Lieutenant Melissa Lewell

Lieutenant Melissa Lewell talks about the presence of the Holy Spirit in Cambodian culture, the story of King Josiah, and the ministry lessons she learned at Camp Sebago.

My years at the Salvation Army’s Camp Sebago have deeply influenced my ministry today. I worked there from 1997–2003. After a nine–year break, I came back to work as the Christian education director, followed by two more summers as the camp’s program director. When I lead kids’ groups at my corps, many of our games  and songs are ones I learned at Sebago. Camp Sebago taught me how to focus on a teachable message in ministry. This is helpful working with children and preparing sermons for adults.


I lived in Paraguay for two years, taught at an American high school, and lived with Americans, but I attended a Spanish–speaking Salvation Army corps. Two of my students were the children of corps officers. Paraguay’s culture is rooted in kindness and peace; it was there that I received God’s call to be an officer in the States. Before that, I actually thought Paraguay would become my permanent home.


Every year, I revisit the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  It is about how he turned his previous memoir Blue Like Jazz into a feature film, and in the process, learned about the concept of story with respect to each of our lives. In A Million Miles, Miller says to look at our lives as a story, but to remember that we are not the main character. The main character is God and we are His supporting characters. Just as the main character works with supporting characters in a movie plot, so God works with each of us to give meaning in our lives. Our trials and difficulties make sense when we see them as important parts of our life’s story that have made us who we are today.


So far, I’ve visited 28 countries. That has taught me to ask about the community and what The Salvation Army can do there to help others. Missions work and traveling gives me a better vision of God; if I am restricted to only seeing my own American community, I will have a narrow idea of who God is. I remember seeing a new side of Him in Cambodia as the people there became Christians. Spirit worship is a big part of Cambodian culture; they have a strong belief in the power of  the soul. When they accept Jesus as their Savior, they immediately welcome the Holy Spirit, too. For Cambodians, it’s simply the next step. They know the Spirit is real and present in their lives.


The story of Josiah reminds us that we can turn the world around if we focus on Scripture. Josiah did not grow up in a Godly home. His father and grandfather were both cruel, unjust kings. But when Josiah, as king, came across the book of the law, he felt so convicted that he changed his own life and leadership style. Soon, the culture of Josiah’s kingdom changed to be one that follows God.

by Hugo Bravo

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