Refugee Week 6: Breaking barriers

By Alexandra Foden

sofa

It’s interesting to think that 12 months ago I was asked to take the role of a Refugee Resettlement Caseworker. From being young, attending school, college and University I always felt I was destined to help people live a better quality of life and make a difference, yet I never thought I would get an opportunity like this. It has been a privileged experience supporting refugee families with their resettlement in the UK after living in hardship, persecution and fear in their home country. The day the refugees arrived I greeted them at the airport and was overwhelmed with empathy and the need to help them. From that day on the families faced many challenges and I began to see them with a new perspective.

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Refugee Week 5: My story – from Sierra Leone to London – building a new life through resilience and strength

By Francis Haffner

WhatsApp Image 2018-06-21 at 17.36.15As a child, I was forced to leave my homeland due to conflict and build a new life in the UK. I have come through many struggles. Today I thank God for his blessings. Here’s a little of my story.

I grew up in Sierra Leone in West Africa with my mum and dad and the rest of my family. We lived a normal life, but when the civil war started in 1991 life became impossible. Rebel soldiers went door to door asking occupants whether they supported them. Thousands of people were being killed, and I saw things no child should ever witness. Friends of mine were victims, and some children were forced to become soldiers. By God’s grace, my family were spared death when we fled for our lives to the Gambia. At the age of 8, I became a refugee.

Continue reading “Refugee Week 5: My story – from Sierra Leone to London – building a new life through resilience and strength”

Refugee Week 4: 3616 miles – making the journey from Tehran to Ellesmere Port

By Laurence Sandman (adapted and updated from a blog originally published on The Whole World Mobilizing, with permission

ellesmere port3616 miles. 5820 kilometres.

It’s a simple matter to type a departure point and a destination into Google and it tells me that it is 3616 miles or 5820 km and will take 61 hours by car. Easy.

Departure point: Tehran, Iran
Destination: The Salvation Army, Ellesmere Port, UK
Distance: 3616 miles / 5820 km
Duration of journey (by car): 61 hours.

Easy.

Easy?

As great and, I’m sure, as accurate as Google maps is, the figures don’t reflect the real world for real people. They certainly don’t even scratch the surface of the circumstances, the conditions and, above all, the emotional struggles of those who, as Christians and other faiths, find themselves in such desperate straits that a long, dangerous and uncertain journey seems the only way out.

Easy? Certainly not.

Continue reading “Refugee Week 4: 3616 miles – making the journey from Tehran to Ellesmere Port”

Refugee Week 3: Turning Hope into Action – glimpses of the Kingdom of God in Bicester

By Captain Will Pearson

M2 (5)It was the photo of Alan Kurdi that was the tipping point.  How can one photo make such a difference?

We knew in our heads that thousands were dying, but little Alan forced us to pay attention to our hearts and to do something.  It wasn’t just numbers anymore, it was people, people like us, children like ours, desperate, afraid and dying every day.  We claimed to be a people of hope who believed in a better world.  We had to act.

Continue reading “Refugee Week 3: Turning Hope into Action – glimpses of the Kingdom of God in Bicester”

Refugee Week 2: ‘And they started to come…’ – welcoming refugees at Bootle Salvation Army

By Captain Annette Booth

hallA year ago, I attended a meeting about asylum seeking in the UK and learnt that many people were being housed near me in the North-West of England by the Home Office. Individuals and families were placed in shared accommodation, most with little English language, whilst they awaited their asylum decisions.

I asked what the best way was to make contact, and was told to knock on doors and ask people directly.  I went home dismayed and began to pray that God would help these hidden people find their way to us, at The Salvation Army Corps in Bootle.

And they started to come….

Continue reading “Refugee Week 2: ‘And they started to come…’ – welcoming refugees at Bootle Salvation Army”

Refugee Week 1: Why Should Christians Welcome Refugees?

by Lieutenant Sam Tomlin

When I was advertising the information evening for the community sponsorship of refugees in our local community, I put a post on our local community Facebook page. One of the first responses I had was from a lady who said something along the lines of: ‘Why are you letting these people in when our people don’t have anywhere to live?’ Someone else piped up calling her a racist bigot who didn’t care about the horrors Syrian refugees had been through, and this continued back and forth for a few hours until the moderator took the discussion down.

To whom do we owe our love? Two competing answers to this question were rehearsed in this short Facebook exchange which seemed to encapsulate the divisions that had been building for decades in Western nations, brought to light so evidently with Brexit and Trump. Continue reading “Refugee Week 1: Why Should Christians Welcome Refugees?”

The Times they are a-changin’

By Nick Coke

This article first appeared in the January-February 2017 edition of ‘The Officer’ magazine and is re-published with permission. 

Bob Dylan is my hero. There, I’ve gone and said it! Some might laugh at the suggestion, others cringe and perhaps there are even those who wonder who on earth he is. Let me help you understand.

Bob Dylan is an American singer and songwriter, born Robert Zimmerman in Minnesota in 1941. Rising to prominence as a folk singer, he is accredited as a pioneer of the 1960s counterculture and the voice of a generation. His early songs accompanied the civil rights movement, and he even shared a stage with Martin Luther King on the day the Rev King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech in 1963.

Continue reading “The Times they are a-changin’”

Why did the officer, the pioneer leader and envoy write a blog? Because… | disciplesofthecross

By Ben Cotterill and Ryan Wileman featuring Roger Coates
Today (30th September 2017) we celebrate the 16 Salvationists who have begun their training to be Salvation Army officers in the UKI Territory. Within our celebrations, though, is the sober recognition of the fact that this low number represents the continuance of a trend decline in the quantity of candidates and cadets. We thank God for those stepping forward, but we also look to God with this concern! As in most strands of Christian life, we hold positives and negatives in live tension. …

Read the rest here.

Stories: The heart of organising | The Centre for Theology & Community

Dave Morris has been an intern based at Ilford Salvation Army, from the Centre for Theology and Community. You can read some of his reflections here!

“Dave Morris took part in this summer’s Urban Leadership School, interning at Ilford Salvation Army. In this blog, he reflects on the central role of sharing and listening to stories in the practice of community organising.

Something that has brought together all of the interns on the Summer Internship is story-telling. In the remembering and the telling we have all learned so much about ourselves and each other. Sometimes we are in stitches laughing; other times they’re followed by a weighty silence. But every single story has given me insight into who that person is.”

Salvation Army Officership: why no one wants our job

by Captain John Clifton (Ilford Corps) and Lieutenant Ben Cotterill (Keighley Corps)People become Salvation Army Officers for different reasons. For some, it’s because God wrote it for them in the sky. For others, it’s because they were inspired by other officers, often parents making a difference in the world. For others again, it’s because something finally gave way after fifteen years of running from the call whilst others took heed of these all too common Jonah-like testimonies and said ‘yes’ in a heartbeat!

But it’s rumoured that this September’s intake of Cadets (trainee Salvation Army Officers) will be particularly low, possibly the lowest ever.

A simple comparison shows that in 1990 there were 1,793 UK active officers, in 2000 there were 1,539 and the most recent stats for 2017 show there are 1,042. The following table shows the rate of decline in cadets being even steeper in proportion to the astonishing decline in our soldiership membership.

With more people retiring than being commissioned there will of course be implications; officers running multiple corps/centres, retired officers being called on to undertake active appointments, corps/centres un-officered, crucial roles in departments and other jobs led by people who may not even be Salvationists or Christian to name but a few.

How has it come to this?

Salvation Army officers are afforded the wonderful privilege to be released from secular employment to focus on leading the mission of The Salvation Army. However, when officership was instituted in Victorian Britain it was the norm for people to stay in their job for the entirety of their working lives. Today, “job hopping” and having numerous careers[1] in a working life are now the norm although this trend has apparently slowed since the financial crisis[2].

Furthermore, as the membership of the Army increasingly leaves ‘darkest England’[3] well behind and joins the swelling middle-classes, home ownership, often changing jobs and settling down has become the norm. The idea of committing to one vocation and being told where in the world to live does not fit comfortably into this norm. At the same time our multi-cultural diversity has not been reflected in the cadets at training college.

So, is officership out-of-date?

Well, it has rightly become recognised as being one option in a marketplace of vocational choices. Another healthy development is that it no longer receives higher kudos than other vocational choices. It seems also that there are good numbers of people who are deeply committed to the mission of the Army who are seeking out opportunities as full-time employees, with specialist niche roles, as opposed to generalist ministries. There is generally a healthy understanding of the ‘priesthood of all believers’ in The Army. We know about the immediacy of God’s grace and that its not the role of an Officer to administer salvation. However, sometimes we forget that we still require people to fulfil particular functions in the life of the Church. We still need people set apart for the task and vocation of leadership. It’s important to celebrate all avenues of leadership, including Officership.

How we hold these trends in tension with the need to develop leaders of our mission is a challenge. It is really positive that non-officers are released into pioneering ministries and specialist roles, but not every corps can produce capable local leaders at a given point in time and will need officers. So, has God stopped calling people? If yes, what does this mean for us? If not, why are numbers so low?

Are people saying “no” or ignoring their call to serve as officers? The reasons for this we believe are many: waiting for a spouse to ‘get the call’; being put off by bad officers; confusion over what constitutes ‘calling’; being hurt or seeing others handled badly by the Army; feeling inadequate as a leader; theological and faith issues; a reluctance to lose their autonomy; a sense that the ship is sinking so better to find a new sea worthy ship outside of the Army. We could go on.

Now we’re not suggesting that every person with a hint of leadership skills, social competence and desire to serve God should necessarily be an officer. After all, we need local leaders. But we’ve met too many people over the years who are called but don’t take the next step.

Between us, we have nine years experience as Officers. This is more than some, less than others. For our generation, that’s quite a long time in any job. What we have seen tells us that God has more to do with our Army. We’ve seen families come to know Jesus. We’ve seen people arrive as refugees from warzones and receive a warm welcome in our churches. We’ve got to know people on first-name terms, from those sleeping rough on park benches to those sat making laws on parliament benches. Every day, we get to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends.

We’d love for every Salvationist (and every Christian?) to ask themselves whether God is calling them to be a Salvation Army Officer. We are convinced if people opened their heart, then more people might make the seemingly outrageous decision to offer themselves.

We want the best leaders, the humblest souls, world-class intellectuals, straightened-out street brawlers, passionate teachers, recovered drunkards, powerful business-people, public servants, white anglo-saxon, recently resettled refugees – people from all walks of life who are deeply resolved to love and serve God all their days – to step up.

Why not you!? Most leaders in The Bible had something wrong with them to start with – murderers, liars, cheats, the mute, the comfortable, the not so special – you name it they’re all in there.

Leading won’t be easy. That doesn’t get you off the hook, it’s just something you need to expect. The opposition and challenges are inevitable, but they’re never unbeatable.

Tony Blair once wrote that the Labour party created a situation for itself where ‘normal’ people felt inclined to walk away, leaving the manically ambitious and the weird in their stead (now it’s also been said that no-one sane every changed the world!). But it is just so important that this generation brings through obedient, capable and teachable leaders (amongst other things) who continue their adventure in the Army for God’s kingdom.

God has not stopped calling and the need is as greater if not greater than ever before.

So why not you, why not now?

Also published at: https://disciplesofthecross.wordpress.com/2017/05/06/salvation-army-officership-why-no-one-wants-our-job/

[1] Research by Lifelong Learning and Linkedin outline the trend of job hopping.

http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/12/news/economy/millennials-change-jobs-frequently/ and https://www.theguardian.com/money/2008/mar/31/2

[2] An article in the Financial Times suggesting job hopping is slowing down. https://www.ft.com/content/966b870e-f904-11e6-bd4e-68d53499ed71

[3] William Booth wrote ’Darkest England and the Way Out’ in 1890, a vision of Booth to transform society.