My first year_Remembering– When I was a new officer
By Anthony Barnes, Captain
The day finally came. Our uniforms were cleaned and ironed. We had each epaulet and “S” angled and attached perfectly. With bags and Bibles in hand, we left the house and headed to the corps. We arrived at our appointment, the South San Francisco Citadel, with wide eyes ready to take on the ministry that we had been given stewardship over.
My wife and I were led on a tour through the building complete with an explanation of great milestones and minor disappointments. Without discussion, we could see the look in the eyes of the other, beginning to envision the possibilities for each room and usable space; and then we came to it…the chapel.
The place where countless hours of worship would take place over the course of our appointment was in our immediate grasp. There I stood, using the majority of my senses to become familiar with the chapel. I noted the scent of the room, the feel of the pews, and I spent considerable time taking in the beautiful view of the pulpit and altars.
My son Anthony was able to break my gaze with a question, “Daddy, is that where you are going to do all of the talking?”
I looked at him intending to say “yes,” but I paused, because although I knew he meant the time I spent giving one sermon, his words reminded me that I get to deliver God’s word on a consistent basis. The epaulets on my tunic instantly became just a bit heavier.
Just before exiting the chapel I closed my eyes and silently spoke the words, “Lord, I hope you know what you’re doing.” As I opened my eyes, I viewed a statuette in the rear of the chapel of Jesus passing a shepherd’s crook to an officer. An inscription at its base read, “Feed My Sheep.” This reminded me that not only did God know what he was doing, but he had a specific plan for this corps, which included my family and I being right here where he placed us.
Since that day, we have experienced all and more than what our training could have prepared us for. The past seven weeks have been filled with a fair share of achievements and challenges. While taking the time to celebrate all that the previous officers did, we have come up with small steps to build upon the foundation they set. The congregation has been supportive of the direction in which the ministry is going, and we haven’t often had to use the coined phrase, “We are just lieutenants.”
Being an officer—a new officer—is a responsibility that hasn’t been taken lightly. We were told the stories, and received countless illustrations, but the reality of it all is seen in the actuality—the experience.
A week ago a woman drove up to the building after hours and sat in the driveway with her face buried
in her hands. I witnessed this scene from my office window and went to the front door. As I opened the door and approached the car, she exited the vehicle. I noticed then that she wasn’t alone; several children and an adult male waited in the car.
The woman explained that they had come across some hard times and wanted to know if we could spare some food. She kept moving away from the car, stating that she didn’t want the children to hear the conversation, and she asked if I could smile, so that those in the vehicle wouldn’t suspect that anything was wrong. She said that the children were not yet aware of how bad the situation had become.
They were dealing with financial troubles because the husband had a surgery that they could not particularly afford—keeping him out of work longer than expected or allowed—resulting in this moment, when she summoned all the courage she could to come and ask for food. I was able to gather enough to feed the family for a few days and pointed her to additional resources.
Before she returned to her car, I grabbed an invitational postcard and invited the woman to bring her family to our worship services. She smiled and thanked me for the generosity. I explained that from the moment we met, her family became our family, and we would be privileged to have them join us. I don’t know whether or not they will ever accept the invitation, but I made the attempt and hope our dedication and concern was evident.
One of the greatest lessons that I have learned as a new lieutenant is that in this ministry we are given opportunities. We have not been tasked with an ultimatum of providing undeniable change. We are not responsible for saving anyone. The saving is done by God; however, we can present the gospel message of salvation.
Attached to that lesson is another lesson I had been taught, but had to experience first hand. Don’t be afraid to get your heart broken. Put your whole self into the ministry that you’ve been given stewardship of. The ability to carry this out this means that we have to be sensitive to the people and places that God leads us, and we have to be prepared to share God’s hope with all whom we encounter.