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Nov28MonLooking back in gratitude and ahead with confidence. November 28, 2016 by Colonel Mark Tillsley
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” This quote from the movie Annie describes my thoughts and feelings as I approach the end of my appointment in the Canada and Bermuda Territory, although I would use the word blessed rather than lucky. During these three-and-a-half years, my wife, Sharon, and I have felt God's blessing on our lives and ministry, and saying goodbye is difficult.
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In Acts 20:13-38, the Apostle Paul says goodbye to the Ephesian elders after spending three years among them. Although many of the circumstances Paul faced were different than anything we have experienced or will ever experience, there are also some striking similarities. In the same way the Ephesians didn't know Paul before he came to their region, you didn't know us. We are so grateful that you quickly opened your hearts and lives to us. It was a gift we will never forget.
Because you were vulnerable, you gave us the courage to be vulnerable and transparent in ministry. We trusted God's leading through you and he has been faithful. Those who worked with us closely know our limitations and flaws, so thank you for investing in our growth and development. We have had tremendous leaders and trusted colleagues who modelled great kindness and patience, both fruits of the Spirit.
One of the great joys of this appointment was to travel across the territory. We have good reason to be hopeful and optimistic because of all that God is doing in our midst. A powerful awakening is taking place among our young people—young adult retreats, Time to Be Holy weekends, Territorial Music School and many other youth gatherings have encouraged us that God is doing something amazing in this generation. Let's do everything we can to encourage our youth.
There are also great stories to be told of God at work in our corps and social services centres. We have celebrated corps anniversaries where God's people have been faithfully reaching out to their communities for 135 years, and we have been to corps made up almost entirely of new Canadians, who are also new to the Army—and sometimes to Christian faith. We have enjoyed corps meetings that concluded with a glorious postlude from the band, and ones that concluded with a taekwondo demonstration. We have visited centres where men and women have been set free from addiction and are now finding new life in Jesus Christ.
We have witnessed God bringing healing to our land, reconciling and restoring our relationships with one another. The honour and privilege of participating in the Indigenous leaders' roundtables reminded me that we are called to be peacemakers, not just peace lovers. The Salvation Army in this territory has an opportunity to seek forgiveness, listen respectfully and then work alongside our First Nations brothers and sisters.
We will treasure memories of many events where God moved powerfully as we called out to him. Someone recently said, “I think you have reconnected with your roots, coming back to Canada after all these years.” The truth is that Sharon and I have a deep love for this territory. We love the beauty and variety of the various cultures and places, but most importantly, we love the people—whom we now call our brothers and sisters.
What we have experienced in Canada and Bermuda bodes well for the next part of our journey. God has been faithful and generous and we believe he will continue to be. Compelled by the Spirit, and believing that God still moves and leads through the appointment process, we now head to the Caribbean and the 16 countries that make up this incredible territory. While we don't know what awaits us there, God has assured us that a wonderful group of Spirit-filled Salvationists will enfold us into their fellowship of love and friendship. It will be hard to say goodbye to family and friends here, but it will be wonderful to say hello to the new family and friends that God has planned for our future.
My closing prayer for you is this: “Now I'm turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends” (Acts 20:32 The Message).
Colonel Mark Tillsley is the chief secretary for the Canada and Bermuda Territory. He and his wife, Colonel Sharon Tillsley, will take up a new appointment as territorial leaders of the Caribbean Territory in January 2017.