My first year as an officer
By Peter Pemberton, Lt.
Standing before Commissioner Swyers in June 2010 at my commissioning, all I could think about was all of the fun that I would have in this wonderful ministry. I dreamed of this moment for several years and was certain that God had called my wife, Jan, and me to it. I dwelled on the fact that we would build lasting relationships founded on Christ the King. Loving to teach and preach, I often caught myself looking into the future and seeing my congregation growing in knowledge and faith. I guess that I dwelled so heavily on the high points that I never really considered the challenges—the low points.
When Jan and I arrived in Ogden, Utah, we quickly met a lady named Denise, whose background was riddled with family struggles, drug addiction, and prison time. She was trying to change her life for the better and we wanted to help. She accepted the Lord Jesus as her savior. She started coming to Sunday services, Wednesday evening Bible study, and even Home League. The next thing I knew, she was volunteering on a daily basis at the corps. This was it. This was what I signed up for and dreamed about. I was watching God transform a life, and was blessed to be involved in the process.
One day, I came to the corps and noticed that Denise was uncharacteristically absent. The day came and went. The next day, she was again absent. About noon, word reached me that Denise was in the hospital and non-responsive. Jan and I quickly went to be with her and her family. Denise didn’t recover. Days later, her family asked us to be present with them as they made the difficult decision to take her off life support. I held her hand, said a prayer, and did my best to comfort her family.
A couple of days later, Denise’s family asked for us to lead her memorial service. It was a difficult time, but we honored her memory and celebrated her new life in the presence of God. Again, we were able to offer her children our comfort and love—and a bit of God’s love.
Jan and I went through several emotions during this entire period. Jubilation for a life changed. Regret that we couldn’t have known her longer. Remorse for her family who never really was able to enjoy this beautiful new woman filled with so much love.
Through this difficult time—and many others—I found myself asking God if he had chosen the right person for such a difficult ministry. Responding to my search for comfort in difficult times, God spoke to my heart, saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Yes, this ministry is difficult and looks very little like the one I had initially envisioned. Actually, it’s much more beautiful.
People often ask why God no longer performs miracles. In eight short months, I have realized that he most certainly performs miracles, and how wonderful it is that he allows me to be involved. It was a miracle to see this woman’s life transform. Being able to comfort and minister to her family was a miracle. Being able to honor her life and celebrate her victory was a miracle.