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Dec18TueFrom police officer to Salvation Army officer. December 18, 2018 by Cadet Brandon Keeping
In August 2008, I began a career in policing, at the age of 21. Although it was full of the amazing things you might expect—saving lives, being the strength and positivity people needed on the worst day of their lives—it also introduced me to the reality of dirt and pain and suffering.
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I spent many long nights responding to service calls about noise complaints, fender-benders and bar fights. But it wasn’t long before I also found myself racing from suicides, to domestic violence, to drownings, to fatal collisions, to people struggling with mental illness in crisis. The stuff you don’t think about when you apply for the job.
What does all this have to do with my faith? At church, I enjoyed playing on the worship team and in the band, but then I would sit with my young family and go home. Then do it again the next Sunday. There were times when I wasn’t sure if I was actually a Christian or not. I had faith, but it was weak and immature.
When the stress of work mixed with the stress of parenthood, difficulties with my extended family and the pain of two miscarriages, my weak faith was no match for the weight. My personal and professional life began to suffer. I couldn’t sleep, and when I did sleep, I had horrible nightmares, flashbacks of the many serious incidents I had experienced at work. When I was awake, I was always on the lookout for danger and emotionally checked out with my family.
In the summer of 2014, I hit my lowest point. I had a panic attack at work, was taken off the road and told I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I didn’t know it then, but God had been strategically putting people in my life, waiting for the moment when I was ready to ask for help.
When I returned to work a few months later, I was surrounded by my dispatcher, who was a Catholic deacon; a platoon-mate, who was a fellow Salvationist; a psychologist, who was a Christian; and a corps member, who was a paramedic. And of course, my wife, April. They all could understand my faith and my war stories from work, and speak into my life. They helped me realize that I needed to make a change.
I resolved to make my relationship with God a priority. I started saying “yes.” I started praying, reading and studying my Bible, speaking about my faith with others, and asking other Christians around me to help me learn and grow.
In April 2017, our corps officer, Captain Kristen Gray, invited April to a leadership development weekend in London, Ont. About a week before the trip, our corps administrative assistant, Janice, called and said another space had become available, and that I should go, too. I waffled, until Janice bluntly told me, “Stop wasting time and get out there!” That was the best yes I’d said in a long time.
That weekend, I was immersed in God’s presence, more than I had ever experienced. I met officers, corps leaders, youth workers, you name it—and they were all there for the same reason: to be fed spiritually. My heart and mind began to shift.
Until Sunday morning, I still thought I had 20 years of policing left. But during an upbeat song, I sat down quietly, and God used one of his servants to whisper a prayer in my ear. I had an overwhelming feeling that a career change was coming, a feeling that God was pulling me hard toward ministry. I decided not to say anything to April, because, obviously, these were all silly coincidences.
That Sunday evening, when we got home, April asked, “Can we talk about something?” I thought, She’s going to tell me she’s pregnant! But then she said she had felt strange all weekend, feeling that a major change was coming, a pull from God. She couldn’t stop thinking about officership. It was a couple of days before we talked to our corps officer about it, but here we are, at the College for Officer Training. We’re excited. We’re scared. But we are completely ready to be in service for Jesus, along with our kids, and our new sessionmates.
This verse in Scripture goes with us: “In his kindness, God called you to share in his eternal glory, by means of Christ Jesus. So, after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10 NLT).
Cadet Brandon Keeping is a member of the Messengers of the Kingdom Session at the College for Officer Training in Winnipeg.