Harvest Initiative: becoming a soldier
By Lisa Barnes, Captain –
It was our first Sunday in the Seattle White Center. While thrilled to be there, and to be Corps Officers—my nerves were on edge. So many new people. So many first impressions all at once. Things were running through my mind like: “Make sure you smile at everyone. Make sure you learn all their names. Make sure no one is forgotten. Make sure you get it all right.” As the minutes progressed, I felt the pressure mounting.
It was then a woman approached me. She had dark hair and a bright smile, and she had glasses almost identical to mine, a small detail that made me think we might have more in common than just those glasses.
She introduced herself as Jenni, a graduate of the adult rehabilitation center (ARC) and recent adherent, proud to show me her burgundy sweater. Jenni told me that she had taken the soldiership classes by officers who had an impact in her life and her journey, Captains Darryck and Sierra Dwelle. I love and respect the Dwelles, and I’m thankful that they played a part in Jenni’s story of sobriety and wholeness.
Jenni said she wasn’t a soldier yet, because she wanted to make sure she became a soldier at the corps she intended to make her home. I immediately appreciated her honesty and her integrity.
Sitting in the front row with Jenni put my nervous heart at ease. It was both of our first Sundays in the Seattle White Center, and I knew that even if we didn’t get it all right all at once, it was going to be okay.
By the end of the service, as our new friends were exiting the sanctuary, Jenni looked at me and said, “This is where I need to be, and this is where I want to become and serve as a soldier.” My first thought was, “Me too.”
Jenni and I quickly became friends who went to brunch and spent time together. As we got to know each other, she told me about a special event coming up in her life. She was going to get her one-year chip from Alcoholics Anonymous, and Jenni invited me to be a part of that night. I gladly joined her for my first meeting, the week before we enrolled Jenni as a soldier in The Salvation Army.
I felt privileged that our lives and friendship could intertwine in this way.
When the day came to enroll Jenni, I asked her two pick two women at the corps that she would like to ask to be mentors in her life. We need each other, and if we want to progress in our faith and in our walk of sanctification we need to surround ourselves with the Body of Christ, and allow them access to speak truth into our lives. This is true for those in recovery from drugs and alcohol, but it’s also true for those that are in recovery from the sin of self—that’s me, and there is a good chance that is you.
Jenni asked two of our corps family—a new soldier, Kimberly Jorguson, and Major Lawry Smith—if they would intentionally walk alongside her. As an expression of their desire to be a part of her life, they put on her epaulets to show that we don’t have to carry the weight and burdens of life on our shoulders alone.
This is what the Harvest Initiative looks like. It isn’t something we do because we’re told to; it is something we do—a way we live—because Jenni matters. Her life, her sobriety, and her soul matter.
This isn’t just the corps officers’ work; these relationships are forming with past officers, current officers, great soldiers, divisional headquarters officers, and ARC administrators who aren’t afraid to work together and claim the victory together in the lives of those in recovery. It isn’t anyone’s territory or job or responsibility; it is Jenni—a daughter of the King surrounded by the Body of Christ, ready to love and support her.
The harvest is plentiful. There are so many souls around us that are struggling with addiction and striving toward sobriety. May we all be brave enough to join hands, cross over job descriptions and areas of ministry, and intentionally partner with those who are trying to live different lives. We are working together to build the kingdom and disciple those like Jenni. May we love their children and families. May our hearts be soft and fears be small. May we love and serve them like Jesus would.