Tell us about your journey to international service with The Salvation Army.
Major Krista Andrews:
Before moving to Australia, we were divisional youth secretaries in the Newfoundland and Labrador Division. As we were discussing a change with our divisional leaders, we came to the conclusion that we needed another year to end well. At the same time, we also indicated on our personal information form that we’d be interested in international service at some point, knowing it could take a while. But God had other plans!
The next day, we got a call to say that Australia was interested in having us come over to serve as corps officers in Carindale, a suburb of Brisbane in Queensland. There’s no way the form could have reached anyone, so it felt like a God moment—that it was just his way of preparing our hearts.
We started our new appointment in July 2018, just as the two Australian territories, Southern and Eastern, were merging into one. They officially became the Australia Territory at a congress in December. The two territories were very different in their approaches and administrative systems, such as finance and human resources, so there has been a lot of change all at once, which can be challenging. But the message of uniting Salvationists under a common mission and purpose has been very clear.
Australia ranks as one of the best countries in the world to live in, according to international comparisons of wealth, education, health and quality of life. What are some of the challenges facing the country?
Major Tim Andrews:
From what we have seen, Australia faces many of the same challenges as other countries—the ever-changing technological landscape, the effect of an aging population on the economy and an increasing awareness of the importance of mental health.
Like Canada, Australia is on a journey of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The Salvation Army is working to build bridges and educate officers and employees on how we reach out and care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s about more than just acknowledging the land we’re on, we need to build relationships.
The Army here is also concerned with social inclusion, making sure everyone is welcome and that our spaces are accessible to all, and gender equity, so everyone is treated equally and fairly.
How is Carindale Corps involved in the community?
KA: At the local level, we run a childcare centre for vulnerable families and facilitate a government social assistance program. We also have partnerships with other Salvation Army agencies: Brisbane Streetlevel Mission, which provides emergency support and community for those living rough, and Brisbane Recovery Services Centre (also known as Moonyah). And then there are external partnerships we’re working toward.
TA: One of the things we’re excited about is planning a new building that will be a community hub, with multifaceted spaces that allow us not just to worship on Sunday morning, but to partner with Army programs such as Employment Plus and Moneycare, which help people who are struggling financially, and with other organizations in the community.
We’re looking to create a space that’s flexible, right down to the actual sanctuary space, with moveable chairs and a moveable stage so it can be used for different groups during the week. Gone are the days when we build a church for a specific purpose, when the only use is an hour-and-a-half worship service on Sunday morning, and the building sits dormant for the rest of the week. It needs to be flexible so it can serve a purpose now and five years from now, according to where we’re feeling led and what the needs in our community are.
So we’re not building a church in the sense that we’re building a sanctuary, but we are building a church in the sense that we’re building community. We’ve seen how The Salvation Army in Australia challenges every new project to be built around mission and relationship.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Australia?
KA: It has been very minimal for us here in Queensland. We had an eightweek lockdown, and our kids missed school for about six weeks. We moved services online, of course, but we’ve been able to meet in person—with restrictions—since the beginning of the year. So we haven’t been under the same duress, but we have family in Canada and the United Kingdom, so our eyes have been on the world.
TA: I think it’s given us an opportunity to take stock of what’s truly important. Is it our buildings? Is it our programs? If those are taken away from us, what do we have? I think many people felt a little lost—they realized they haven’t been in deep and meaningful relationships, perhaps both with God and other people. If we don’t have relationship, we just don’t have anything. It really comes down to that. Our structures are only as strong as the relationships they represent.
This time can be a gift if we examine our priorities. We’ve sometimes put our eggs in the basket of programs or structures or buildings. Going forward, I think the churches that not only survive, but thrive, will be the ones that put all of their eggs in the basket of relationship and let everything grow out of that. It’s like “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Perhaps we’ve been focusing on the end, on “these things will be given to you as well,” and not perhaps as much on kingdom growth in relationship.
What has God been teaching you recently?
KA: It’s hard to differentiate between what God has been teaching us from the experience of living in Australia and through COVID-19. This was a big move for us as a family. We’ve learned so much about our kids as individuals, and about how they grow and cope and change. We believe this move was God-ordained and our kids will be more resilient people because of it.
So we were learning a lot before the pandemic, but COVID-19 really brought us back to the basics of ministry and what it means to be committed to God as officers and how we lead people. I think it’s helped us recognize what’s really important, as Tim said.
TA: There’s something I often tell my son—you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond. I think that applies to what God has been saying to me during the COVID period. The pandemic is something we couldn’t control; there was nothing any of us could have done to prevent it. It happened and is happening. But what’s important now is how we respond, especially as we start to come out of it. For us, it’s about leaning on him for what to do next. We don’t want to miss out on what God is teaching us. We want to be sensitive to his leading and what he’s saying and where he’s guiding.
This story is from: