Event continues to connect West’s former officers
By Tony Hussey –
Having recently turned 65, I’ve considered my life’s highs and lows to date—one high being an undertaking to unite former officers of The Salvation Army.
My association with The Salvation Army has been lifelong. It’s the only church I have ever really belonged to. There have been short periods when I have attended other churches, but I always seem to find myself back at the Army.
I grew up in Arizona and lived there until I left home for the School for Officers Training in San Francisco in 1970. I was commissioned a lieutenant as part of the Lightbringers Session in 1972. Then in 1978, I left officership and started the next phase of my life as a “civilian”—going on to law school, getting married and having two children. In addition, today I am 20 years into my journey of recovery. Yet I have always had a feeling that there was something more to be accomplished.
After I left officership, I did not attend the Army for a period of time. Part of that was guilt at what I had become and done, but, frankly, part of the reason was that I felt alone. I felt cut off from the life that was the only thing I had known—being a member of The Salvation Army. Perhaps some of this isolation was my own perspective, but I believe that there was also some measure of reality of being excluded from the fellowship.
You see, 38 years ago, a “former officer” was sometimes looked upon as one who had left a special calling or violated a sacred covenant. He was judged harshly at times. Regardless of any misperception on my part, I felt like an outsider, unwelcome. It took many years for this feeling to diminish.
In recent years, I’ve tried to diminish the possibility of this feeling in fellow former officers or find healing from it. I now believe that God had placed a burden on my heart for the former officers who were suffering in many ways.
With support from Territorial Commissioner James Knaggs, we set out to make former officers know that they are loved and cared for. We are now approaching the third annual former officers conference this fall at Redwood Glen Camp and Conference Center in Scotts Valley, Calif.
The concept is simple: it is a time for a former officer to fellowship with friends, enjoy the beauty of Redwood Glen and discover that The Salvation Army is interested in those who may have moved on to another calling. It is an informal time, with breakout sessions led by both former and active officers. We have meetings, testimonies about what Jesus has accomplished in our lives since officership, and meals together. We pray, we sing, we play, we laugh and we care about each other.
Former officers have told me they experienced a burden lifted from them. A couple, who arrived with hurt and anger, said they experienced restoration. I’m not sure that all problems have disappeared, but for these individuals, and many others, it was a start.
See more at uswestretreat.org, and if you are a former officer or know one, share current contact information to be further connected to the event.