‘It’s about you, too’–honoring parents and mentors

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Lt. Colonel Shelley Hill speaks to those who influence and support the cadets.

By Shelley Hill, Lt. Colonel –

Early in the life of Jesus, Luke 2:41-52 records the account of Jesus–as a 12-year-old boy, who became separated from his parents. They had all come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Now it was time to return to Nazareth and as they traveled along, Jesus turned up missing.

If you are a parent, you know that experience. Most of us have been at a mall, Disneyland, or the beach and realized that our kids had wandered off from our care. Let’s face it. Having kids can bring anxiety and a few gray hairs…or in the case of my husband, a whole head full of them.

In this biblical account, the parents of Jesus, Joseph and Mary were under stress. Jesus was gone. While Jesus’ disappearance from their company was clearly not an act of disobedience, we can all likely look back on cases when our own children have gone their own way. Against our wishes, perhaps, they have made their own decisions, wandered from the path we would have desired for them. If that was the case in your story, today, on this occasion, we celebrate the close bond between parents and children.

In our passage, Joseph and Mary find Jesus conversing in the temple, demonstrating a maturity far beyond his years. Jesus assures his parents that he is simply going about his father’s business. The story is a good reminder that Jesus did not simply jump from being a baby in a manger to ministry leading to the cross, but that he went through a maturing process as well. He was influenced by his parents and other adults. From his youth, it is clear that Jesus sought, above all, to be obedient to the call of God on his life.

Silver Star recipients, your children (or mentoree) have that same impulse driving them. They seek to be obedient to God. To be his light in this world.

On this occasion, however, the key verse that seems to encapsulate the life of Jesus from age 12 until he formally begins his ministry nearly 20 years later is Luke 2:52: And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Parents, I hope you will notice that during your child’s journey at CFOT they, too, have grown in those same areas that marked Jesus’ growth:

They have grown in wisdom–The intense study of and living out of God’s word has deepened their faith and capacity to wisely and effectively give leadership to the people of God. Each would agree that they are still a work in progress, but they have grown in wisdom.

They have grown in stature–I am not referring here to their physical size, although some have likely grown while others have diminished in stature. Rather, I’d to like of think of growth in stature as being a heightened confidence and developed abilities and skills. The staff has invested in them and determined, through a demanding process, that they are worthy of being a Salvation Army officer.

They have grown in the favor of men–Your children have been part of a family–a session called the Messengers of Light–and they will forever be bound by the shared experience of the last 21 months. During these days, the Messengers of Light have loved and nurtured one another. They have built a network of friendships that will provide them strength and support for the duration of their ministry.

The cadets have grown in the favor of God–God is at work on the inside, “breaking, melting, molding and filling” them. He is guiding the steps of each, affirming daily in their lives the words of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Just as Mary and Joseph had the joy of witnessing the maturing of their son Jesus–who grew in wisdom and stature and in the favor of God and man–so must the growth of your children bring you great joy.

Silver Star recipients, you have watched your children on this journey, but they’ve been watching you, too. Chances are you did not do parenting right every time. If you fell short–let yourself off the hook–this is a great day. Your child is all grown up and positioned to do God’s work. Well done.

Please allow the cadets to shower you at this hour with words of praise and thanksgiving you richly deserve.

As I think about these moments, I think about the impact of my own parents on my journey. My father was a country boy who hopped a train from the dustbowl of Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression. When World War 2 came, he enlisted and served with the U.S. Marines in places like the Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima and Saipan. After the war, he met my mother in San Jose. She had already been an officers for five years. He wanted to become an officer, too. He put in his paperwork to headquarters in San Francisco. My dad knew how to work, love and serve as well as anyone. He had risked his life for his country but in those days, a 10th grade education wasn’t good enough. My dad, and my mother, too, were disappointed by his non-acceptance to the school, but rather than walk away from the Army they loved, my parents followed another divine calling.

They became lifelong soldiers and local officers of the San Jose Corps. They were fully engaged in every aspect of ministry available. They were a corps officer’s dream. No job was too small or too big for my dad to take on. His proudest moment may have been when I was accepted as a cadet to CFOT. He beamed.  Although he only lived long enough to see me enter the CFOT, I know that he was proud of my own commitment and service. My mom was present at my commissioning, and at this banquet, in this room 23 years ago, I had the privilege of pinning on her dress the Silver Star. Now 95 years old, my mom gets up at 5 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, puts on the semblance of a Salvation Army uniform and catches a ride to the VA hospital to hand out coffee and refreshments and smiles to four generations of vets. I think she feels close to my dad when she does that. My mother is still my inspiration and model for faithful ministry. My parents watched me grow in wisdom and stature and in favor of God and man…and I watched them live a life of selfless and humble service.

I would say to my mom and my dad if they were here something similar to what the cadets will say to you. Thank you for giving me life. Thank you for investing in me. Thank you for helping me grow in wisdom and stature and in the favor of God and men. Thank you for doing the best you could to raise me the best you knew how. I would not be who am I today–a Messenger of Light–without you.

Silver Star recipients: This weekend is about your kids, but it’s also all about you. The Salvation Army thanks you and honors you for the contribution you made toward your child’s journey. You did well! Be proud! Enjoy the moment…as you encourage your kids to be the light in this dark world. They are the Messengers of Light!

May God bless you!

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Parents and mentors honored at Silver Star Banquet

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Annual event recognizes those who influence and support the Messengers of Light

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