My first year as an officer

By Paul Swain, Lieutenant

If I had been offered my current occupation from a booth on a career day back in high school, I would have taken the key chain with the Red Shield on it and said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

If you had told me 10 years ago that I was going to be an officer in The Salvation Army, I would have said you were crazier than I looked. Praise God for plans that don’t make sense.

Our first year at the Santa Maria Corps Community Center has been more than I could have hoped for and nothing I would have chosen or planned to do myself.

Our corps is located across the street from the courthouse that Michael Jackson spent some time in, and now I frequent it quite a bit. I know the sheriffs by name; the public defenders and district attorneys welcome me in on discussions. On one case, I was called into the judge’s chambers and walked out with his cell number and a prayer request. I have helped people stay out of jail and get in jail. Only God could make this possible.

Although my wife and I are expecting a baby any day now, we’re still honeymooning. We’ve spent our first year getting to know the community and learning what it means to leave an appointment better than you found it. Thanks to the hard work of the officers before us, we’re learning the right way to do things and have dived—with both feet—into all the Lord has brought our way.

Our community knows and loves The Salvation Army. Although we’re newcomers, they make us feel welcome and treat us like they’ve known us for years. They trust us with their hurting, homeless and hungry. At times, we are called by the names of past officers and it feels good to know that Jesus—and what he’s doing here in Santa Maria—is all that’s important.

We became “Blood and Fire” officers a little later in life and my only regret is that I didn’t give in to God sooner. It’s amazing to wake up each day and know that today I represent Christ in word, deed and uniform. I can’t say it is the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s so worth it.

People come and God provides the means and the patience to see each day through to his glory. What a privilege to walk/run with Jesus as officers in the Lord’s Army in this short life God gives us. It’s by far the best decision I ever made, second only to saying “yes” to Jesus and “I do” to my wife.


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