Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Salvation Army Saved My Life.

The Salvation Army saved my life.

I can't imagine my life without it.  God has given me great opportunity, and over the years, has increased my capacity to surrender and serve Him in our great Army.  Salvationists are among the world in a very real and substantial way.  We are willing to dirty up and fight against the dark forces in this world.  When I see fellow Salvationists, I am amazed at them! and so proud!   Because I also know what it costs.  I feel like we all share this little secret of how very good, gratifying, and humbling it is to see God dilligently redeeming people EVERY DAY.  Who am I that He takes my puny-ordinary-little self and works it into His grand plan.  I could never be grateful enough.

The Salvation Army has been a constant in my life since I was 5 years old.  A little neighborhood girl, Patricia, invited me to Sunbeams and my mom and dad let me come in the church van to the Napa Corps.  I loved it, because they loved me there.  I felt like I belonged.  I felt like everyone belonged. 

Before long my mom and brother started coming and we were all enrolled as Soldiers, Jr. and Sr. I still remember the promise I made  "Having asked God for forgiveness, I will be His loving and obedient child. Because Jesus is my Saviour from sin, I will trust Him to keep me good, and will try to help others to follow Him. I promise to pray, to read my Bible and, by His help, to lead a life that is clean in thought, word and deed."   I meant it.  I still do.  

I wanted to be an Officer since I was 9 years old.  I remember distinctly sitting in the downstairs of the Vallejo Corps on a Friday after school in Jr. Soldiers.  Mrs. Major Miller was teaching us.  I'm so glad that she gave it her all even though there were just 4 of us there, my Brother, and Tony and Gabbie.  She told us that women can serve too, and referenced the Marital Team such as William and Catherine Booth, and herself and her husband.   She said that Officers spend their whole life serving however and wherever the Army tells them to.  I told her I want to be an Officer.  She told me to pray for a calling.

So I did.

And He called that very summer at camp during Campfire Devotions at Camp Redwood Glenn.  I remember it all. I can even tell you what I was wearing and that it was right after I told an older girl to "Shut-Up!!" because she was making fun of my red hair and freckles.   I spent the rest of my night afraid that I would be kicked out of camp, because I found out that the girl I told to shut-up was a Counselor.  I was comforted though that I was so sure I heard the Call.  The man leading Devotions with a roaring fire behind him,  was talking about loving and serving others all the days of your life, and I knew he was talking right to me.  He asked who was willing, and my hand was up before he could finish. 

The years went by.  The older I got, the more responsibility I took on at the Corps. I loved helping my mom in Social Services.  I taught Sunday School.  Went to League of Mercy (visiting Nursing Homes).    Taught Sunbeams. Whatever really.  I would even wear my Sunbeam and Jr. Soldier uniform to elementary school.  And when the kids made fun that I got my uniforms from the Thrift Stores I would tell them... you guessed it... "shut-up" and "God loves you!"  I brought many friendemy's to church. My mom would fill the car up with them.

I had a couple of teenage years that I would love to DELETE here.  Let's just say, if you can imagine it, I did it.  Noone persuaded me or peer pressured me.  It all came from within.  Utter, total rebellion... but I still knew that I was headed towards Officership. I tried to want other things... a Fire-Woman, a Forest Ranger, a Language Translator for the US Army.   Once I told my Highschool Counselor, Ms. Debbie, that I just wanted to marry and have 10 children, and she laughed,  told me I was crazy and stopped seeing me.  By the way, I still want 10 children. 

Then one evening I was sitting in Adult Bible Study.  Lt. Solts and Walcott's were always pestering me to keep coming to church, so I obliged that night and caught a ride with my mom.   We were  studying Hosea (and Gomer).  I was wearing a mustard-yellow sweater and an acid washed jean skirt.  I was 17.   I tried all evening to keep from crying because my body felt so heavy and my heart was just going to burst.  During the closing prayer, in our little Bible Study, God just filled me so full and told me to obey and trust Him.    Right after the meeting I told Lt. Solts.  "I need to talk to you right now".

And so it began. I am so grateful now, with hind-sight,  that all of the Officers around me supported me in applying for Training College and pushed me in.  I was so young! Too young to know any better.  I did all the psycho evaluations, paperwork, interviews, and testing with all the honesty I could.  I thought it was just part of the process, nothing to sweat, because I knew I was going.  I remember sitting and getting interviewed by Divisional Staff.  I didn't even know who they were except that they were "old" and wanted to keep reminding me how young I was.  Of course you don't feel young when you're 19.   I remember telling them that "I know for sure I want to be an Officer and why waste time growing older. Would you like me to rendezvous somewhere else for a few years?"

I was Commissioned/Ordained at 21. Married 4 days later (that's a whole other grace story!) 

It's been 14 years.  4 Appointments.  13 Corps (Church/Social Service) years.  I really had a groove down in the Corps.  Maybe I was too comfortable. 
If I am only serving where and how I want to,  than I am really only serving myself.  

I know He wants us right where He has us.  He keeps making it possible.  And in spite of myself, (aka God's GRACE!) He keeps allowing me to be part of His grand plan as a Wife, a Mother of 5, and Salvation Army Officer.
"Oh the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!"
-Dr. Seuss

Our new appointment is a matter of days away!  The house is mostly packed, mostly cleaned.  The familiarity of moving will last until Sunday when we arrive into the unknown.  I still get breathless at the enormity of our new ministry in the ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Center). I take it serious. I don't want to mess anyone up.  I am praying that God protects people from the things I may say and do wrong.  I pray I give my husband sound and wise advice in his dealings and not foolish chatter. 

I am trusting that God wants my children in our new appointment too. I am praying that they will side with justice, real love and comPASSION for others through their experiences growing up as Officer children.  I am praying for Officers from them too :)   I hope they follow God even harder than I do wherever He may set them.

"By the pathway of duty
flows the river of God's grace."
-SA Songbook
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