One Sunday at the corps, after giving an appeal towards the end of my sermon, several women from the Adult Rehabilitation Center rushed to the altar. My wife and I shared the responsibility of praying with those who came forward. This was a common scene in our small chapel. On this particular Sunday, I realized that one of the women had come forward about four Sundays in a row. Most times she sought prayer for God to change some aspect of her life or the life of her family, but on this particular Sunday, she asked for the ultimate change. She prayed for salvation. We prayed that prayer of salvation and she rose up from the altar as a new creation.
After the service, we all went into the fellowship hall for a potluck lunch. This young woman came to me with curiosity in her eyes and said, “Have you ever been to Hollister [Correctional Facility]?” “Yes,” I replied. She continued, “What did you do there?” I answered, “You know what I did there.”
Before becoming a Salvation Army officer, I had been a sergeant with the local Sheriff’s Department. One of my roles as the Watch Commander was to oversee the operation of Hollister. This young woman had been there several times, and I had personally booked her into the jail on a few occasions. We recognized one another at the altar, but when a person comes to the mercy seat the past no longer matters. From that moment on, a child of God has taken off her old clothes and put on new ones, claiming a new identity in Christ.
The young woman said “Barnes, I thought that was you.” She admitted that she preferred me in my Salvation Army officer’s uniform, rather than the uniform I used to wear. She felt confident that God had her in the right place because, at that time, I was the only person who had seen her on one side of her life and now on the other. Once, I had led her into the jail in handcuffs and booked her. But on this day, I had the privilege to escort her into God’s Kingdom and a life free from bondage, free from her past—with a clean slate, and a hope that will never perish, spoil or fade.
Today, she is a soldier in The Salvation Army. She attended the Future Officer’s Fellowship Conference, and she continues to consider the call that God has placed on her life, not just to possible officership but to a life lived with Him. To my friend, my sister and fellow follower in Christ, I am proud of you. Thanks and glory be to God for giving us opportunities to live and minister in His name.
By Lieutenant Anthony Barnes