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May13ThuSalvationist women shine light on what this new theme means to them. May 13, 2021 Compiled by Leigha VeghWhen people across the country rung in 2020, no one was aware that a pandemic of global proportions and new racial injustices were in store for the new year. With the many challenges of the previous year in mind, the women’s ministries department piloted a theme for 2021 to encourage women across the territory.
“Disturbing Present Darkness” was conceptualized by Rebekah McNeilly, territorial resource and social media co-ordinator for women’s ministries. “The past year has been a time of unprecedented darkness,” she says. “As Christ followers, we are light bearers and inherently called to disturb the darkness.” McNeilly was inspired by a quote from Catherine Booth which says, “If we are to better the future, we must disturb the present.”
“It’s a call to action and a reminder to not become apathetic,” says McNeilly.
“Shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace,” reads Luke 1:79. In response to this verse, the women’s ministries website (salvationist.ca/women) shares encouragement that, “God is faithful, and he brings light into all the dark corners of our world and our individual lives.”
The women’s ministries department reached out to various Salvation Army officers and Salvationists across the territory to ask what the theme means personally to them. This is what they said.
Captain Crystal Porter
Hands up if you grew up singing, and believing, that big girls don’t cry. I did.
Throughout my life, I held to this deep belief that I could only be brave and strong. I carried that perspective into pastoral visitations and preaching engagements, into my doctor’s office and the subsequent specialist appointments. I tried to maintain a calm demeanour even as our hopes were squashed with an unexplained infertility diagnosis.
This unplanned journey for our family was difficult. Even today, it’s hard for me to explain the emotions that I experienced. It felt like darkness was all around me. My dreams of being a parent quickly transformed into unmet hopes. The God who constantly showed up throughout my life felt cold and distant. Each month we anticipated good news, but it just led to terrible disappointments.
Although I tried to be brave and strong, I felt alone and exhausted. I’m thankful for people who created safe spaces and continued to speak love, grace and gentleness into my life. They reminded me that God is with me.
Hope is a beautiful thing—a miraculous thing. It reminds us that there is light even in the darkest moments. Hope helped us connect with a wonderful person and after much prayer, it opened our home and hearts to fostering children.
I don’t believe God caused my infertility so that we would become foster parents. This journey is filled with grief and pain, as well. But it has shown me that trust and vulnerability are just as important as bravery and strength. Just because life didn’t go in the direction that you planned, doesn’t mean that God isn’t there in the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
Captain Crystal Porter is a divisional youth secretary in the Prairie Division.
We learn and we experience on our faith journey that we are God’s beloved, his chosen, his own, his children, never alone. We have a heavenly Father who goes before us, prepares and equips us for his service, wherever that may be. I am so grateful and thankful for a God that shows up where I am. He rescues me from uncertainty and worry, reminding me that “he has this.” Whatever life challenges we experience, he is in it, reaching down, taking hold and drawing us out of deep waters (see Psalm 18:16). I have experienced God’s faithfulness and a peace that passes all understanding.
During this time of pandemic, as a hospital director, God has and continues to guide my every step. He provides direction and reassurance that he is there for me. I have found comfort as he leads me through reading his Word. I have a quote posted in my office, “Surround yourself with those who get it.” I can say that I am blessed and surrounded with good friends, family and colleagues that do get it. I am thankful for who God is. He is never to be taken for granted.
Pamela Westover is a Salvationist who attends Etobicoke Temple in Toronto.
Imagery and metaphors of light and darkness are found throughout Scripture. Verses such as, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) or “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8), highlight that God is light. These ideas, concepts and promises have been familiar and comforting to me throughout my life as a follower of Jesus and especially now as we all navigate through a pandemic.
In recent days and months, where it appears that the world is covered in darkness, I have found comfort in his light. I have witnessed great darkness in areas such as sickness, grief, loss, racism, hatred and pain. However, it is in these dark times that I have witnessed God’s bright and glorious light.
As a youth co-ordinator at my local corps in Vernon, B.C., and through my involvement at the British Columbia divisional youth department, I was given many opportunities during this pandemic to shine God’s light in the lives of children and youth. These youth experienced a lot of disappointment and loss with schools closed, many programs cancelled and no camp during the summer. We took the opportunity to make a way where there seemed to be no way. We offered several online camp events and an online leaders in training program to the division. We stayed connected with local kids and youth by offering Bible studies and games on Zoom. I knew that I had no control over the pandemic or the restrictions. There was not much I could do to take away the loss or pain that these youth were feeling. But something that I could do was share some joy and fun with them. I could make some of the darkness seem a little less dark.
Science tells us that there is no such thing as darkness, but rather it is just a lack of light. And so, while it appears like darkness, I know that I just need to look for, find or bring light to make the darkness fade. My prayer is that as I continue to fix my eyes on Jesus, he will continue to shine his light on my darkness and use me to share his light with others.
Jillian Penney is the youth co-ordinator and kettle co-ordinator for Vernon Community Church, B.C.
Major Shona Pike
I’ve always loved the window seat on a flight. It offers great views of some beautiful scenery from a unique perspective. I love that experience. There is, however, one aspect of flying that I’ve never enjoyed: turbulence. That sudden jolt reminds me I am no longer on solid ground. I have come to realize that turbulence doesn’t just happen at 30,000 feet. Even when my feet are firmly planted on the ground, I can feel like I’m being shaken and tossed about, powerless to change a situation.
In 2017, I experienced one of those turbulent times. I had been married to Keith for 27 years and prior to our marriage, my husband had a kidney transplant. We had been living a normal life and enjoying all the things that life had to offer. In spring 2017, we were informed that Keith’s blood levels were declining and that he was in kidney failure. In July, he began the preparation for another transplant. I was deemed a suitable match and went through the required testing to become the donor. We were given a surgery date in October and made our way to the hospital for our final pre-op appointments. On the way home we received a call from the nephrologist to say that the surgery could not proceed because Keith’s blood levels were dangerously low, making the surgery unsafe. I didn’t know it then, but this would be the beginning of five months of turbulence like I’d never experienced it before.
Over the next several weeks we navigated a very dark and bumpy road. Our lives became a whirlwind of hospital visits, blood transfusions and re-testing to see if Keith had developed any new antibodies which might prevent me from being that donor. I felt completely powerless to do anything to change the situation. As difficult as it was to simply wait—wait for the next appointment; wait for test results; wait for the next diagnosis—in those moments, I knew that I was not alone. I felt an undeniable sense that God was with me in my waiting. There was nothing I could do but wait and pray. In the midst of what was one of the darkest and most turbulent times in my life, the light of God’s presence and peace pierced that darkness and gave me an unshakeable assurance that the future was in his control.
Despite many setbacks and unexpected delays on this journey, I learned that it is in the waiting that God can restore hope and deepen our faith as we draw strength from his promises. “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2 NLT). In this experience, God not only pierced the darkness, but he brought light into the situation in ways we could never have imagined. The surgery took place on February 14, 2018, and we continue to thank God for the blessing of good health. I am reminded daily that when we experience turbulence, whether on a flight or at ground level, God’s light still shines in the darkness, giving us full access to the One who will hold us steady and secure.
Major Shona Pike is the divisional director of women’s ministries in the Quebec Division.
Photos: Courtesy of Rebekah McNeilly
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