Jahred Warkentin recently joined the music and arts ministries team as a music education specialist. He shares how the time he spent living in and visiting South and Southeast Asia shaped his understanding of music and culture, and how he sees God at work through a community meal at his corps.

Tell us a little about your family and early years.

From ages seven to 11, my family lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where my dad was the CEO of The Salvation Army’s fair-trade store, Sally Ann (now called OTHERS—Trade for Hope). While living as an expat kid and attending an international school, I grew to love the study of culture and how it shapes our understanding of the world.

My experiences there also shaped my love of music from around Asia. My favourite memory from childhood was seeing guitarist Benny Prasad perform in Dhaka. He combines contemporary worship music with Indian ragas and has a built-in tabla (a pair of hand drums) and bongo (another percussion instrument) on his guitar. It was a turning point for me to pursue solo guitar music.

I went on to study composition and classical guitar and completed a bachelor of music at the University of Toronto. During my undergraduate studies, I had the pleasure of visiting my parents three times while they lived in Cambodia. The culture, history and music of Cambodia inspired me to pursue graduate studies in ethnomusicology, where I focused on the relationship between music and intergenerational trauma, and music as a form of violence, in the case of the Cambodian auto-genocide.

What’s your favourite story about your parents or grandparents?

My favourite story about my grandparents is of my Poppa, Lt-Colonel Alf Richardson. He used to tell me this amazing story, while I sat on his lap, of the time when the whole world came to Gander, N.L., on September 11, 2001. He described the mass of people coming off the planes, the organizational mayhem of finding food and lodging for everyone and the beauty of the community coming together to support their fellow man. It was a huge surprise to later find out the story had been turned into the musical Come From Awaywhich I still think should include Poppa as a character.

How did you come to faith in Christ?

I grew up in The Salvation Army and came to faith at a very young age. My faith always felt like my own because I had diverse friend groups and was able to discuss a lot of life’s larger concepts and consider many worldly viewpoints. I was always conscious that I had the will to choose the faith I believed in and that my salvation came from that choice.

What experiences or encounters with God have led you to deepen or renew your faith?

My faith matured through discipleship by my parents and corps officers through the years. I remember being led through thoughtful and challenging Bible teachings by Major Mike and then Major Karen Puddicombe and then completing soldiership courses with then Lieutenants Jason Dockeray and Kristen Jackson-Dockeray. That firm foundation kept me hungry for God and helped me to continue to seek him as I moved to Toronto for university.

At Bloor Central Corps in Toronto, under corps officers Majors Doug and Karen Hammond, I encountered the Lord again and again through people’s stories of salvation and redemption. The transformative power that I came to know as a child was elevated to a shared and lived experience with the other members of the corps, many of whom were in vulnerable situations due to addiction, health complications and homelessness.

What has carried you through when life doesn’t go as planned or when God seems absent?

When I am in a place where I feel far from God, I cling to two things. First, I know I have family to support me, both biological family and my corps family. The people around me care about my spiritual well-being and continually ask me about how my relationship with God is growing. Second, my firm trust in the Word of God keeps my faith alive. When things go awry, I find myself back in the Bible and the lessons I learned from my corps officers. They bring me back to recognizing the sovereignty and intimate relationship we have with our Lord.

Where are you experiencing God at work in your life these days?

I am experiencing God in many places. He is always giving me places to share the good life with people. I experience this most clearly at Bloor Central during our 7ate9 community meals on Saturday. When my wife and I spend a Saturday evening at the corps, we can sit and listen to all the goings-on in the lives of those we love. We share in great belly laughs and honest hardships brought on by the world. And we continually see the Lord at work in lives in the community.

What inspires you about The Salvation Army?

The Army is people, and it’s the people who inspire me most. When I see that our corps is a place for the whosoever to seek God with an earnest heart, it inspires me. It excites me when someone brings a new perspective and we, as an Army, can listen and speak into that life and situation. At Bloor Central, we have many people who have never been to church before and are weary of faith, and yet they keep coming back. It is a place of welcome, a place you are heard, validated and receive the grace and love of God directly from those who have been changed by that grace. I am inspired to see change, to see new faces—be it new to Canada, new to faith or simply new to The Salvation Army.

What is your role with The Salvation Army, and what are you most looking forward to in this role?

The role of music education specialist has a wide scope, as is necessary for such a widereaching department and territory. I am most looking forward to expanding our understanding of music education to a place where our musical skills integrate into our personal and daily spiritual journeys.

Musicians ought to be good listeners, but how does that skill translate to listening to our neighbours, or God? We ought to be good at practising, but how do those practice skills complement our devotional practice? I believe God gave us music as a tool of worship, but also as a tool to help us understand our world through emotional expression and practical application.

I am excited to work with such a talented and seasoned team. Across genres and disciplines, our music and arts ministries team is truly top of the top!

Photo: Attilio Pellegrini

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