by Ted Horwood, Captain –
Captain Ted Horwood
Ever since 1991, on the 9th and the 24th of every month, my family and I appeared on his calendar—he was praying for us. I was recently informed that we had been removed from that roster of officers. Apparently, our names were taken off to make room for the newly commissioned officers. There simply just wasn’t enough time in the day, and he needed to concentrate his prayers on those commissioned in the last five years.
But, I grew up with his family—by normal standards, our family ties and shared history might warrant constancy in prayer. But life-long Salvationist Richard Wiseman has maintained a prayer vigil for all newly commissioned officers for nearly two decades; the link for Richard is not individual relationships, but a deep commitment to pray for those in leadership in the larger Army family.
Families are complex social units. They imply roles, responsibilities and intentionally maintained relationships. They are God’s institutions of permanence. As one theologian puts it, “The family is one institution that will never die.” They also embed people into communities, and communities identify people with a culture and a heritage. In many parts of the world this is critically important. Tribal and clan identity is paramount. A dedication to preserving the essence of one’s culture and appreciating the contribution they have on their community makes that society vibrant, colorful and frequently a challenge to live in.
One common thread to any family tapestry is commitment. It’s usually an assumed fiber, rather transparent—not noticed until the tapestry is at risk of being frayed or unraveled. Then it becomes prominent, vibrant and resilient.
Family, culture, and identity—are they not also hallmarks of the Army? Are we not members of an organization bound together by a common lineage, speaking a common language, functioning uniquely within the larger context of the Body of Christ? So, what holds us together?
As a new session of cadets enters the training school, I hope they realize the richness of the heritage in which they belong and to which they will be making a covenant relationship. I remember when my session, the Followers of Jesus, was presented to the training school principal. The adventures of new ministry and leadership opportunities lay ahead. Our enthusiasm was palpable, and our expectations were high. The old majors and lt. colonels would need to watch their backs as we flooded the officer ranks. We were on a mission, God’s own commission!
Unfortunately, our collective enthusiasm waned following commissioning. The bloom of officership faded quickly, leaving our class with less than 50% of those commissioned. And the trend continues. In the last four years, there has been a net average loss of 12 active officers per year. The reasons for officer resignations and terminations are frequently complex and not without significant deliberations. Where can we go to understand this issue more completely?
Scripture gives us some insight. It is interesting to note that there is no word for commitment in Hebrew or Greek. When David wrote Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him. (Ps 37:5) He actually used the phrase, Roll off onto the Lord, (actually, keep rolling off) which infers a continual and deliberate shift from our driven effort to persevere, to acknowledging his control and presence.
The Preparers of the Way stand at the threshold of adventure and challenge. They will be further immersed in a tradition, a family, and an identity rich with opportunities to contribute to society while maintaining the essence of the Army culture. They will engage in a larger Army culture that maintains its commitment to mission. They will need to “roll off onto the Lord” many times as they face the challenges of the 21st century church. But, as they commit their way and works to the Lord, they can be assured that they, too, will be lifted up by committed members of this international family.