Called, Not ‘Grandfathered’

Nearly 50 years ago, before Colonels Linda and Terry Griffin began a 42–year journey as officers in The Salvation Army, they played together in an Army band.

Linda, just out of high school and working in her first job as an office secretary for the Army in Seattle, played first cornet. Terry, home on summer break from college after his freshman year at Azusa Pacific, sat next to her, in the second chair.

“He didn’t take being second to me very well,” Linda says with a laugh. “He was a music major.”

But with their common background, marriage seemed inevitable.

Both Linda and Terry are fifth–generation Salvation Army officers. William Booth, the Founder of The Salvation Army, conducted meetings in the home of Linda’s great–great–grandparents in Cornwall, England.

Early call—and struggle 

Early in their lives, both Linda and Terry felt a calling from God to serve as officers. But despite their heritage, each struggled to make that commitment.

Four of Linda’s siblings went off to training school before she did. So she wondered whether her own calling was real or if she was just strongly influenced by her family.

“But I really came to realize that it wasn’t a family package deal,” Linda says. “God specifically called me. Even though I put it off for a while, I did eventually answer [that] call.”

She did that after some prodding from a friend.

“Our divisional youth secretary at the time pinned me [down] one day and said, ‘So what are you doing about your call to officership?’ ” Linda remembers. “I said, ‘Hmm, I’m not sure.’ He said, ‘I think you need to talk about that.’ ”

It was the push the couple needed. In 1968, a year after getting married, they became cadets at the Army’s two–year training school in San Francisco.

“It just took somebody to say it’s time to make the decision,” Terry says.

Before he met Linda, he had felt his own calling to become an officer.

“We each did our part to run from that calling,” Terry said. “But it became very evident that was what God wanted us to do. And we would not be happy doing anything else.”

Even though his great–great–grandparents, great–grandparents, grandparents, and parents were officers in The Salvation Army, Terry never felt pressure to follow them. But he was involved with Army activities from an early age.

He started playing in the corps (church) band when he was in third grade. Terry’s best friends, his baseball and fishing buddies, attended the same church.

“No matter where my parents were stationed, the Salvation Army group was a family,” Terry said. “So that was the heritage I grew up in. I enjoyed it. When I was called to be a Salvation Army officer, it was a chance to keep doing the things that I enjoyed doing.”

Kids face same question

When Linda and Terry’s children came along, the Griffins realized that their kids would face making a decision about whether to become officers. With a fifth–generation link to The Salvation Army, their three boys and a girl did feel pressure to follow suit, not from Linda and Terry, but from the family heritage. The Griffins made it clear to their children that becoming Salvation Army officers was a not a tradition.

“Honestly, one of my greatest joys would have been seeing one of our children following in our footsteps as officers,” Linda says. “But we always stressed that this was not a ‘family business’ that they were expected to to step up and take over. It was a calling from God.”

The kids didn’t follow in their parents’ footsteps, but they are Christians who walk and talk their faith.

“I’m happy to say that all four children have grown into remarkable young adults who live and serve God,” Linda says. “Two of our four families are still Salvationists [members of the church] and the other two are active in the churches of their choice, as it should be. I’m just so proud of them all. I’m so glad that they are saved and that they are in church.”

The Griffins do have three nieces who, with their husbands, are serving as officers today.

“So it continues through the family,” Linda says.

‘Why God put me here’

Over the 42 years he served as an officer, Terry learned an important lesson. When he started out in ministry in 1970, he had ambitious goals.

“You have this idea that you’re going to change the world,” Terry says. “I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to change the world, but I could have some influence on individuals to bring Christ into their lives to transform [them].”

“As I look back on each one of my appointments,” Terry says, “there was always one person I can look back on and say, ‘That’s why God put me there.’ ”

Terry remembers Glen, an older man living in a nursing home after a stroke.

“He could hardly put three words together without stuttering,” Terry says. “He had a lot of trauma in his life, and God sent me to Glen. I can look back and say that’s why I was there. Glen needed me and he needed Christ.”

By the time Terry moved to another city for a new assignment, Glen was praying with others. He was also handing out a religious magazine put together by people in the nursing home.

“He became my replacement there,” Terry says. “So, don’t think about changing the world. Just think about changing it one life at a time, or influencing one life at a time.”

As Linda reflects on her career in The Salvation Army, she’s amazed at all the lives she’s been able to touch.

“Over a period of 42 years as officers, it’s staggering to think of the number of people we had under our influence,” Linda says. “Sometimes we learned far more from them than they learned from us. But we were definitely given a love for those people. We know that God used our willingness to be used by Him to impact lives.”

Advice for beginners

To someone just beginning a journey as an officer with The Salvation Army, Linda says to expect it to be a day–to–day walk with God. She leaned on her favorite verses, Proverbs 3:5–6.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart,” Linda says. “I’d say you have no idea what you’re beginning now. But it’s going to be a grand adventure, and God is going to be with you all the way. It’s been an amazing ride.”

From the start, the Griffins were careful to keep a healthy balance between ministry and family. When your job can impact whether someone eats or not, or whether someone hears the message of salvation, it’s easy to become consumed and forget family.

“I think we got good advice early on from people who said you’ve got to take time for yourself,” Terry says. “You don’t want to forget family. I can’t say we were perfect at it. There were times when things just did consume us. But we tried our best.”

Terry and Linda have devoted their lives to sharing the Good News, feeding the poor, and lending a helping hand. In September 2012, they retired. But after a couple of leisurely months of reading, golfing, and fishing, Terry and Linda both “un–retired,” taking on part–time jobs with … you guessed it … The Salvation Army.

“God doesn’t expect you to just sit in a rocking chair for the rest of your life.”

by Gail Wood

(Please see Uniform: Like Carrying a Bible)

Previous post

Passion to Serve Needy People

Next post

Compelled To Offer Hope