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Meet the officer – Major Karen Armstrong



1. What is your current appointment and what do you find most satisfying about it? 

Currently, my appointment is team member to Central Victoria Salvos (CVS) – Eaglehawk Corps. While the title is new to CVS, the corps has a very rich history. This building is over 130 years old. I think this may be one of the oldest buildings we have left in Australia. I am sure there would be someone in the Army world who would know this.


The old Eaglehawk Salvation Army Corps, built in 1885.

I really have enjoyed these last six months in building relationship with members of the congregation. They certainly are a corps who prays, which to me shows a strong spiritual health.

 

Another area I enjoy is reaching into the community and meeting new people. I am once again going to be joining the Rotary Club of Eaglehawk and I have been asked to come along to the Dahlia & Art Festival committee.

 

 2. Away from the appointment – if that’s possible! – what do you do to relax or unwind? 

The best way for me to relax is through my craft space. In my home I always make sure I have a section of the house so I can set up my craft table, sewing cabinet and, of course, make sure there is plenty of cupboard space for all my arts and crafts supplies (I think a crafter would understand this).

 

Each evening before I retire, I have started to fill in a sketching book where I use different mediums of drawing or painting. I have found this a lot of fun and certainly relaxing.

 

Just the other weekend at Bendigo, Craft Alive was on at the showground. For me, this was very exciting as it has been a while since I had been to one of these shows. So, to fit in between work commitments, I purchased a multi-pass and, over the three days, I was able to visit most of the booths and managed a couple of workshops too. And yes, I did come home with new projects. One being material to make another baby quilt.

 

3. What’s a favourite Christian song, and why do you like it? 

 My favourite song is ‘Still.’ The lyrics include:

When the oceans rise and thunders roar

I will soar with you above the storm

Father, you are king over the flood

I will be still; know you are God.

 

This song has been one of my favourites for a number of years now. I like the imagery in the words, and I see how I am safe in the arms of my Father God.

 

Then there are songs from the Army song book, including  ‘If His Presence.’ The lyrics include:

 

So, we stand within your presence,

And humbly seek your grace;

Father, Almighty, Jehovah, Saviour,

We long to meet you face to face.

Let your glory fall upon us,

Convict, inspire, provide;

Father, Almighty, Jehovah, Saviour,

Your holy presence is our guide.

 

Here is another song where there is imagery. It’s a sense of being drawn into the arms of Jesus.

 

At Eaglehawk Corps, the congregation enjoys singing from the song book. This has brought many childhood memories back of singing the hymns. Plus, there is a richness to the words especially when you sing to Army songs with words of blood and fire within the songs. This is the Army in me and being born into an Army family back in England. 

 

4. If you could have a good talk with a biblical character apart from Jesus, who would it be and what would you talk about? 

This is a great question and who would I pick as there are so many!

 

Esther ... Queen Esther. I would love to hear her faith journey. While God is not mentioned in this book of the Bible, from the first time her name is mentioned, I get to see how she just knows who God is and believes. I think she would have been a woman who prayed to seek the kingdom of God. She asks her uncle to trust. And she had strength when she boldly risked her life and came before the king. She was wise yet humble and had respect.

 

5. If you were talking to a group of Salvationists and they asked if you recommended officership or not, what would you say? 

If I was asked to speak to a group of Salvationists, I would start with my calling. I would let the group know while I was called at the age of 14 years, I personally didn’t want to go down this road. So, I did everything I could possibly think of and walked away. I came into officership in my 40s as I knew I could no longer fight God, and it was clear the day I said to God how “I am not going to fight you anymore”. It was the best decision, and I have not looked back.

 

“When I think I am having a difficult day, I remember God is beside me.”

Yes, I would recommend officership to anyone. It is rewarding when you are given the opportunity to journey with so many people and encourage them in this faith. This also helps me to know more about who I am with Jesus.

 

There is a quote by Samuel Logan Brengle: “Spiritual leaders are not made by man, nor any combination of men. Neither conference, nor synods, nor councils can make them, but only God.”

 

It’s when we fully let go of our SELF and fully rely on God. It is a calling and God has been with me every step of the way before I became an officer and since. I am grateful for each opportunity I have found in all my appointments. While I have chosen to stay in small corps, I feel that a small corps often does not always have someone with life experience, which I have had, and which I know has possibly helped someone else.

 

I have had the privilege of seeing people come to know Jesus for the first time and grow in this faith. I have also had the privilege of praying with others, coming alongside a grieving family and sharing the hope of God’s kingdom, listening to someone from the community who is seeking assistance, and so much more.


When I think I am having a difficult day, I remember God is beside me. I think back to when I was working in the secular world, and I know I am right where God has placed me. A passage that is significant for me is Isaiah 53:1, “Who has believed our message ... and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” I see this message as a metaphor for his triumphant power. It is said that almost every verse in this chapter is alluded to in the New Testament in reference to Jesus. God’s arm is the strength he gives me, and that he is always holding me.


– Interview by Lerisse Smith

 

 

 

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