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Jan16ThuAccepting the call to officership. January 16, 2020 by Ken Ramstead
Mark and Kelsie Burford might never have met, fallen in love and married without her brother.
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“Mark’s mother was the leader of The Salvation Army’s Ontario Great Lakes divisional youth chorus,” says Kelsie. “My brother had joined and wanted me to go. I don’t enjoy choral singing so we made a deal that I would go once and, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to go back.
“But I liked his friends, I liked the singing—and I met Mark there,” she smiles.
Journey to Soldiership
Mark and Kelsie were both born into The Salvation Army.
Mark became a senior soldier at the age of 16.
“I thought that was what God wanted me to do at that time in my life,” he says. “I wanted to make sure I was becoming a soldier not just because my parents or my grandparents wanted me to, but because it was right for me and God wanted me to do it, too.
“I believed that commitment would bring me closer to him.”
A wave of relief washed over Mark. “I wasn’t trying to fight it anymore.”Kelsie became a senior soldier at the age of 15. She admits now that she really didn’t understand the gravity of what she was committing to.
“For me,” she says, “it had more to do with my brother.”
Older than Kelsie, he felt very strongly about a commitment to Jesus.
“I wanted to have that kind of commitment, that kind of excitement my brother had,” she says now. “But while that was my motivation, every day since then, there’s been a reaffirmation that becoming a soldier was the right thing to do at that time, even if I didn’t fully understand it.”
Mark first felt the call to officership at junior music camp, but he denied it because he didn’t want it to happen.
Then he participated in “Time to Be Holy,” a three-day Salvation Army event in St. Thomas, Ont. Mark struggled with it throughout that weekend, “until God finally got fed up with me and sent a Salvation Army officer, who told me, ‘God put it on my heart to tell you that you need to accept your call to be an officer.’ ”
A wave of relief washed over Mark. “I wasn’t trying to fight it anymore and I’ve been on a good path since.”
As for Kelsie, she started hearing God’s call to officership at 17. Through prayer and reflection at a divisional youth chorus event, she’d realized that she needed to take her faith more seriously.
She distinctly recalls God clearly speaking to her one Sunday, telling her that this was what she needed to do.
Sooner Rather Than Later
Kelsie and Mark knew marriage and officership were in their future, but while they wanted to get married as soon as possible, the timeline for officership was vague until they attended an Officership Information Weekend at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) in Winnipeg in 2017.
The couple were in separate groups and as the morning wore on, they were both convicted that they had to put their plans for officership on the front burner. Kelsie, in particular, was jolted by a conversation she had.
“I happened to bump into Major Jennifer Hale, the territorial secretary for candidates, who had been our divisional youth secretary. During the course of our chat, she looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘What are you waiting for?’
“I just looked at her because it came out of the blue, but she persisted: ‘No, if you are called to officership, then, really, what are you doing? What are you waiting for?’ That’s what started the ball rolling for me in my mind.”
When Mark and Kelsie reunited midmorning during a free period and compared notes, they were each surprised at the other’s reaction.
“Well, I prayed that you would come to me and talk about it,” Mark said to Kelsie.
“And I prayed you would come to me and talk about it,” Kelsie replied.
Says Kelsie, “It was as if God was asking us: ‘What are you doing? What are you waiting for?’ ”
“We had thought about officership as an undefined timeline—three or four years—but God was calling us out for not having an intentional plan,” Mark says. “He wanted us to go in sooner rather than later.”
“So we started the paperwork that weekend,” smiles Kelsie. “We were married in January and we are now at CFOT.”