My Tribute to Roy– A Soldier of Christ
by Commissioner David Edwards –
Thirty-eight years ago this month, I was commissioned an officer of The Salvation Army. I was commissioned in the session known as “The Soldiers of Christ.” Ours was the first two-year session. In fact, I went to training expecting to be there for nine months, like all the other sessions before mine–only to discover half-way through that we had to do it all over again for a second nine months.
It was a small session–just six of us. With such a small group of people it is not too difficult to account for each other even after 38 years. There are two of us who are still active officers. Three of the six have been promoted to Glory and the other is now an active local officer at one of the corps in Kingston, Jamaica.
In training with Roy
One of the saddest things I had to do while serving as territorial commander for the Caribbean was to conduct the funeral of one of my session mates. His name was Major Roy Clarke. Quite recently, in addressing the retired officers gathered for their annual meeting of SAROA in St. Petersburg, Florida, I shared the tribute I paid to Major Roy Clarke on the occasion of his promotion to Glory. In this column that I have written for the Commissioning issue of New Frontier, I want to share some excerpts from that tribute, especially for the benefit of the new officers to be commissioned this month.
I remember the first time I saw Roy. I remember very vividly the comrades from his home corps marching into the training college yard at 174 Orange Street, Kingston, Jamaica, and proudly leading in their candidate to begin the rigors of training for Salvation Army officership.
Training is not easy. For some people it tends to be a little more difficult than it is for others. Roy was one of those who found this to be so. That was understandable.
Even though he was just a few years older than the rest of us, Roy had been on his own for some years. It took him some time to get used to the fact that he could no longer do what he wanted when he wanted and how he wanted. And on a few occasions he found himself trying to explain his behavior to the training principal.
Roy had the ability to laugh at himself. He could take a joke but he took himself and his work seriously. One had the distinct impression that he had come to training for one reason: God had called him and he was determined, come what may, to obey God’s call.
I recall meeting Roy on the night of our Commis-sioning, on the way back to the training college, and making the mistake of calling him Cadet Roy Clarke. Roy quickly responded, with mocking sternness, “Give me my rank. Give me my rank. I worked hard for it. So give me my rank.” Roy was right. He had worked hard for it. He deserved to be called by his commissioned rank–lieutenant.
A profound sense of being called to ministry
Roy, I believe, had a profound sense of having been called to this ministry. I cannot recall ever hearing him tell of why he became a Salvation Army officer. But I got the feeling that somewhere, some time, he felt God’s hand on him choosing him for his task, calling him to this special ministry. And that sense of mission took hold of him and never let him go. After that, all that he did, all that he was, all that he became was so that “He might please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”
Roy was a corps officer and pastor all his life. He invested himself and his time in his people. Some became Salvation Army officers because Roy was their corps officer. His country honored him. Roy appreciated that recognition. But it did not mean half as much to him as his service to his people.
Batch mates for life
I went to visit Roy a few days before he died. He was in the hospital. He did not have much longer to live. I took his hand, squeezed it and asked him whether he knew who it was speaking to him.
I would not easily forget that moment, as he looked backed at me, squeezed my hand and in a whisper and with some difficulty, said, “Yes. you are my batch-mate.”
I am grateful to Roy that he saw me then as he always did, his “batch-mate.” Young men who shared in an unforgettable experience of training. Officers commissioned together to the same service, in the same Army, under the same flag, and committed to the same Lord. We were of the same session.
My prayer is that when the end does come for me that I, too, will be remembered as a good soldier of Jesus Christ: durable, committed to one purpose, and obedient to him, who chose me to be his soldier.
What really matters
No one has any idea what the future holds for the men and women who are to be commissioned officers this month. Some may become territorial leaders; others may serve as corps officers and pastors all their lives. What I pray for each of them is that they will never forget that it will not matter to God what positions we have occupied, what ranks we have held, or where we may have served. What will matter to him is the quality of life we have lived, the faithfulness of the service we have rendered, and the motivation that has inspired our devotion.