From the Desk of … “Simple gifts – a lasting impression”
by Sue Harfoot, Colonel
Some people make a lasting impression. As Paul said, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3).
I met just such a person 11 years ago when I attended the 161st Session of the International College for Officers (ICO) in London. There were only 23 delegates and one interpreter—13 women and 11 men—in my session at The Cedars in April 1999.
In the lecture room where we gathered every day for classes I was assigned a permanent seat. Directly in front of me sat Captain Asnath Kiura, who spoke only Kiswahili. Communication was not easy, but as the days passed we became friends.
Asnath served in Kenya, East Africa Territory. Eager to improve her English, she practiced daily with me. She would sing and pray in her native language, but she worked hard to learn and communicate in English. I tried to sing in Swahili.
Every morning Asnath welcomed me with a very big smile and a slight bow. One day she told me that since I was the oldest person in the ICO group she considered me an “elder.” She made me smile, and I found her joy contagious. When I greeted her in the morning I just knew it was going to be a great day.
Like others in our ICO group Asnath lived a simple life. Serving in rural Kenya with her husband and four children, she supervised a clinic, a school, a feeding program and a large corps with outposts in Bungoma, Kenya. She was extremely proud of her women’s groups. She could preach and had a marvelous singing voice. When it was time to pray Asnath was one of the first to praise, petition and worship God. Her life was busy. The means by which she lived out her calling as an officer were amazing. She worked miracles with little material or monetary possession.
The end of our ICO session eventually drew near and soon the group would return to our Salvation Army appointments, our families and ministries. We received an assignment to set a ministry goal and then share with another delegate how we might accomplish that goal. My partner was Asnath.
Asnath shared first. Her goal was simple. With great passion she told me that her goal was to obtain five chickens. I was puzzled. Chickens? Why chickens? She explained that if she had just five more chickens she would have more eggs to sell; she would earn more money and could allow more children to come to the feeding program. Asnath communicated her goal perfectly in English. When I asked what five chickens would cost she could not name a price. She explained how she might barter with the chicken farmer in her town. For her, five chickens represented the means to save the lives of hungry children.
When it was my turn to share with Asnath I had difficulty putting into words my goal. On my paper I had written steps to take, tactics to try, long and short range plans, markers to help guide me, self improvement books to read, classes that would give me new skills—all to get ministry results and achieve my goal. I was ashamed and embarrassed and overcome with a need to re-examine my motives. I had to stop and consider: what was most important in my life?
Asmath wanted chickens; I wanted to strategize. Asnath opened my eyes that day. I found I needed to simplify, not strategize. My goal was about me, not ministry. I needed a goal that would make a difference for those I lead. I wanted to help grow the Kingdom of God. I needed to keep it simple.
My perspective on life changed during those ICO days. I was not the same when I returned home. God gave me a greater appreciation for his simple gifts of life, creation, friends, and the joys of living unencumbered.
I have often thought of Asnath and wondered where in the world she might be. Did she ever accomplished her goal and get the five chickens? The other day I was reading the news on the Salvation Army’s International Headquarters Bulletin Board. It was there I read about the promotion to Glory of my friend Major Asnath Kiura, corps officer of Kathiini Corps, Kangundo Division, Kenya East Territory. She gave 16 years of faithful service and was praised as a godly wife, mother and Salvation Army officer.
I salute my friend Asnath and look forward to our heavenly reunion. I thank God for every remembrance of Asnath and what she taught me during those ICO days. She blessed me with friendship. She gave me a new appreciation for a simpler leadership style. Asnath modeled for me a deep abiding love for God and people. God, help me always to remember the spirit of Asnath in serving others.