Caring for our pastors

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by Major Linda MarkiewiczA day at Disneyland, the “happiest place on earth”: $40
A week in the Caribbean, swimming and reading: $1,000
Your first retirement home: $150,000
A satisfied, inspired, passionate-for-God officer:

We are soldiers of this current age. We stand firm for God in a society that is often complacent about what is right or wrong, but strong on personal rights. We face children who threaten lawsuits if we dare to impose some discipline. We are challenged daily to look good and feel good in a culture that negates being good. The battle we fight isn’t always against the “bad guys,” but is right where we live. We try to stand firm on a hill of quicksand. We taste victory only after we’ve been worn down. Are we really this desperate? Sometimes it seems so.

God must surely watch with compassionate love those who are committed to serving him. He knows the struggles and promises strength to endure. In this Salvation Army of ours, he challenges some to a life of full-time service: these are our pastors, our officers. This means a life with few earthly rewards but extraordinary spiritual ones. Satisfaction can only be found in their covenant made with God to love and serve him.

Officer Care and Development started as the Pastoral Care Department in 1994 and was committed to coming alongside officers who were struggling, whether it was with the Army, their family or their life in general. It was developed to be a place where they could come in confidence knowing they would receive help without revealing their need to others around them. It was not meant to replace the divisional commanders, whose charge is to “pastor the pastors,” but it was, and is, a safe place to work out a personal problem. The Army administration at that time was guided by God’s wisdom in establishing Pastoral Care.

Now known as Officer Care and Development, the mission of the department is to provide confidential care and pastoral support for the development of officers and their families. I have recently been given the sacred privilege of the oversight for Officer Care and Development in my appointment as assistant secretary for Personnel for Pastoral Care.

Our vision is to be a Christ­centered, trustworthy team providing spiritual and professional resources for officers: to aid in their growth and development; to consult with field and administration on leadership effectiveness; and to promote trust and communication within the officer community.

Dr. Jack Anderson, development consultant, began working with the Army in providing psychological assessments on officer candidates. In his role as a soldier of the Pasadena Corps he understood the complexities and demands made on the average officer. Now, as a full-time consultant, he is committed to each officer’s personal growth as well as being an essential resource when an officer is in crisis. “The demands on today’s officers are enormous. We are a pastoral care support team,” says Dr. Anderson. “I think many officers find it comforting to know there is a place to turn in a time of personal need that is safe and concerned. Building strong individuals is a key to building a strong Army for God.”

Majors Gordon and Peggy Helms, considered retired from active service, are in fact actively serving as Pastoral Care Officers. They have “been there,” we might say, serving as corps officers, divisional officers, college officers and headquarters officers. Their life reflects God’s compassionate care for the officer individually along with family and marriage support. They consider their life blessed with children who love the Lord and Army children throughout the territory. Having lost a son to a drunk driver and facing cancer in its worst form, they understand and can empathize with those who suffer.

Stacie Brown is the newest member of the department as Assistant to Pastoral Care. She is an “OK,” (officers’ kid) and is also married to an “OK.” Stacie has always had a passion for the unique situation that parents have chosen for their children by full time ministry in the Army. This led her to an education in family counseling, receiving from Fuller Theological Seminary School of Psychol-ogy a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Ther-apy. She is a perfect fit for establishing special relationships with officers’ children, and provides support, re-source and counsel for those who struggle with life’s problems in general and the “OK’s” challenges in particular.

Officer Care and Development has moved from being crisis motivated to being proactive in reaching officers before a crisis hits. It’s inevitable that officers will sometimes struggle with their calling and feel burnt out. Officers and their families can get overwhelmed with each appointment change and want to quit before they reach fulfillment in their ministry. Today’s culture requires officers who are fit physically, emotionally and spiritually. Officer Care and Development provides tools for growth that establish realistic goals for both personal life and professional ministry.

All officers and/or their children may call Officer Care and Development with confidence that they will receive professional support and personal care. A sacred trust has been given to keep confidentially a priority. I thank God and the Army for investing in the needs of the officers. Like I said in the beginning, “A satisfied, fulfilled, passionate- for-God officer, well–that’s priceless.”

P.S. I don’t want to leave out Salvationists and members of this branch of the church known as The Salvation Army. International Headquarters has just released a new “Orders and Regulations for Pastoral Care Councils.” This new system replaces the traditional Senior Census Board. The priorities are care for each person by corps leaders and support for the corps officer. The goals established by this new system of caring for ourselves and our own will enable us to be a healthy church able and dedicated to fulfilling the Great Commission as stated in Matthew to: “Go and make disciples of all nations…”

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