Colonel Margaret Hay won the UK Times Preacher of the Year contest in 2000 (not that you’ll hear that from her!), with a sermon she gave to inmates in prison. It’s just one of many enriching experiences in almost 40 years of officership …
I became a Salvation Army officer when I was 24 years of age, with my husband Lawrence. I have served as an officer for 38 years. I was motivated by the remarkable example of my parents, the example of other Salvation Army officers, and also by my own desire to serve the present age—to make some small difference to the world in the short time that I’m on this earth.
Something that has been very important—and a huge part of the privileged opportunity I’ve had—is the worldwide scope of the Army’s work. We’ve served in New Zealand and love Aotearoa dearly, but those 25 years spent out of the country have been amazing—so much of it working with comrades, colleagues, and other Salvation Army officers from all parts of the world.
This gift that God has given us is not unique to the Salvation Army, but it is very, very special—that immediate response, and that sense of sharing with people you’ve never met before. This says something about what it means to be a Salvation Army officer; the access to this grace in which we stand. Unbeatable.
The Salvation Army, especially now, gives incredible opportunities for couples to work in completely separate appointments—if the needs of the work and the situation of the couple suit that work. For others it’s different, but I have found the opportunity has been there completely, and it’s been wonderful—absolutely mind-blowing sometimes! An important stage for me was the last 10 years of our active service, when we were in London. I was appointed, fulltime, to the Rochester Men’s Prison.
The chaplain was a character. When I went to the prison, he said, ‘I don’t mind what you do—you can do pretty much whatever you like, as long as you don’t let anyone out!’ So I looked around, and I said, ‘My God, you’ve got to help me here.’ But talk about an amazing opportunity, with that freedom of access.
I was fortunate to get the role as Foreign Nationals Coordinator, which gave me close access into the lives of people in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. This was an incredible and life-changing experience for me. I am immensely grateful for that. It’s enriched my life beyond measure.
At the recent commissioning weekend, I re-told the story of Salvation Army Commissioner George Scott Railton, who in 1881 was commanded—against his will—to return from the US to England. On his travels, he missed his boat. Dejected, he sat down and wrote these words: ‘The life of the soul saver is the grandest, merriest, strangest life that can be lived on earth—the life of Jesus lived over again in us. It will cost you all, but it will be a good bargain at that!’
If you get the chance to be a Salvation Army officer you’re truly blessed. Go for it. Walk with others. Learn from them. Know that you’re very, very fortunate.
WATCH ONLINE | See Margaret and others share their stories | www.salvationarmy.org.nz/SayYes
by Col Maragaret Hay (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 27 January 2018, p11
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.