The making of Rosy Keane
By MAJOR PETER McGUIGAN
When you love life and what you do, you don’t expect your world to come to a screeching halt overnight. Your achievements, your plans – even who you think you are – are trumped by a circumstance far beyond your control, and you submit to its impact upon you.
In 2014, at just 25 years of age, it happened to Auxiliary-Lieutenant Rosy Keane, The Salvation Army Australia’s Secretary for Spiritual Life Development and the newest member of its board of governance.
But it wasn’t anything other people did to her or a sudden illness in her family or any other dilemma of the human kind. It was an intervention of the divine kind – God asking her to stop what she was doing and spend time reorienting her focus around the person God wanted her to become.
Although heart-wrenching at the time, it was the making of Rosy Keane and the preparation she needed for the stage on which she now serves the world.
Born and raised on New Zealand’s North Island in a family that encouraged her “to be exactly who you’re created to be”, Rosy was in full stride pioneering a new kind of charity store for the Salvos in Wellington with profits funding their 614 youth services.
“I was a driven person, still am in some ways,” says Rosy. “I’d been a youth intern and youth pastor at Tauranga Corps (church) and saw God work powerfully in young people’s lives. I then moved to Wellington to study graphic design but was working in a family store when the Salvos approached me to build a ‘boutique’ store from the ground up. The whole concept, the business case, would be mine.”
Describing herself as a strategist, Rosy says she quickly identified that while the store was in an industrial suburb, the neighbouring suburb was full of cashed-up people who did not shop at charity stores and were not using charity services. She saw the store as an opportunity for this well-resourced community to partner with TSA 614 in their work with vulnerable young people.
“That was 11 years ago,” she notes with a smile. “We did a lot of creative things to engage the community, including building a social media platform for the store and recreating the outfits of famous movie stars. I got young women from 614 to work with me at the store and reached out to a local girls’ private school.
“So, we had these really well-off young women working with these really vulnerable young women from 614 – together. I approached local businesses to sponsor us. It was really amazing, and one great thing was that the youth services girls would get references from me because of their work. It was so unbelievable that God called me to lead that.”
Called to refocus
It was after two years of investing herself fully into the store and seeing the vision of the store come to life that Rosy experienced her unexpected encounter with God. “I couldn’t believe it,” she recalls emotionally. “God called me one day and spoke really clearly to me and said that I’m going to move, and it’s not going to be the way you think. Stay calm!
“It was so clear, and I thought, ‘What is that about?’ God called me to leave, and I didn’t want that to happen. I was like, ‘No, I’m gonna stay. I can make this thing so good.’ It was already so good. It was beautiful. But God said to me really clearly, ‘If you say you follow me, and I’m calling you to leave, then who are you serving? Who are you doing it for?’ And I couldn’t really argue with that.”
Rosy had no idea then that it would mean two years out of the workforce, like a divinely appointed hiatus. She reminisces that what they were doing at the store was “cutting edge”, including introducing recycling techniques, and how, later, other charity stores recreated what they had done using their own branding. “When God said to leave, it was like leaving my heart behind.”
But it was God preparing her for the future. As a child and teenager, Rosy’s family abided by a family mantra based on Scripture: “To whom much has been given, much is expected” (Luke 12:48). It had been a powerful rudder for her life, but there were things about herself she needed to address that she hadn’t really noticed before.
“Your sense of worth can get tied up in your performance,” she says tellingly. “If you hold to ‘to whom much is given much is expected’, and you don’t keep it in line with the Spirit of God, then the outworking of that Scripture can translate, ‘When I am working then I am pleasing God.’
“That was a really hard thing for me to put off. If I’m not working, if I can’t say I’m doing this, or I’m pioneering, or I’m having this ministry, then who am I? Seriously, it was God removing the sword that had been driven into my heart that said, ‘Productivity equals holiness.’ It was a difficult couple of years, and I wish I had learned the lesson quicker. It would have been easier on our bank account! And easier on my spirit.”
I’ve had such a significant encounter with Jesus during my life that I am changed – I’m a different person. I can’t live or walk or talk the same because I know that God is real.
Following her two-year spiritual sojourn, Rosy says she was much more the person God had made her to be. Her passion for God and ministry had grown but was now much more about the power of God in her life than being an achiever. As part of the Women’s Ministry team in the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory, her flare for the creative arts flourished, and some of her work was replicated internationally.
Her signature ministry in spoken word and prayer became something she no longer saw as her own, but an expression of God’s love and grace she could teach others. Then came the invitation to lead spiritual life development for The Salvation Army in Australia, and her husband Scott to lead the Youth and Young Adults ministry in Victoria. It was an immediate ‘yes’ from them both despite the challenges they anticipated (and later experienced) in transitioning to another country and culture. This call upon them included becoming auxiliary-lieutenants of The Salvation Army.
On the board
Since arriving in Australia just over 12 months ago, hundreds of people around the country have attended Rosy’s spoken word and prayer workshops, and the impact has been tangible. She was also responsible for last year’s 21-day “Jesus-Centred” prayer focus and many other resources for spiritual life development.
Now she has been appointed to speak into the spiritual life of The Salvation Army Australia at the Board level. “I sit on the Board as the Secretary for Spiritual Life Development, looking at the spiritual strengthening and deepening of the territory’s faith and the counter-balances needed to engage Salvos with Jesus and see growth in their spiritual lives. I’m also the only under-35 full-participant voter, and I’m a passionate gender equity advocate. So, I will bring that to the Board as well.”
As well as the action of God in her life, Rosy credits her family for how a country girl from Masterton, New Zealand, could have risen to positions of executive responsibility in one of the most significant churches and largest faith-based charities in Australia. Her father is Māori which she says, although looking pakeha (white) herself, has given her a deep spiritual connection with the earth and its peoples. She carries a burden to uplift and connect with Indigenous cultures and multicultural environments such as here in Australia.
On the other hand, her mother is white and a deep woman of faith. “I’m very proud of my mother,” admits Rosy. “And I think that her faithful prayer and tending of us has set me up so well. Her prophetic words, using poetry and the Word of God to speak about who Jesus is, is who I am now. I literally use poetry and the spoken word, and the Word of God to tell others about who God is to me. God was always very present and very real to me growing up.
“People will say I’m a prophet; I bring the spoken word; I’m into artistry. But I have a relationship with Jesus; I’ve had such a significant encounter with Jesus during my life that I am changed – I’m a different person. I can’t live or walk or talk the same because I know that God is real. It’s like people living and knowing that the climate crisis is real. It transforms everything you do – the way you shop, the way you recycle, the way you act.
“It is huge. The biggest part of me is my relationship with God. It’s more significant than any other relationship I have. I really love Jesus.”
To watch an example of Rosy’s spoken word ministry, click here