(above) “The Salvation Army has given me the opportunity to do different things to express the call of God in my life,” says Major Mike Hoeft.
Sometimes, God’s call can be dramatic—a bright light, thunder, lightning. And sometimes, it can be as simple as skipping breakfast. This was the case with Major Mike Hoeft, area commander in The Salvation Army’s Prairie Division.
A Life in the Army
Major Hoeft’s grandmother wasn’t originally a Salvationist. But one year, her church closed for the summer as the minister had to be away.
“Grandma said, ‘Not a chance am I going the whole summer without going to church,’ ” Major Hoeft smiles. “And so the family went to the nearest church they could find. And that was a Salvation Army church.”
The family liked what they saw and heard, and stayed.
“So, I was born into The Salvation Army,” Major Hoeft continues. “I was taken to church four days after I was born.”
The young man spent his formative years at Regina Citadel, which is now known as Haven of Hope Ministries.
“The band thing never really stuck with me,” he explains, “but I participated in junior soldiers and corps cadets, youth group and Sunday school.”
Major Hoeft was 14 years old when he started teaching Sunday school, and it was there that he realized “there was something to this. The calling started there.”
Major Hoeft worked at several different jobs in his early teens and eventually found his way to community and family services, and, from there, to The Salvation Army’s correctional services and then an Army young offender’s home in Regina.
Through all of this, Major Hoeft felt called to preach.“That was evident from the time I was 15 or 16,” he says. “When I sat in church services, I would be thinking Oh, I would have said it differently. I would have done this instead of that.”
But while it was obvious to him that preaching and pastoral ministry was where he felt called, he wasn’t sure where exactly that would be. “I struggled,” Major Hoeft says now.
On Sunday mornings, he would lead the youth group at Regina Citadel as the young people’s sergeant-major, but he’d attend another church in the evenings.
Major Hoeft thought he might be ready for a change and had decided to go to the other church and attend their Bible college in the fall.
Then one Sunday morning, Major Hoeft was late getting up for church.
“The other church was a 25-minute drive from my house,” he recalls. “I could make it—but I hadn’t had breakfast. Or I could stop at McDonald’s, and Regina Citadel was only 15 minutes away.”
Major Hoeft decided to have breakfast at McDonald’s, and then he proceeded to The Salvation Army.
“There,” he says, “one of the young people came up to me and said excitedly, ‘We can’t tell you how much it means to have you look after the youth group and do the things that you’re doing.’
“It was confirmation that The Salvation Army was for me,” smiles Major Hoeft. “And I’d been an Egg McMuffin away from making the wrong choice.”
The Call of God
Major Hoeft met his wife, Lee Ann, when she was stationed in Regina, and they have been married for 35 years. He entered the College for Officer Training in 1988 and was commissioned in 1990.
As it turned out, 10 years later, when he was the corps officer in Prince Albert, Sask., that other church offered him a position as head pastor to a 400-member congregation. His decision was an easy one to make.
“I had grown up in The Salvation Army, of course. There was the historical connection, that piece of the puzzle that said, ‘Yes, this is where I belong.’
“But, as I told the other church, The Salvation Army has given me the opportunity to do different things to express the call of God in my life—in family services, community ministries, thrift store ministry—and it was that that made me certain The Salvation Army was where I was called to be. And that’s still the case all these years later.”