Cadet Emma Buckingham has just begun her first year of officer training. She gets real about her ‘world famous’ last name, and how God used disappointment as direction.
I am blessed to have a rich family heritage in the Salvation Army. My parents are offi cers (Commissioners Lyndon and Bronwyn Buckingham— Chief of the Staff and World Director of Women’s Ministry). So is my older brother Captain Daniel Buckingham, who is corps offi cer at Westgate Corps in Auckland. The temptation to compare myself and measure my journey against my immediate family is real. None of them have ever placed any expectation or pressure on me— but I’ve placed plenty on myself!
I was 17 when I first encountered the Holy Spirit personally and powerfully, and while there have certainly been times of frustration and weariness since, I just cannot deny the truth about God. Sometimes in the midst of temptation and struggle I have wished that I hadn’t experienced God’s presence, because the pull toward rebellion has been so strong. But it’s been through these times that my faith has enlarged enough to combat the doubt and help me grow spiritually.
Over the years, I have thought of myself as the ‘black sheep’ of the family, because I didn’t want to succumb to the family tradition of becoming an officer. I didn’t even want to think about it because it seemed so ‘predictable’.
But I kept wondering, if God has called everyone else in my family to be officers, what if he doesn’t call me? What does that mean? And what if he does call me? Am I actually willing to say yes? I decided to ‘never say never’—but I needed God to thoroughly convince me it was his will.
Two years ago, I applied for a job with World Vision. I really wanted it and was super invested, so when I didn’t get it I was utterly devastated. But God used this disappointment to get my attention, and I started praying earnestly about my ministry future. Officership had became like a book on a shelf for me. I would take it down from time to time and look it over and flick through it, but shelve it again—relieved that God didn’t seem to be saying anything to me about it.
When I was travelling overseas, I was disappointed that it was pouring with rain on a day we wanted to explore Barcelona. But when a man came along trying to sell us an umbrella, I realised some pouring rain wasn’t going to stop us from having an amazing (but wet) day! God used that small moment to show me that he has a plan—it’s just not always the one we are expecting. I knew it was time for me to change the question from, ‘Why should I become an officer?’, to, ‘Why wouldn’t I want what God wants for me?’
It’s been hard leaving my Westgate whanau, but I’m just so grateful to God for community! Consistently being in relationship with other Christians who are willing to be open and honest has been crucial in my journey as a disciple. I think the key to faith is making space for quality relationships. In this age of technology, the world is craving the intimacy of real life human connection.
As an Army, we need to reclaim the creativity and innovation of our roots: not doing the same old things, but by acknowledging—as the Booths did— that the world is constantly changing and so must we. If we don’t, our Army will be no more. But imagine if we do pursue change for the sake of the world ... I want to be part of that future!
(c) by Emma Buckingham 'War Cry' magazine, 9 February 2019 p11. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.