he helped conduct reconnaissance missions along the border between East and West Germany while he was on secondment to the United States Air Force.
"If you've ever seen a silly movie called Top Gun, well, I was the guy in the back - Goose," Rowles joked.
After his time in the air force, Rowles became a second officer for Qantas, doing long-haul flights on Boeing 747s. He'd finally been given the opportunity to actually pilot a plane for a living.
But something was missing.
"There were times when my life was spiraling out of control a bit," Rowles said. "I was drinking too much."
"I was also an achiever ... but I was never actually satisfied for very long.
"I was always trying to be the best at everything ... and I think deep down I was probably trying to prove something to myself, to prove that I was OK."
Rowles said some "very traumatic" incidents that occurred in the military ultimately drove him to drink. And so "a social lubricant became self-medication".
When he was about 10-years-old, Rowles - who is originally from New South Wales - was attending Sunday school at a small Methodist church at Smithfield in Sydney when a travelling evangelist stopped by.
"If you would like to give your life to Jesus, please come up here and stand on the stage!" he shouted at the children.
The young Rowles heeded the call but soon forgot the incident had even occurred.
Once he reached adulthood, he developed a reputation as "a bit of a wild party boy" and "a gung-ho sort of fella".
It was his reputation as "a good operator and a cool guy" which made Rowles reluctant to embrace Christianity, despite the sense that he was being pulled in that direction by unseen forces.
"I was always very uncomfortable with Jesus jokes and things," he said. "But for the most part, I just went on to live my life as if I was the center of the universe."
It was only when Rowles was lost and looking for answers later in life, that the memory of the travelling evangelist came back to him.
"It's like God brought [the memory] back to me," he said. "I suspect that he took it more seriously than I did."
When he was a pilot with Qantas, Rowles had what he called a "revelation".
"A picture came into my mind of Christ on the cross," he said. "It was a very unpleasant picture, unlike the standard icons."
"And I was just overwhelmed that he did that because he loved me.
"And I didn't even like me."
The revelation "undid" Rowles and made him "cry like a baby".
And so a profoundly conflicted Rowles called in sick to work, took to bed and grappled with his tormenting thoughts.
"I believed God was calling me ... to forsake the way I was going and turn my life over to him," he said.
In that moment, he asked God to give him another sign. Looking up at the doors to his bedroom, a cross is said to have appeared there.
"And I said, 'You win'," he recounted.
From there, Rowles underwent theological training, learning about scripture. He was attending an Anglican church in Gerringong, NSW when he was invited to preach.
It sparked a decades-long passion for relaying the teachings of Christ to others.
After stints preaching in both Gerringong and Kiama, Rowles returned to the military, following an explosion of division at one of the churches where he was a pastor. It's a period of his life he prefers not to discuss.
I was always trying to be the best at everything ... and I think deep down I was probably trying to prove something to myself, to prove that I was OK.Michael Rowles, Baptist pastor
Then, in 2010, he got a job in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he trained cadets in the Royal Saudi Air Force. Rowles did that for six years, before returning to rural NSW following the expiry of his contract.
He and his wife, Michelle, decided in 2016 to follow the lead of their adult children, all of whom had moved to Tasmania. The pair bought a property at Glengarry.
Having gotten in touch with Jeff McKinnon, the pastor at Launceston's City Baptist Church, Rowles established some contacts within Northern Tasmania's Christian community. This led to him being invited to participate in a discussion on how to revitalise the struggling Deloraine Baptist Church.
"During that meeting, I believe God spoke to me and said, 'I want you to pastor this church'," Rowles said.
Nine months later, the church approached him and asked if he would be their pastor. He hasn't looked back since.
Rowles said God had called him to teach.
"When I was in aviation, I would usually gravitate to teaching jobs because I love teaching," he said. "But as time went on, it became apparent I was ... to teach scripture."
"And now I wouldn't do anything else and ... I get paid to do it.
"How cool is that?"
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