Saturday, October 27, 2007

The SA was my life...

Part two

I entered the Training College at 1771 Andrews Avenue, NY, at the age of 18. To say I did so with trepidation would be very much an understatement. Frankly, I couldn't believe I had made it. My memory is fading but I remember that it was some experience. If one made it through “training” physically, you were a survivor. The schedule and regiment were strenuous to say the least. My experience as a single woman cadet was not easy. Married couples had each other for support. And once in the field, the challenges, demands and difficulties only increased. Almost all of the single women in my session resigned their commission in due course. I was dedicated to the Army's mission, however, I don't believe “training” prepared me enough for the challenges I would face in the “field”. One needs to remember that “training” consisted of basically 18 months of class room learning, a summer appointment, two “spring assignments", followed by commissioning. I was young, inexperienced, but I knew the army. I was dedicated, healthy and willing. However, those characteristics alone weren’t enough. I needed the support of other officers, and it simply wasn’t there. I, along with others, developed a survival mentality. I didn't realize it right away, but recognized it as the months rolled by. And it was this same mentality and lack of support that caused so many of my session comrades to leave the ranks. I read my “Reunion news” at ten, twenty five and forty years, and few single, and married couples for that matter, were faithful to the call. There had to be reasons...

I had six appointments in five years. I was asked and expected to perform tasks for which I was both ill prepared and untrained. Nonetheless, I did whatever was asked of me willingly. However, I also came to realize that not only was I expected to carry out the duties assigned to me, but those of others as well. The single woman officer was the equivalent of what we termed nuns to be; slaves of the Catholic Church. As an example, there was a city code in New York City that stated if a building didn't have air-conditioning, and the temperature reached a certain degree, then the employees could be excused and go home. However, the rule didn’t apply to officers. It simply meant that the officers had to pick up the slack and fill in for the non-officer employees. There were other such “rights”, and I witnessed employees being treated better than officers; they were treated with more dignity than we as officers were.

It was during my five-year review that I was put on probation.

I left on a Saturday morning. My brother picked me up and took me to his quarters. I had a job lined up working at a SA residence but received a call from the Major in charge two weeks before my starting date and was informed that an officer was being sent to fill that position. That weekend was the worst three days of my life. I walked out the door of The SA and my calling, mission and passion closed behind me. I entered a very different world; all I knew since the age of three was The Salvation Army. Our family’s and my life revolved around the Army. I wanted desperately to remain involved, a part of the only life I knew, and thought I could find a corps and become a local officer but was told instead to burn my bridges. I found myself very much alone in New York City.

Part Two

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The SA Was My Life...

I am a former officer having served in the US Eastern Territory. I was made aware of the FSAOF blog by a former officer and have thought about sharing my experience for several weeks, and now feel led to do so. As I think back on my experience many things are running through my head and I will do my best to put it all together. There are things that I want to forget; too personal. I would term myself a survivor…

I love The Salvation Army; it was my life and while growing up, my second home. We lived just a block from the corps and walked many times down the steep hill and back up several times a week, and of course, each Sunday. My mother learned to drive in her late thirties and she and “Pop” would drive down just before the Sunday service began, but we made it a habit to walk home, up the long steep hill.

I was three years old when The SA came to our post WWII housing project and conducted an open-air meeting to promote the new outpost Sunday School. My older brother took me by the hand and down we went to Sunday School; that's how it started. At five I stood to my feet with other children in Sunday School and asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. I still remember the first day my parents were welcomed to Sunday School at the corps. We gradually got involved in all the activities and programs. The fellowship was like one big Christian family; I remember standing in a circle one Watch Night Service on New Years Eve. It was midnight, and we were holding hands singing in closing. “God Be with you till we meet again”. We would “wish” the New Year in at the corps in the same fashion each year…

Well, I “grew up”, along with others in the corps through all the different activities and programs and it seemed only natural to eventually join the Future Officers Fellowship. It was expected and accepted as one’s next step. I did this in spite of being told, “You'll never get accepted to Training…. You'll never make it through Training.”

I was very shy as a child and a labeled a “wall flower” as a teenager. I was also raised in a very strict home. There was a tough disciplinary code both at home and at school; parents supported the teachers and school administrators. My mother would remind me that, “if you get the paddle in school you’re going to get it again when you get home”. It was during that period in time when kids were sent to reform school if parents couldn't control their children.

Then there was the teasing we all had to endure from our peers. The army in those days was seen as a radical Christian group. My two brothers and I should have received “community service awards” for all the work we performed! I can't speak for my brothers’ experiences, but as for me, I was often jeered, mostly by the Catholic friends from school. The town, even though founded by the Moravians for Religious Freedom, was predominantly Catholic. We would conduct our “open air” meetings on shopping night in town and everyone from school would see me in my "Sally" uniform playing my trombone. I would go home and read the Beatitude's. “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil falsely against you for my name's sake. Great is your reward in Heaven for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you".

I was committed to The Salvation Army; it was in my blood. I didn't have any outstanding talents to offer the Lord. My older brother could do everything better. I was a “B and C” grade student, always trying to keep up with my brother. I grew up in his shadow. My brother was Valedictorian in his graduating class of the Technical High School. While I took college prep courses he was offered a scholarship to a school in a large east coast city. But he turned it down and instead entered the Training College. I think it was the “Soldiers of Christ” session. He and his wife recently retired as officers.

Well, I had to leave home when I was 18 due some family problems. My father slapped the heck out of me because I came home from work on a Tuesday night and said I didn't feel well enough to go down to the church that night. They were having Revival meetings all week at the corps; the annual “Hell and Damnation” sermons. Well, my mother was arguing with him in the kitchen and I said, “I'm 18 now I'll do what I want, and stormed up to my room.”

My brother was by this time stationed in a nearby city and spoke to the DC and they secured a job for me at a SA Day Care and Community Center, on the condition that I agree to enter the Training College the following September. They wanted 100 Cadets for the 100th year session. Well, I was taught to forgive and three months later I finally forgave my parents for what happened. I'm just relating this to let you know how strict I was brought up. I returned home for a relative’s funeral and also to attend my brother’s wedding. I worked hard all summer and saved my money for Training College and at age 18 I entered the gates at 1771 Andrews Avenue.

Name on file

(Part One)

Friday, October 12, 2007


So, may I ask it again? “What if the shepherd doesn’t go seek and find the one that is lost?”

Has it not become obvious? The lost sheep is essentially kept from the “gathering together”, and thus becomes an amputated member of the body. Being careful of my use of Paul’s brilliant thesis, if a finger is amputated from the body and is not reconnected, it will die! The finger cannot survive without the flow of life sustaining blood. Someone has to find the finger and bring it to the skilled hands of a surgeon who is able to accomplish the reconnection of the finger to the rest of the body. There it is, that mending we spoke of earlier. The person who lost the finger, no matter how hard he tries to reapply it to his hand, simply CANNOT DO IT BY HIMSELF!

So, the sheep has wandered off, or, perhaps, willingly and with forethought, has escaped the fold. If the shepherd, as some have suggested, takes the modern commercial attitude of simply securing his ninety nine and foregoing the one as normal acceptable loss, he has destined the one to loss of the protection and nurture of the fold, or the whole. There can be no mending for that one, no edifying of the body. The loss of the one leaves the body as a whole less than it once was. The man who lost his finger can learn to adapt to the loss of the finger, but he will find even simple tasks harder to perform because of the loss. So it is with the church, the loss of even one sends ripple effect through the whole. A unique role or talent is now lost. And, in the end, the one lost, as Paul suggests in Ephesians, remains as children tossed to and fro.

Ah, and here is the rub! Jesus himself gave a strong admonition against the temptation to simply write the one off as a normal and acceptable loss. In Matthew the 18th chapter, vs 5-6 we read:

“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

I don’t know, maybe I am just over reacting, but to me I think Jesus is telling us that the shepherd has the responsibility of caring for the flock and seeking those who have left, and restoring them to the safety and nurture of the whole flock, or, to him falls the responsibility of the sheep’s loss.

Personal accountability? Yes, we all have that, but to the lost, there is an implied external responsibility that falls on the shepherd. Oh, and before we are tempted to point the finger at those we think are the shepherds, take another look at the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. In it Jesus answered the question of “who is my neighbor” by explaining anyone in whom we find need is our neighbor.

In a similar way I think we can deduce that anyone we find in need is part of our own personal flock. A parent may have a child, or a child may have a parent, for whom they are the shepherds. At work we have our co-workers; students have their teachers and fellow students, and teachers have their classes. Keep looking and you will soon see sheep all around you. Perhaps the most intriguing of all is the understanding that we are shepherds to many that we don’t even know, but who follow us for examples every day!

Go and be Good Shepherds!

Ron Pettys

Church of The Nazarene


Ron Pettys (part one)

It began, simply enough, as a question following numerous encounters with the subject of “The Lost Sheep”. No, on second thought, it wasn’t a question at all, it was more of an epiphany in the form of a question: “What if the shepherd doesn’t go seek and find the one that is lost?”

First of all, we have the near admonition, not once, but three times, within the single chapter of Luke from which we get the story of the ”Lost Sheep”. Jesus is telling his hearers that they already know that a diligent shepherd would look for the lost sheep, and the poor woman would never just brush off the lost coin, and no loving father would give up his wayward son as if he were dead, never to return. The obvious implication and lesson is that anyone who recognizes a loss has an obligation to seek it out and be ready to restore it to the whole.

Therefore, I again come back to the question: “What if the shepherd doesn’t go seek and find the one that is lost?”

Let’s consider something else Jesus said in the context of the Shepherd. I love watching the numeric patterns in Scripture, and on another occasion in John 21, Jesus again used a series of three to get an important message across to one of His more favored disciples. After asking Peter three times if he, (Peter), loved Him, He told Peter to “feed my lambs” (vs 15), “feed my sheep” (vs 16), and again, “feed my sheep”, (vs 17). John 21: 15-17

Jesus was telling Peter that he was to take on the role of shepherd to Christ’s flock. Indeed, He was actually telling all of the disciples that they were to become shepherds of His flock. He was about to leave them for good, in the earthly bodily form, and send to them the Spirit, but it was to fall on them to become the shepherds of the flock, and as shepherds, they had to tend and feed the flock.

Therefore, as diligent shepherds, they were to assure the safety and protection of those in the flock, and go out and seek the ones that were lost. Of this I think there is no argument, but, again, and forgive my redundancy; “What if the shepherd doesn’t go seek and find the one that is lost?”

What does the sheep miss by not being in the fold? Spiritual maturity! Here, I think, we should start realizing that the “fold” is the “church” and the writer to the Hebrews instructs us emphatically that we should, “Not (forsake) the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:25).

Why should we not forsake the assembling together? Paul puts it best in Ephesians 4:11-14:

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

In the NASB version, in verse 12, it uses the phrase, “for the equipping of the saints”. I am no Greek scholar, but I have been told, and have read that the word translated “equipping” is, in the original, “katatismos”, and can be translated as the idea of fishermen who are mending nets.

Think of it then, the “gathering together” is for the task of repairing damage done to the members of the flock who are wounded, both spiritually and physically, or have become discouraged, or are in any need of “mending”. One could even suggest that the “gathering together” may further prepare the mended to reach out to others in need of mending.

The Scripture quoted above also says that the gathering together is for the “edifying of the body of Christ”. In 1 Corinthians 12 we find Paul’s great lesson on what has been described as the “Body Life Concept”, in which he equates the “Body of Believers” to the human body. He reminds us that the human body is made up of various parts, with very specific tasks, and so likewise is the church. Look back at the text from Ephesians 4:11-14, and see that he points out that some are to be apostles, and some evangelists and some pastors, etc, the list showing the variety of roles and functions in the church, but all for the united task of building up each other in Christ. (Part One)

Ron Pettys
(USA Central Territory)

Church of The Nazarene