I was seven when I first started going to The Salvation Army, after a neighbour across the river from our farm asked us to come to Sunday school. I had a burning desire to become a junior soldier and learn more about God—I feel this was when I made the decision to follow Christ.
At 18, I was at a farewell service for a candidate going to training college, when the appeal was made for officership. I didn’t even realise that I was going forward, and found myself up the front without knowing how I had got there. So I know that the call to officership is very real. Many times over the years, I have gone back to that moment.
I was an extremely shy, quiet 22-year-old when I entered the Officer Training College. My first substantial appointment was in a secretarial role at Territorial Headquarters. One day, the Territorial Commander stopped me in the corridor and asked if there was any reason why I couldn’t go to Pakistan. I couldn’t think of anything on the spot, so off I went!
Those four years in Pakistan made me the person I am today. There were many challenges involved with being in a senior role, as secretary for the Territorial Commander, in a country where women have no authority. Just going out shopping or doing an errand could be intimidating, as I would be the only woman there. At the corps (Salvation Army church), I began junior soldiers classes and led a youth group of around 40 young people—many of whom I am still in touch with today.
Facing these challenges made me rely on God in a deeper way, and he helped me to stand up and find my voice. I am very grateful for a small group of people in New Zealand who prayed for me—I could sense the precise moment when they were praying and it helped me through some difficult times. I came back from Pakistan a changed woman, with much more confidence.
My next overseas appointment was in the Philippines. I went from being a secretary, to being the Training Principal and Assistant Field Secretary. We were in a rural area miles out of Manila, notorious for kidnappings and other crimes. I was told, ‘If you hear the dogs barking, shut your door and curtains and don’t come out.’ I had to say, ‘My God is not a God of fear, so I can’t live my life in fear.’
There were many challenges. It was a battle to provide adequate food, and the facilities were a ‘work in progress’. Married cadets had to leave their children behind while they trained to become officers, which was heart-breaking. But the Filipino people were wonderfully friendly, and I never felt alone —even in my alone times.
If you are considering officership, my advice is to be sure of your calling and realise that it’s not going to be easy. But you only have to face one challenge at a time, and one day at a time. This year, I am retiring after 45 years in officership. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m so grateful that God called me. I feel like I owe so much more to The Salvation Army for the opportunities they gave me, than they owe me.
by Margaret Ousey (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 29 November 2014, pp9.
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.