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Doing God’s work a world away


After five years as officers in High River, Alberta, Canada, Captains Chad and Lisa Cole and their children responded to God's call and have been appointed as corps officers at Brimbank City Corps in Melbourne's north-eastern suburbs. From left to right: Chad, Connor, Lisa and Ginny.
After five years as officers in High River, Alberta, Canada, Captains Chad and Lisa Cole and their children responded to God's call and have been appointed as corps officers at Brimbank City Corps in Melbourne's north-eastern suburbs. From left to right: Chad, Connor, Lisa and Ginny.

BY JESSICA MORRIS


An international appointment is a big deal for any Salvation Army officer. But for Captains Chad and Lisa Cole, new corps officers at Brimbank City Salvos in Melbourne, the move to Australia took them to the other side of the globe – literally.


Chad and Lisa were commissioned in 2017 as part of the Joyful Intercessors session in the Canada and Bermuda Territory.
Chad and Lisa were commissioned in 2017 as part of the Joyful Intercessors session in the Canada and Bermuda Territory.

According to the Canadians, if you were to dig a hole from Chad’s parents’ home in Newfoundland, in the country’s east, you would only see blue sky again when you came out in Melbourne. And while their previous appointment was in High River, Alberta, near the Rocky Mountains, the premise is basically the same. Chad, Lisa and their children, Ginny (4) and Connor (2), are living in an upside-down reality – where people drive on the opposite side of the road, Christmastime is for wearing shorts, and no one knows what a Tim Hortons is (it’s a diner, by the way).


The Cole family stepped onto Australian soil on 5 August after a 16-hour plane trip. Receiving a phone call from their personnel secretary, Lieut-Colonel Brian Armstrong, they had assumed an international appointment would take them to Europe, where they had completed some training as cadets in Germany. But with an opening at Brimbank City Salvos, word of Chad and Lisa’s work with tight-knit communities reached International Headquarters. Within two months of the official announcement, they were in the air.


Lisa and Chad travelled for 16 hours with their children Ginny and Connor, and finally arrived in Australia in August.
Lisa and Chad travelled for 16 hours with their children Ginny and Connor, and finally arrived in Australia in August.

Lisa and Chad travelled for 16 hours with their children Ginny and Connor, and finally arrived in Australia in August. “There was some hesitation there for me for sure, but when it came down to it, I truly believe that God breathes on the appointment process, and they asked us for a reason,” shares Lisa. “At the same time, it was very exciting, and I had to get over the worry and really dig into [the fact that] this is where God wants us as a family. It just came down to ‘yes’.”


“That’s where Romans 8:28 comes in,” Chad says. “All things work together for the good when your will is in alignment with [God]. So we just do what he calls us to do, and it has been amazing.”


Responding to the call

Chad and Lisa, pictured here before their commissioning, met in Toronto and both felt an individual call to officership, before God's plans came together a year into their marriage.
Chad and Lisa, pictured here before their commissioning, met in Toronto and both felt an individual call to officership, before God's plans came together a year into their marriage.

Their ‘yes’ speaks of obedience, but it’s even more remarkable when you realise the couple never set out to become Salvation Army officers – at least for a while. Chad is a fourth-generation Salvo and witnessed his parents serve in lay positions at local corps in Ontario. Meanwhile, Lisa is a third-generation Salvo, and it was her parents who invited her along to North York Temple, Toronto, in 2008 where she and Chad met. As the story goes, Chad was singing a moving solo rendition of Mary, Did You Know?, and Lisa decided to stay.


Chad and Lisa, pictured here before their commissioning, met in Toronto and both felt an individual call to officership, before God's plans came together a year into their marriage.Only after they were married in 2011 did the serious possibility of officership come up. At the time, Lisa’s parents were considering entering Officer Training College. And in fact, they entered college during the Coles’ second year. But, over a bite of pizza, the conversation turned to the young couple.


“We just kind of laughed it off until we got home,” recalls Lisa. “And it turns out [Chad] had felt the call earlier on in his life too. It had just grown stronger in the last year, and it had for me too. We just hadn’t talked about it!”


“We always had a desire to serve in that capacity but never really knew what it looked like or what it could be until we moved,” adds Chad. “I thought, ‘I’m volunteering all my spare time, I’d rather be doing this all the time!’ That was kind of the thing and that harkens back to when The Volunteer Army became The Salvation Army.”


The events surrounding the couple’s move to officership mirror their journey to Australia. Within two weeks, they sold their house and two vehicles and found a new home for their beloved dog. God had made a way, and after their commissioning in 2017 their first appointment was to High River, Alberta, a small town 30 minutes south of Calgary in Canada’s Alberta Northwest Territories division.



Serving a community in crisis

They served for five years in the community, which was still reeling from flooding in 2013. Overseeing the corps, two thrift stores, and the community and family services,

Chad, pictured with an Emergency Services Disaster vehicle in 2020, during his and Lisa's appointment at High River, Alberta. Photo published with permission Okotoks Online.
Chad, pictured with an Emergency Services Disaster vehicle in 2020, during his and Lisa's appointment at High River, Alberta. Photo published with permission Okotoks Online.

Chad also became a trained member of The Salvation Army’s Emergency Services and played a crucial role in supporting frontline responders to forest fires and other disasters in the region. This has stood him in good stead in Australia, having already volunteered with the SAES to assist with the flooding emergency in Echuca and Bendigo just weeks after they arrived.


When COVID-19 made global news, Chad and Lisa were also at the frontlines of Canada’s outbreak. The Cargill meat processing plant was three minutes from where they lived and suffered the largest single facility outbreak at the time in North America. Supporting employees, responders and locals, The Salvation Army was the registered food bank in the town, and they went from helping 107 families a month to more than 400 families a week.


“We discovered that nothing makes a community rally better than catastrophe, so having come through the floods, the community rallied and supported one another and became stronger. COVID-19 was just another example of being down but not out,” Chad says.


“It paved a way to move forward with a lot of initiatives – to expand, build better working relationships with partner organisations and better relationships even with our congregation because it gave us the opportunity to do ministry differently.”


Looking ahead
Major Rebecca Inglis, right, installed Chad and Lisa as officers at Brimbank City Salvation Army in September. Photo courtesy Jasmine Purches.
Major Rebecca Inglis, right, installed Chad and Lisa as officers at Brimbank City Salvation Army in September. Photo courtesy Jasmine Purches.

Having spent their first Christmas in Australia, the Cole family is excited to see what God will do in the New Year. Already embraced by Brimbank City Salvos (they rave about the prepared meals, clean house and friendship already given to them), they want to explore, empower and step into God’s Kingdom work on this side of the globe.


And while their love for Canada isn’t going anywhere, there is no doubt a piece of Australia will always stay with them. After all, the proof is in their kids, who have taken to Australia like ducks to water.


“Our kids have already started picking up the lingo!” Lisa laughs. “Connor is only two and a half ­– he will learn to speak with an Aussie accent.”


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