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A holy discontent – Kim Haworth’s journey to fulfilling God’s agenda


Captains Kim and Steve Haworth have found a spiritual home in The Salvation Army.
BY PETER MCGUIGAN

There’s an old saying that goes, “What you see is what you get.” The world of computing acronymised it to WYSIWYG, pronounced wiz-ee-wig, to easily talk about software that allows people to see and edit content in a way that appears on screen as if printed or published on a webpage.


The adage itself, though, predates computer software writing by a long shot. When talking about people, it can be used negatively. But in its positive form, it simply means that someone is authentic. And after spending time recently with Captain Kim Haworth, The Salvation Army’s new Divisional Commander for NSW/ACT, I’ve made the call that she is a wiz-ee-wig Salvo – the real deal.


Kim is passionate about all the good things the Salvos stand for, particularly faith in Jesus Christ to transform people’s lives and in the power of the Holy Spirit to see them flourish. And why shouldn’t she be? In 2000, she experienced this transformation and this power herself and has since nurtured it with great intentionality.


“Growing up, I believed God existed,” Kim says, “but had no concept of relationship with God. Now, when I look back over my life, it would be true to say that the Lord was always gently drawing me to him. It just took me until I was 31 to really get it.”


By the time God caught up with her, Kim was living and raising a family in Mooroolbark, an outer-eastern suburb of Melbourne. She met the Mooroolbark Salvation Army officers, then Captains Bram and Jean Cassidy, at the local preschool, and they became friends. Bram and Kim served on the preschool committee as Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer.


Little did she know what was coming. “God was really working in my life, but I just wasn’t fully aware of it,” Kim recalls. “It became important for me that our kids had a Christian education. We looked at local Christian schools and they were really expensive. I was lamenting this to Bram one day, and he said they had a Sunday school at Mooroolbark Salvos; why don’t you bring Jayden (our eldest) to us?”


Steve and Kim as new Salvationists with their three young children.

But at that point, it was really the morals Kim was after for her family, not so much the going to church part. The Cassidys and a prayer group at the corps (church) started praying for them, and over the next seven months, they would gently invite the Haworths fairly regularly, even though they would say no, or yes at times but then not go.


That was until one weekend in February 2000. Jean had invited Kim again. Kim said yes again and secretly thought, “I can’t face her in the schoolyard on Monday if I don’t go.” She told Steven, her husband, she was going to church, and he assured her it was fine, but he wouldn’t. Jayden was five, and they had a two-year-old and a baby as well.


Kim’s account of what happened that day is compelling. “When I arrived, people were lovely; they were very kind and welcoming. But that wasn’t what did it for me. That morning, I had an encounter with God in the first two songs sung in the meeting – ‘Church On Fire’ and ‘God is in the House’. I still remember them. I’ve had lots of encounters with God since that I can articulate, but that first one I still can’t adequately explain, except to tell you that I had a real sense of coming home.


“This changed everything. I just had this overwhelming sense that everything was right, like I had landed in the right place, and everything just made sense about who I was meant to be. Steven will tell you that the woman who went to church was not the woman who came home. I said I wanted to go back that night for another service they were having. But my parents were coming for dinner, and Steve said, ‘You can’t, they won’t be happy!’, referring to me not being home, not about going to church.”


Kim’s experience at the Salvos that day unleashed a spiritual craving she still finds difficult to describe. “To say that I became obsessed with Jesus would probably be close. I demanded to be discipled; I was so hungry for the Lord. I wanted to be all in. Within six months, I was studying externally through The Salvation Army, and the following year I enrolled in a Bachelor of Theology. I went from zero to 100 in three seconds. Within 10 months, I was leading a small group in my home, was on the leadership team and co-leading Alpha. It was full throttle!”


An adventurous spirit


For someone like Kim, it’s not unusual that an encounter with God should turn into a passion for the mission of God so quickly. To say she was born and raised in a working-class family with an adventurous spirit is really understating the facts. Her father, who had done well in business, owned a Cessna plane and would fly his family on their holidays from Essendon Airport to all kinds of destinations and activities, including fossicking for opals in Andamooka, South Australia.


Kim’s mother Val and the Cessna that would take the family to holiday destinations. Kim and her family would enjoy trips to Lake Eildon where they would swim and water-ski.

The family home was in Macleod, a northern suburb of Melbourne, but they also had a place on Lake Eildon north of the city where they would spend time swimming and water-skiing behind their father’s speed boat. “Life was all about doing what you love and having a go,” says Kim, with an understanding about herself that sheds light on who she really is and how she was formed.


“In a way, some of the activities we were doing were not working-class activities. But Dad was Dad. He showed us that he never lost his working-class roots, and I never really felt that I fitted in the upper echelon, so to speak. Even though I went to a private school and mixed it with people with very different lives, we remained very true to our roots. The values my parents instilled in us were about working hard, playing hard, and doing what you wanted in life. My parents worked really hard and went after the things they wanted to do.”


“By the time I left school, I had decided not to pursue academia. I did year 11 in business college (Holmes Commercial College), majoring in accounting and administration. Administration was a natural fit for me, and I was dux of the class that year. My first job was working for an accounting firm in Ivanhoe, not far from where we lived.”


Peace for five seconds


At 18, Kim spent 12 months travelling around Europe. Two years after returning to Australia, in 1990, she married Steven, and they set up house in Mooroolbark. In the months following her encounter with God at the Salvos in 2000, Steve also came to faith and in time they were enrolled as Salvation Army soldiers, Kim first and then Steve. In 2007 and 2008, they trained to be Salvation Army officers in the Witnesses for Christ session.


About her calling to be an officer, Kim says it was something unexpected. “I was all in for Jesus and just knew I would serve God for the whole of my life. I had never envisaged that it would be outside of Mooroolbark Corps.


The Haworths as cadets in the 2007-08 Witnesses for Christ session.

“When the Lord called me to be an officer, it happened in the context of a Self-Denial (Appeal) reflection, would you believe? I can remember saying to God, ‘I know I’ll serve you; I know I will.’ I felt God clearly say to me, ‘Well, you know you’ll be an officer, don’t you?’ I said, ‘Yes, Lord, I know that.’ I had peace for about five seconds before I realized what I’d said. After that, there was a two-year journey of yielding to God’s call on our lives before selling up and heading for the Training College.”


Following their commissioning as officers in 2008, Kim and Steve served as corps officers at The Salvation Army’s Bairnsdale Corps (church) in Eastern Victoria for seven years, followed by a three-year stint at Wyndham City, south-west of Melbourne. Then came appointments in Tasmania, Kim as Divisional Commander and Steve as Area Officer, and from 1 March this year in the New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory Division.


God’s agenda


Against the backdrop of her life experience, who she has become in Christ, and as Divisional Commander of The Salvation Army’s largest division in Australia, Kim reflects deeply and soberly on the future – both for herself and The Salvation Army*:


“Kim Haworth can be very task-oriented, which is interesting when it comes to God. I think going to Tasmania and being so often on my knees before the Lord taught me that if I really want to see God move, I have to always be out of my own comfort zone.


“Everything I go after has to be beyond me because it has to be God that makes it happen, not me. I’m getting more comfortable with the idea that I’m going to have to be uncomfortable. If we want to be the people of God just as God intends, then we have to not be comfortable, not be content. We have to be going after the things of God and always seeking the alignment of our mission with God’s agenda – what God wants. Which means never settling …


“People say I’m a strong leader. Well, I think I’m a strong leader when I’m in my place of passion and when I feel that conviction from the Lord. My heart is to empower others. I’m not about control. I want to see people do everything they’re meant to do in God. I’m not protective or precious. I never had a career plan or pathway that I pursued. I don’t covet any form or place of leadership. I just want to do what God wants me to do.


“Very regularly I think to myself, ‘How on earth did I get here?’ I just literally wanted to tell people about Jesus. I just wanted to devote my life to him, to be the best version of me I can be in that space. It’s been a long journey and not always an easy one. Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. But to be that person God intends me to be, and to go after the things of God, is still just as big for me as it was on that day I first met Jesus.”

 

* Kim’s thoughts on the future of The Salvation Army’s mission in Australia have been published in an article titled, ‘A Season of Going Through’, excerpted from her interview with Peter. Read here


* A video of Kim giving her testimony three years ago while she was Divisional Commander in Tasmania can be viewed here

 

Major Peter McGuigan is Head of Government Relations for The Salvation Army Australia and a writer for Salvos Online and Salvos Magazine.


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