A New Year’s Revelation
Majors Gregory K. and Joyce A. Hartshorn, general secretary and program secretary for the Salvation Army’s Massachusetts Division, share with SAConnects their story of how they met, and how Greg accepted Christ as his savior with the support of the woman who would become his wife.
Greg: In December of 1983, I was 25 years old. A friend and I had a roadside fruit stand in New Hampshire, which every year ran from March to December. On a Tuesday before Christmas, we had some leftover food. So I called the local Salvation Army and asked if I could donate it to them. That was my first encounter with the Army. When I visited the corps, I learned of a women’s auxiliary project, where they dressed dolls in handmade outfits of different nationalities and gave them to children.
I had an art background, and this project intrigued me, so I asked to see the dolls. A caseworker told me that, rather than helping only at Christmas, serving people in need was her full–time job. I was surprised to know that there were folks who did such year–round work. I asked her, “How do you do this day after day?”
Joyce: Greg asked an excellent question. And the first answer that popped into my head was, “Because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Any other reply would not have led us to a future together, or a future in The Salvation Army.
Greg: Those words about her relationship with Jesus Christ became ingrained in my head. The next day, I stopped by to volunteer at the corps. And although I was a stranger, they trusted me. The Captain said that he had prayed for someone like me to come and help the corps. I volunteered in food and toy distributions, and I saw how people in poverty lived and supported their families. Seeing this was a shock to me. I thought, Do people really live like this? God was lifting a veil from my eyes regarding the Army’s work.
The day after that service, I met with the Captain and we spoke about Scripture, particularly John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son….” I always knew that God was out there. I asked, “But how could I personally connect with Him?” The Captain said, “You’re part of the world. So whenever you read that verse, replace ‘world’ with ‘Greg.’” The Captain made me realize that, in God’s eyes, I was more than just a number. And so, I accepted Christ as my Savior.
Joyce: In June of that year, I was accepted to the College for Officer Training as a member of the Proclaimers of the Gospel session. That same year, Greg told his business partner that this would be his last year with him and that God was calling Greg to something. Greg had also told me he was in love with me. I was on course to be an officer, which I had planned to do for many years. Yet, here I was, in love with a man who wasn’t even a member of the church. That September, I left for the CFOT. We tried to make our relationship work. Greg would drive from New Hampshire to Suffern, and we would spend time together, when we could. But our lives were on different paths. That reality was unsettling. In November, we decided to sacrifice our love for each other and call off the relationship.
Greg: We remained friends, and on Christmas, Joyce came home to New Hampshire. For New Year’s Day, we drove to York, Pa., to see her family. Joyce was sick; she slept through the whole drive and skipped the New Year’s Eve service at the corps. So it was just me among a congregation of strangers. During the service, I witnessed to God’s faithfulness in the past year. I stood and said, “Today is my first anniversary of finding the Lord.” Then, without thinking, my next words were, “And God has called me to be a Salvation Army officer.”
Joyce: He told me as soon as he got home. We didn’t talk about it for a while; it was a lot to take in, and his declaration to be an officer had come suddenly.
Greg: That September, I enrolled in the College for Officer Training. Anyone can see that quickly going from making a declaration, to being a soldier, to being a cadet, is unusual. It was certainly an exception to the rules, but I was happy that the Army accepted me. My calling was purely on faith, and God proved faithful. And He continues to be faithful.
Joyce: Greg was ordained as an officer on Sunday, June 14, 1987, as a member of the Messengers of Peace session. That following Wednesday, in a small stone chapel on the rocky coast of New Hampshire, as uniformed officers, we were married.
Interview by Hugo Bravo