January 2006 – Six months of renovation, 32 construction workers and guidance from the Holy Spirit is what it took to transform Douglas Gresham’s 12-bedroom Irish castle into a home for victims of child abuse.
Gresham is becoming a household name to many because of his recent work as co-producer of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which released in theaters December 9. But there is more to this stepson of C. S. Lewis than the world of Narnia.
Beyond his careers as a broadcaster, cattleman and now the creative and artistic director for the C. S. Lewis Company, Gresham is husband to his wife Merrie, father of five, grandfather of nine and counselor to many. Most importantly, he is a Christian who has dedicated the last 13 years of his life to a ministry that blossomed from the halls of his own home after he and his family moved from Tasmania to Ireland in 1993.
“I suppose if you’re going to move, you might as well do it properly,” Gresham told AFA Journal. “I don’t think you can move any further than that and stay on the planet.”
When the Greshams moved to Ireland, they were looking for a four- or five-bedroom house since all of the children, except for two, had left home. But the Lord had a different plan for them.
“We wound up with a house with 12 bedrooms, [so] we prayed and said, ‘What do we do now?’” Gresham explained. “The Lord said, ‘Get the house ready.’ We hadn’t the faintest idea for what so we just launched into the renovation of this place. …”
The birth of a ministry
The restoration of the new Gresham home was completed just in time for a training seminar that marked the beginning of Rathvinden Ministries, “a general non-denominational Christian ministry [of] healing and helping – healing for the hurting and helping for the helpless.
“Having committed one’s life to Christ, you sort of go where you are sent,” Gresham said. “And I suppose the best way of describing it is to say that the Lord intervened in our lives, in a whole lot of different areas, to demonstrate to us that He had work for us on this side of the planet. …”
The work of Gresham and his wife through Rathvinden Ministries is two-fold. One facet of the ministry is for victims of child abuse; the other for full-time ministers.
“We administer something called the Hope Alive counseling [method], which is devised by a Christian psychiatrist in Canada named Dr. Philip Ney,” Gresham said. “[It] is designed to help people whose problems are the results of having been abused as children [through] any one of the many forms of child abuse.”
He explained how people instantly think of child abuse as a sexual or violent act, but he contends that the worst kind of child abuse is emotional neglect or rejection.
“Because those children will spend the rest of their lives trying to prove they exist as an entity unto themselves,” Gresham added. “It just destroys them.”
Therefore, the Greshams were trained by Ney’s organization to treat patients who have problems resulting from various forms of child abuse.
“In addition to that, of course, the therapy is also designed to [teach ways of] coping [to] … people who have lost pregnancies and whose emotional makeup is falling apart as a result,” Gresham explained.
This includes ministering to mothers who lost children through forced adoption, stillbirth, cot death or abortion. Gresham said post-abortion syndrome problems are more prevalent among women now than ever before in the ministry’s history.
“So that was the start of the ministry,” he explained, “but it was merely a matter of the ethos of the ministry, as it’s up to the Holy Spirit of God to bring the ministry to the people He wants to have come here and keep away the people He doesn’t.”
As a result, “we get all kinds of weird problems coming to the door,” he added. But that doesn’t keep the couple from following the lead of the Holy Spirit.
In fact, they go beyond the counseling aspect of the ministry by opening the doors of their home as a vacation get-away for full-time ministers of Christ, regardless of church denomination.
“Because one of our unwritten rules is that as you walk through the doors of Rathvinden, your denomination stays on the doormat with the rest of the rubbish, and your Christianity comes in with you,” Gresham said.
“So people who work in full-time ministry of any sort – missionaries, ministers, pastors, priests, whoever – who can’t afford … to take a vacation … can come and have a vacation at our ministry, cost-free.”
The aging of its ministers
But time is short as Gresham foresees the ministry and their living at Rathvinden coming to an end.
“It’s a big ministry, [and] it’s just that we’re getting too old for it, really,” Gresham admitted. “It’s winding down because we’re both in our 60s now.” With that in mind, Gresham and his wife have been anticipating the entire family’s homecoming to celebrate the Christmas season as well as the premiere of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, based on his stepfather’s literary masterpiece first published in 1950. Bringing the whole family to Ireland means having 22 family members sitting around the dining table which conveniently seats 22 people – the maximum stretch.
“So the whole family will be in our one home at the one time,” Gresham said with anticipation. “I think it’s the last time we will ever be able to do that … [since] we’re not going to be there very much longer.”
But regardless of a possible move in the future, having the Gresham family home is a treat in and of itself since the five children and their families are spread out all over the world, literally.
The foundation of a family
“My oldest son is an airline captain … in the States,” Gresham said. “I have another son who is a … businessman with a global medical diagnostics company, and my third son is an architect in Australia.”
Gresham’s youngest daughter is a student at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. She is the only one of five who was not born in Australia. Instead, she was born in Korea and adopted by the Gresham family.
His eldest daughter is studying custom-jewelry design and manufacturing in Florence, Italy.
“She’s been doing it without the training for a while, and she’s very good at it so she decided to get the proper training,” Gresham explained as he held out his hand on which he wore a ring designed by his daughter to resemble Aslan, the messianic lion who saves Narnia. Gresham asked his daughter to design similar pieces of jewelry as gifts for the four children who star in the movie.
“I wanted to thank them personally for their efforts, so I … had a ring made for each of the boys and a pendant for each of the girls.”
It has always been in Gresham’s nature to give to others. For example, he gave up a career in broadcasting so that he and his wife could raise their children in a farming environment.
“We thought farming and being out amongst the wilds and amongst animals and so forth – out of the urban environment – was the very finest way we could raise our kids,” he explained. “So … the children all grew up on the farm, and it stood them in good stead.
“They’ve become independent, strong-willed [and] sensible,” he added. “[And] they’re all Christians.”
A life with Lewis
Raising his children in such a way is, perhaps, a direct result of being raised by the “finest man and best Christian I (Gresham) have ever known” – that being C. S. Lewis, whom Gresham affectionately refers to as Jack.
“Watching Jack live his life, I think, was hugely exemplary for me – an enormous example to my thinking processes, to my behavioral patterns, I hope. …,” Gresham said.
“[You see] if you’re brought up by a drunk and abusive father when you’re a boy, you’re liable to become a drunk and abusive father yourself,” he explained.
“If, on the other hand,” he added, “you’re brought up by a man [like Lewis] who is polite, compassionate, considerate, patient, tolerant, generous, charitable, all of those things, I hope that it’s likely that one will become similar oneself.”
Although Gresham was apt to follow in the footsteps of his stepfather, whom he considers a mentor, the relationship that Lewis had with Christ, as reflected in his writings, is something Gresham had to come to terms with on his own. And so he did, many years later when his attempt to help someone in need forced him to take a hard, long look at himself.
“I tried to help a young girl through a … very difficult circumstance and because I tried to figure out myself how to do it – I thought I was right in what I was doing – I messed it all up,” Gresham explained. “It turned into a semi-sexual relationship, which should have never happened. A lot of people got hurt, and I was forced to … face the fact that I was living my life based in arrogance, conceit and pride, and I needed to eat a whole large helping of humble pie, which doesn’t taste very good but is very nutritious to the soul.”
Through that painful experience, Gresham realized that he is not qualified to run a human life. As a result, he handed himself over to Christ after merely believing in God all of his life.
“I … never want[ed] to submit my life to the authority of anyone but myself,” he explained, “and, of course, anyone who does that – who lives the way I did for many years – is worshipping himself rather than God, which means they have a fool for a deity” – a lesson easily learned from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
“We have thrown away … all the lubricants that make society flow,” Gresham said – the ultimate lubricant being Jesus Christ. “If you don’t get Him back into [our schools and workplaces] we’re doomed.”
According to Gresham, there is nothing else in his life that is of any importance in comparison to Christ.
“One’s life is one’s faith when you commit your life to Christ,” he said. “If you really want to be a Christian it will cost you your life. I learned that from a man who wrote books.”