The Canada and Bermuda Territory welcomes home Commissioners Lee and Debbie Graves this month as territorial commander and territorial president of women’s ministries, after five years of ministry in London, England. Commissioner Lee Graves most recently served as the international secretary for business administration at International Headquarters (IHQ), and Commissioner Debbie Graves as IHQ chaplain and City of London liaison officer. Editor-in-Chief Geoff Moulton spoke with them about their international service, leadership lessons and hopes for our territory.

What’s the best thing about coming home?

Commissioner Debbie Graves: The best thing about coming home is being close to family—our four children and 11 grandchildren—as well as reconnecting with friends and being involved again in the ministry across Canada and Bermuda.

Commissioner Lee Graves: To quote another, “There’s no place like home.” It’s been five years since we left for appointments in England. We now have the ability to see the Canada and Bermuda Territory from a global perspective and to realize how important this territory is to the worldwide Army: for its global influence and reputation; for its generosity and kindness; and for its leadership and cutting-edge programs. It’s great to be part of the territory again.

What will you miss most about your time in England?

DG: I’m going to miss the people—from the corps, from IHQ and from the community. I also grew to appreciate the culture, the creative arts, the architecture. It’s been amazing to walk by St. Paul’s Cathedral every day on the way to IHQ—such a rich history.

LG: London is a welcoming city, a worldwide destination where people of every nation converge. Living there has been a remarkable experience. Initially, for two years we served in the United Kingdom and Ireland Territory as chief secretary and territorial secretary for leader development, respectively, which gave us an opportunity to experience the Army in a new context.

When we joined the IHQ team, I was privileged to work closely with the IHQ business administration department, particularly supporting our 46 supported territories. It has been a privilege to be part of the Army in London, our movement’s birthplace.

How has being at IHQ broadened your perspective on the work of the Army?

DG: My eyes have been opened to the ministry of the Army around the world. I admire the faithfulness of officers, many of whom work and live in very difficult circumstances and yet always seem to be happy in the Lord and prepared for mission.

LG: I’ve met many international officers, soldiers and employees whose motivation at heart is God’s kingdom first and foremost. Every territory makes a unique contribution to the greater movement and our God-given mandate as a Salvation Army.

I have been constantly reminded of the foundations of our movement: to preach Christ to the spiritually lost; to disciple people in their faith; to be a prophetic voice in a hurting world; to declare the sanctity and importance of every human life and to seek justice for all; to love and care for the dispossessed; to care for the environment; and to unapologetically live out our mission purpose.

I’m also more conscious of the need to release personnel and resources to address global priorities. I have a greater awareness of the ever-growing global migration movement, due to war, the environment and political strife. We must ensure we are welcoming people from other countries and continue to participate in resettlement programs.

Commissioner Debbie, you attended the INSPIRE Congress and Conference in Toronto. What were the highlights?

DG: I really enjoyed the different expressions of worship. It was great to see people from all over the territory share their giftings. Also, just the excitement of being together. People were genuinely happy to see each other and there was a beautiful spirit at work. INSPIRE has given the territory a new shot in the arm—people have been equipped and inspired for new possibilities of ministry.

Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd have stepped aside from leadership due to health challenges. How can we support them?

LG: We all share a deep affection for Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd. I would encourage people to continue to do as they have been doing—lifting and holding them up with much prayer and surrounding them with our love.

Tell us about your calling to officership.

DG: When I was younger, my parents worked for the Army in youth corrections, and I saw lives changed through practical ministry. I felt a growing sense that I also wanted to be part of bringing change in people’s lives. What motivates me today, as it did then, are the opportunities for impact that we can be part of through community mission.

LG: I was a teenager when I first sensed God’s call upon my life to officership, and I pursued that possibility until confirmation and affirmation was found. I entered training at age 20. The prospect of full-time ministry as a corps officer was highly motivational for me, although corps officership only accounts for 16 of my 40 years as an officer. Administrative appointments have afforded amazing opportunities unimaginable to me. I continue to be humbled by the thought that God would choose to use me to be part of this great worldwide movement.

What is the future of officership?

LG: We need people to discern the will of God for their lives, to be people of the Word and of prayer, to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to respond to the possibility that God is calling to officership. I have faith to believe that God, who raised up his Army, will sustain it as long as he has need of it, and as long as we’re fulfilling his purpose. He has drafted us into the great spiritual war that is raging all around us. The Great Commission is still the Great Commission. And so, we need every corps and social service centre to be alert to the idea that God is working in the lives of people toward a specific call to officership.The fields are white unto harvest, so we pray the Lord of the harvest will respond and send workers. We also need godly, Spirit-filled people who will step into employment opportunities with the Army to help us fulfil our mandate.

In the last three years, the Canada and Bermuda Territory has spent $9 million in innovation grants. Why is innovation so important?

LG: Our movement is living and organic. We need to continually reimagine our expressions of ministry. Investing in fruitful opportunities is “mission critical.” Rather than saying we “spent” on innovation, I’d like to celebrate that we have “invested” as the Lord has made resources available. We’re investing in our people, our movement, our communities.

We also need to have the courage to conclude those activities that are fruitless, that we continue to do just because we have always done so. We need to be brave enough to honestly measure effectiveness. If the results are not satisfying, we need to pivot and keep moving forward. Ultimately, we need to pay attention to what the Lord is doing and join in the work of his Spirit, redeploying our resources as appropriate.

"I have faith to believe that God, who raised up this Army, will sustain it." - Commissioner Lee Graves

What leadership lessons have you learned?

DG: Relationships are key. And it’s important that a leader does more listening than talking.

LG: Don’t get distracted from the main thing: God’s kingdom work. Also, we need to take risks in people. We have to give younger officers, corps leaders and employees an opportunity to lead earlier at every level of our movement, remembering that somebody once took a risk on us.

Where do you see the Spirit of God at work?

DG: God is working in our young people. They are excited about the gospel and being in community. That was evident at INSPIRE where they were on the streets and sharing the gospel. I’m praying that we adults are encouraging them to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and be who God is calling them to be—even if that looks different than it did when we were young.

LG: INSPIRE is a beautiful example of his Spirit at work in this territory. All around the world we are seeing the Spirit working in creative and innovative ways. The highest growth in soldiership is taking place in the most difficult parts of the world. The Spirit is doing something in those regions that should speak to the rest of the global movement.

What do you do to relax or unwind?

DG: I like to read—mostly novels. And even though I sometimes grumble about it, I enjoy walking.

LG: I also love walking and nature. Debbie sometimes complains that she spends her time trying to keep up with me. Walking gives us time to contemplate, reflect and sharpen our focus.

Is there a Scripture verse that God has laid on your hearts?

DG: Psalm 91:1: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Henri Nouwen’s writing about “practising the presence of God” references this text. I find this to be a reminder of God’s comfort in whom I find safety, solace and peace.

LG: The text I am drawn to in these days is 2 Corinthians 4:7: “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our power is from God, not from ourselves” (NLT). It’s a picture, a recognition that God works through us, even though we can be flawed, cracked or broken. I am reminded that I don’t have to be perfect for God to use me. I often feel that I have clumsy hands touching a thing of exquisite beauty as I handle the Word of God and give my best to fulfil his will in my life.

How can we support you?

DG: Prayer is always appreciated. We want to be part of the ministry of this great territory and serve alongside those who are also committed to the mission.

LG: Please engage with us in conversation. This would be a gift to us. We want to know what people are thinking. Allow us to join you aboard the journey the territory is on so that we can lift each other together as we climb. 

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On Saturday, September 9, 2023, Bert Wormington said:

Onward Christian Soldiers Marching as to war. "We are not divided...All ONE BODY we." That is our Christian Mission 2023

On Wednesday, September 6, 2023, Bonnie L. Bussey said:

Your interview seemed to bring into tune the off key Message which is infiltrating the Church today. May the guardrails of Scripture keep us close to the heart of God so that we will be true to His Mission. Our prayers are with you as you lead the great Canada and Bermuda Division. God bless your leadership. 🙏✝️♥️

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