Relevents: Major Raphael C. Jackson
Major Raphael C. Jackson is the divisional commander designate for the Northern New England Division (effective June 1). He shares with SAConnects why he is excited about serving there, his experience as a father, and the spiritual power that is released when one pours one’s self into the lives of people.
Today, I am a father, and in more ways than one. I was the first child of a teenage mother who had seven more children after me. Although we had four fathers, I still lacked a real father figure in my life. My mother was only 38 when she died. My wife and I have actually raised my youngest brother and sister. Two years ago, I became a grandfather. And in a few months, a second grandchild will enter the world. Learning to be a dad has not always been easy, but if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. The journey has been such a pleasure.
In 2008, I watched Barack Obama become President of the United States. To be quite honest, I was a registered Republican. But this event had nothing to do with political party affiliation. It had all to do with reviving my belief in the American Dream. In school, kids are told that they can one day be president, but it’s difficult to believe that when none of the presidents have ever looked like you. A fundamental change such as Obama’s election to the presidency or my appointment to divisional leadership gives folks hope that they can also break through boundaries in their lives.
All my siblings are technically my half–siblings. But that has never been an issue for us. Family is far broader than that. As anyone who comes from a big family will attest, it can be a challenge to keep everyone from getting on each other’s nerves. But my family extends well beyond “blood.” We are part of the “blood of Christ.” Yes, as siblings, it is the blood of our mother that biologically connects us. But as Christians, it is the blood of our Heavenly Father that spiritually unites us.
One of the reasons I am here today is because of the people in my life who have poured all they have and all they are into me. And a great benefit of being in The Salvation Army for me has been having the opportunity to pour myself into the lives of other people. You can build structures, programs, and organizations. And all of them are important, but they are also fleeting. If you pour yourself into the life of an individual, that influence will last long after the program is done or the building is torn down or used for another purpose.
Soon, I will be the divisional commander for the Northern New England Division. Before I became a cadet at the College for Officer Training, I worked during the summer at the Army’s Camp Sebago in Standish, Maine. In the process, I fell in love with Northern New England. I also fell in love with a woman who would become my wife. As a young officer, I was told that there would never come a time when I could serve in that part of the country. They said they needed me in more “urban” areas. Sometimes you hear people wish for the “good old days.” But they seem to forget that those days weren’t good for everybody. For some of us, those days were limiting, to say the least. I am happy that I will serve in my wife’s home division, but even more so, receiving this appointment shows me that the world is changing for the better.