I am a corps officer

By Lisa Van Cleef, Captain


A lust for vindication.

That’s what Oswald Chambers calls the overriding temptation we have to defend ourselves. So accurate. So tangible. We deeply desire to change people’s perceptions to match our own. To overcome the temptation is to let go of what Brennan Manning calls “the tyranny of the approval and disapproval of others.”

And yet, I find myself with a deep desire to explain who I am and what I do. John Maxwell talks about the loneliness of leadership. I don’t think it’s that people intentionally pull away from leaders. Rather, I think that the ability for leaders to reveal their own heart and be seen as an individual, rather than a position, is limited. Leaders are left to realize: there is no vindication. No one can sit in the chair and see what they see. Leaders are often talked about, but not talked with. Few will know what is happening behind the scenes or the reason for decisions. Leaders are left with the realization that to vindicate themselves with each person would indeed be tyranny—one they would create and need to control, thus making them into a tyrant.

So, here I sit on a sunny San Diego morning, feeling alone. I want so much to get a megaphone and explain to anyone who will listen who I am, what I feel, why I do the things I do. And yet, to do so would be folly. Things I say to clarify can only muddy the waters more. Things I say to defend cause me to seem harsh, rather than passionate. Questions I ask of my leaders are viewed as challenges rather than sincere inquiries. I risk a lot by talking.

Yet I must talk about just one thing. To those who will listen, please know this: I am a corps officer.

The last word says as much as the first. I am a Salvation Army officer. Ordained. Obedient. Trained. Appointments along the way have added personal experience to book knowledge. I’ve seen the same people in four cities but by different names, teaching me that the human condition is wrapped up in different packages. I’ve learned that people around the world have basic needs and temperaments.

The key need I see is a need to be loved. As an officer, my job is to love. Simple. Hard. My mom used to say, “Jesus says we have to love one another. But we don’t have to like everyone.” She was usually telling me that when I’d done something only a teenager could do to a parent. The message was clear: she loved me. She didn’t like my attitude or my behavior, but she loved me. I learned a lot from that. People may disappoint or mislead or hurt me, but I still love the person Christ created.

I am an officer at a corps. Here comes the temptation to vindicate: If leaders are misunderstood, Kroc leaders seem doubly so. At our first officers’ councils in this division, an officer approached us and said, “What are you doing here? Aren’t you THQ officers?” Did I ever want to defend myself! Jump up on my soapbox and defend this corps! Instead, I took a deep breath— I often do. This lovely place I serve is a corps. Take off the first four words (Ray and Joan Kroc), and what’s left? Corps Community Center. I could rattle off a lot of things to defend my beliefs and opinions, but those three words say it all. There is a lot of talk, many rumors, speculation and even disagreement. I can’t answer or defend them all. I can simply point out the obvious: this is a Corps Community Center, just like those in cities across this great territory.

After serving for five years as corps officers and administrators at the San Diego Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, Captains John and Lisa Van Cleef will become corps officers at the Tustin Ranch (Calif.) Corps in July.


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