Not About Staying Changed But Being Changed
As Lieutenant (now Captain) Armida LaMarr was about to leave Kenya after three years of service there, she wrote a piece, ‘Will I Stay Changed?’ in the Summer 2009 issue. She feared that in the transition back to the U.S., she might ‘push down all that my Kenyan life revealed to me.’ But, she said, ‘the other part of me prays that I will remain fully changed, that my metamorphosis will build on what is different in me and mold me to be even more Christlike.’ Five years later, Armida reflects on what change now means to her.Reading the newsletters I wrote during my time in Kenya is like going back in time. As I remember the children, I smile. As I remember the pain and poverty, I am sad. The smells, sights, and sounds all come back to me, and I cannot say that they are all good memories. However, I have to thank God for it all, because my missionary service changed me forever.
It was very intimidating to face my life after being overseas. I had wanted to go to Africa for as long as I could remember. When that goal was accomplished, I felt this strange discouragement. What would be my life goal now? Would the rest of my time be a decrescendo from the high of fulfilling my lifelong desire? It turns out that God had some amazing plans that I could never dream of.
I returned to the United States in December 2009. My spirit was a little battered and bruised from the three–year journey in Kenya, but I was trying to find my way. On New Year’s Day 2010, I fell and traumatically broke my ankle. This injury led to four months without walking and a year of extremely painful healing and rehabilitation. With two plates and 14 screws holding my ankle together, I felt like the bionic woman (without the strength and speed and good looks and … well, you get the idea). God really taught me the meaning of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) It was God’s strength that got me through the little things in life: getting up a flight of stairs, taking a shower, making a sandwich by myself.
At this time, I was also appointed divisional youth secretary for the Massachusetts Division. This meant caring for the youth in our area, including running camp. It was a year and a half of stretching myself spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
Life took another turn that I never expected. At the age of 35, I met the love of my life. Actually, I had read an article about him in The War Cry when I was in Kenya, but it took some time for God to bring us together. In January 2012, I married Lieutenant Michael Harper. Marrying Mike brought me one of the greatest joys of my heart, which is being stepmom to four wonderful children. Sam is 26, Kaye is 24, Aaron is 22, and Nina is 18. Nina is living with us and attending Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. We are so proud! As a young teenager, I always boasted about the fact that I knew I’d be a mother some day. Well, God fulfilled that promise in a way I could never imagine.
Mike and I are now the corps officers (pastors and administrators) at The Salvation Army in Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University is one mile uptown; MIT, one mile downtown. Though I will never attend one of those prestigious institutions, I am getting an education here that is priceless. It is an amazing privilege to run a day care for homeless children, an emergency shelter for men, a men’s recovery program, Bridging the Gap for at–risk teens, as well as a program for senior citizens and regular social services. Every day, I get to love people that may feel lost and broken. It is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, but it is also the most fulfilling.
My journey with God is far from over, and I look forward to seeing where it leads me. When leaving Kenya, I asked myself, “Will I stay changed?” I realize now that changing is an ongoing process. My experiences in Kenya made me more grateful for what I have, stronger emotionally, and more reliant on God. However, I continue to change. I learn and grow in Christ with every new experience. And when this race is over, I look forward to resting in heaven and praising God with some of the people I met along the way.