Hi, this is Bernie Dake. Welcome to the Salvation Army's Words of Life.
Welcome back to Words of Life. I'm Bernie Dake. And I'm Cheryl Gillum. And you are Lieutenant Colonel Carol Seiler. I am. Welcome home.
Thank you. So we're in the third episode of our series on missions, and we wanted to discuss how the Salvation Army enters new communities. Something that often will come up in some of our future interviews is the danger that in missions, we can sometimes approach new communities with a savior mentality and end up doing more harm than good. What are your thoughts on that, Colonel?
I think that's right. I think the danger is that we may subconsciously begin to see ourselves as the answer or the savior to those living in difficult situations. And while it's good to believe and to know that we can make a difference, the danger emerges when we take that feeling too far and when we think that the service that we're doing is saving them from something instead of just bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. I am astounded of how the Salvation Army gets into countries, how we then entrench ourselves in that community and become not the savior, but at least God's hands and feet for such a time as that. The thing is, when you have the passion to tell others about Christ, it just oozes out of you no matter what you're doing.
It comes from the passion that we have and that others have as they're fulfilling the work of Christ in their own life. Well, to discuss the question of how the Salvation Army enters new communities and countries, we were joined by Majors Bobby and Anna Westmoreland. Well, welcome Bobby. Welcome Anna. Thank you.
Thank you. Hi Bernie. Hi Lieutenant Colonel. Great to be with you today. Tell us a little bit about where you are and what you're doing. Well, currently we are stationed in the exciting Potomac division, which is one of the newest divisions in the Salvation Army world. And it's headquartered in Washington DC and we just feel thrilled to be a part of such an exciting move and what God's doing here in this area.
It's wonderful, really great. You guys, we've known each other for a few years, but our listeners are just getting to know you. And I don't know, I was born here in the United States. For me, Anna, you have an accent. But for our listeners around the world, you might sound like you're right at home. Tell us where you are both from and how you met. That's a big question.
How much time do we have? About 12 to 15 minutes. So I grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark. And so that's where that accent is kind of stuck with me. And then where I've lived in different places around the world, my accent has changed slightly. I think before I ended up here in the United States, actually, when we met, I lived in Bangladesh. And that's, I was there for two years. And that's kind of where my overseas journey started. And I'm originally from the ALM division.
So I grew up in Mississippi. And when I met Anna, I was actually serving in Natchez, Mississippi at the time. You both have had an opportunity to serve overseas. You've been exposed to the Salvation Army in different parts of the world. Can you tell us kind of about how your heart opens itself to people overseas?
I think since Anna was the first of this pair to go overseas from her home territory, I think you should share. Well, I think since I left my home, which was in 1999, I've been overseas pretty much everywhere I've been. So even though I'm home now here in the United States, it's still cross-cultural. Every day in our marriage, it's a cross-cultural experience.
We are from different parts of the world. And so it just kind of becomes part of life. And then I think for me, with that, I have never been a place where I haven't felt like I was home very quickly.
And I think that's definitely the Lord doing that very quickly. When I've landed somewhere, it has felt like home. And so home is in many places and people are people. It doesn't matter where in the world you are. My first home overseas was London, England. I was stationed at IHQ and I was there during the events of 9-11 and experienced an international family really at the international headquarters. We're all kind of a group and we all came from around the world, but it was the most enriching, wonderful experience. It totally transformed my view of the army world, of the way that we do mission, the internationalism of the Salvation Army.
It just captured my heart. I knew that God was calling me to missions. It's what brought us together, really, our story. And we knew that both of us, somehow, someway, whatever God did with us as a couple, that He was calling us individually to be missionaries. And so my start was to be a missionary in London, England, and then from there other places. And every time my heart has just been ready to embrace something new, to understand that different doesn't have a value to it.
Different is just different. Now, that's a shameless plug for any of our listeners that are looking to serve through the vehicle of the Salvation Army. We are all over the world. In fact, we are in 132 countries now with the addition of Bulgaria. You probably knew that, didn't you, Bobby and Anna? Yeah, we'd heard about the opening up in Bulgaria, the plans for that early on. We're excited to know that that has come to fruition. God's blessing on the army.
Yeah. Explain to our listeners, how does the Salvation Army go about entering into a new community like that, a new country? So I think it happens in different ways in different places and however that's orchestrated and how God kind of just lines everything up. But specifically about Bulgaria, we actually happen to know several of the people that have been involved in opening, when the first seats were sewn for the work in Bulgaria. And actually back in 2006, there was a Congress in Eastern Europe celebrating, I think it was 15 years. And there at that time, the Bulgarian flag was carried in as a place that they were hoping to open.
And so from 2006 to 2021, 15 years passed. And along the way, actually Colonel Josijn Nielsen, he's a Norwegian officer that we know, I grew up knowing him and his family, but he specifically had this in his heart. And he came back later and served and just people were lined up that had an end, that had an entry into, there were some people that knew some people and things kind of got lined up along the way. And I think that's sometimes how it happens. And sometimes it happens at an invitation. People know the good work of the army and they want a salvation army where they are. And there are some countries where it's happened that way.
In all cases, I believe it's a moving of the Holy Spirit that has opened a door. So when the salvation army comes into a country, we're there with a specific purpose. We really are trying to win the world for Jesus.
That is a proclamation that's been since our beginning. But I think one of the topics we talked about or items we discussed on one of the interviews during this series was how people can sometimes go in with a savior mentality. Like we're going to make them just like us because we know how to do it better. How could you keep, how do we keep ourselves in check in that regard?
If you were talking to a young missionary or someone who's going to be doing some work overseas, how do you help them change that paradigm? Well, that's a really good question. And it's a question that we have pondered a lot. And a few years ago when we were overseas, actually, I think when we were in the Republic of Georgia, we started formulating some mission principles for us that we thought were important for us to kind of adhere to being overseas. And one of those had to do with exactly that, that we go in as guests, we go in, we listen, we have a learning and listening heart, and we are co-laborers together. And when that transformational power just kind of happens and we become friends and we learn together, we don't come in thinking that we have all the answers because we don't. And that's certainly one of the things as well that local solutions, we believe have local answers.
Yeah. And particularly in Ukraine, we realized there were a lot of, we had a lot, of course, a slate of American programs we could bring in. And every time that we came upon a problem, we were all, of course, you're pulling out of your own tools, you know, your own arsenal, your own experiences. But we do believe like the local problems, and we often would say, you know, we believe there's a Ukrainian solution to this. How can we help you?
How can we walk alongside you to find that solution? I like what you said earlier about it's different is different. It's not better or worse, and there's no real value to different. It's just different.
Yeah. Being flexible. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break.
They shall not break. Now, it's certainly clear, and this is true of many missionary journeys, we go into communities that aren't necessarily Christian. How do we do that without showing judgment, you know, with grace and compassion?
That's a good question for anywhere we go, really, whether it's overseas, or whether it's right here in our own backyard in our own neighborhoods. I think often when the salvation army has started in a country that's often started with social work or social relief, and that is the way it has been the way to get into the country. And then maybe perhaps the more church side of things come later, or maybe go, you know, it goes hand in hand. But again, I think there is no matter where we are, there is a way to show Christ in the way that we talk with people in the way that we help people. Yes, there's certainly a way to share the gospel and we should share the gospel. We believe that Jesus is the way, but there are, I remember ministering alongside officers in the country of Bangladesh where they had been denounced by their own families for choosing to be a Christian, for choosing to be a Christian minister. And yet they were there and they believe Jesus is the answer.
So they found a way to share Christ, even though for them that meant that huge sacrifice that we can't even comprehend, I think. But there's certainly a way to share Christ because Christ is love. So the way that we do that is in love.
And then I believe that's non-judgmental. One of our mission principles that we formed a long time ago, I guess when we were in Tbilisi, Georgia, was this, that genuine love transcends languages and cultures. It penetrates the soul, breaks down barriers and fosters unity and appreciation of that which is different. It's kind of been the guiding principle for us as we've served as missionaries. That's good. Yeah. Bobby, Anna, if you were to encourage a congregation who is about to embark on a new mission initiative in a new community, whether that's, like you said, in our backyard or overseas, what advice would you give them?
Yeah. One of the things that we've said and reminded ourselves is that God is at work. He is always at work. We don't bring God into a community. We don't bring God into a situation.
He's already there. That's who God is. So we don't bring God in.
That's a principle for us. Our mission is to find where God is at work and be obedient to Him and what part He wants us to play and what's happening, what's going on. Well, Bobby and Anna, on behalf of all of the listeners on Words of Life, we thank you for being the army behind the shield that is the Salvation Army. We thank you for your ministry, for your surrender to Jesus, for your commitment to the communities where you've served, and just can't thank you enough for joining us. We pray you have a blessed rest of your day.
Thank you, Bernie. Thank you, Carol. The Salvation Army's mission, Doing the Most Good, means helping people with material and spiritual needs. You become a part of this mission every time you give to the Salvation Army. Visit salvationarmyusa.org to offer your support.
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