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Reflections on the First Year

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a year since I became an officer and arrived in Marion, Indiana.  This last year has been a rollercoaster and a year of learning the ins and outs of being a corps officer.  After this first year, I’d like to offer a few reflections about what I’ve learned.

1. Expect the Unexpected

I think most officers understand this – when working in the field of crisis, we always have to expect the unexpected.  I would guess that several hundreds, if not thousands, of unexpected things have come my way this last year.  They may be little things that come up throughout the day or something significant that requires me to drop everything, rearrange my schedule, and tend to that need.

We can try our best to schedule our lives neatly so that we can accomplish everything we need to for that day, but inevitably, something will come up which will draw us away from our work.  I’ve learned that I need to be flexible with my work and to “plan time” for these unexpected things.

2. Time for Self is Crucial

I’ll admit, I was (and to some degree, still am) really bad with this.  If you’re like me, you sometimes feel bad taking time off each week for yourself.  We’re so used to giving, giving, and giving some more.  We know that there is always more on our plate for us to do or ways that we can be more effective in our ministry.  To take time for self can often feel like taking something away from the ministry itself.

Time for self is crucial!  I found that out the hard way.  I’ve had a number of times where I have been completely burned out and compassion fatigued – almost to the point of not wanting to get out of bed.  It’s a terrible feeling.  It all happened because I didn’t take time for myself to rest and recharge.  Sabbaths would turn into “working Sabbaths” (I know, it makes no sense) or as a time to catch up on housework and laundry.

As one officer recently said to me, “You’re no good to anybody if you’re not well.”  Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually is a must for effective ministry.  I still have a hard time with this.  In fact, today is my Sabbath and I’ve sent out a number of e-mails anyway, but I’ve done better than I used to.

Working is a habit we need to break from once a week.  That’s obviously easier said than done.  If self-care isn’t something practiced now, take small steps to make it a part of your regular life.

3. Rely on God’s Faithfulness

Ultimately, the most important thing that has been evident this past year is the need to rely on God’s faithfulness.  Without God, the life of an officer cannot be sustained.  There have been times when I’ve been close to throwing in the towel, but in those moments, the Lord has sent a reminder to me of why I do what I do.  That might be a person that I talk to or something I read online.  He reminds me of his faithfulness and his kingdom work.

If we are doing the Lord’s work, he will be faithful to help us.  Though we may have times where we feel overwhelmed and overworked, God is faithful to sustain us and give us the wisdom we need to do his work.  In all things, we need to seek first his kingdom.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

What have you learned in your ministry or career that has helped you personally?  Share it in the comments below!

About the author
Blake Fewell
Blake Fewell is a Salvation Army Lieutenant serving as the Corps Officer in Marion, IN. He grew up in Rockford, IL attending The Salvation Army all his life. Blake is passionate about Salvation Army theology and ministry. Other passions include running, brass band music, social media, reading, writing, and preaching. He holds a Bachelor's degree in systematic theology from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL and is working towards his Master's degree at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL.