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A grateful heart

Colonel Barbara Howell

In 30 years of officership, Colonel Barbara Howell has learnt that she wants to live with a grateful heart, and eyes wide open to God’s goodness.

I had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home with Salvation Army officer parents. I clearly remember the time, at six years old, of asking my mum to go with me to the altar, where I knelt down with her and asked Jesus into my life.

When I was 18, I was on my way to university. During that time I went through a period when I felt really lost. I desperately wanted to know that there was a purpose to my life.

While listening to a message on the topic ‘Destinations’, I heard this Bible passage from Proverbs 3:5–6 (The Message): ‘Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own … He’s the one who will keep you on track.’ That was when I felt my journey with God really began.

As I have been on this journey with God, he has allowed me to pass through many experiences along the way. One key experience was my opportunity to work as a respiratory therapist before becoming an officer. God used that time to teach me about taking care of people, both physically and spiritually. While working in a children’s hospital, I had the opportunity to comfort families and children who were dying, through sharing the hope and comfort of my God. I also learned that there were times to simply sit quietly with them, ministering through presence alone.

Over the more than 37 years that I’ve been married to my husband, life has been filled with countless experiences. I am blessed that throughout our officership journey, Willis has always supported and encouraged me to excel in and use the gifts that God equipped me with.

There was a season, however, when I lost my inner joy. I learnt that seeking happiness will never be enough—it’s flimsy, unreliable, and based on our situation or our surroundings. I am learning how joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, and the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right. With that understanding, I now choose to praise God in all things, even in the messy circumstances. It brings us through both pain and sorrow. Joy is sustaining, deep and long lasting.

Currently, my journey with God has brought me here as the Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries, where one of the opportunities that I have is focusing on valuing, encouraging and equipping women to be exactly who God created them to be. God has blessed me with the opportunity to share with them the joys of having their own personal experience with Jesus Christ.

So, no matter where my ‘stops’ are along this journey, I want to choose to love every moment of life that God gives me, and to be part of making a difference in others’ lives. ‘Honour God with everything … give him the first and the best’ (Proverbs 3:5–12, The Message).


by Colonel Barbara Howell (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 25 July 2015, pp9.
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.