Majors Susan and Thomas Hinzman | Lancaster, Pa., Corps

by Robert Mitchell

Majors Susan and Thomas Hinzman—high school sweethearts who married at 18—have been Salvation Army officers for 35 years. They heard the call to officership on the same day in 1985 in Erie, Pa., Susan in Sunday school and Thomas during the worship service that followed. Commissioned in 1988 to Sandusky, Ohio, the couple is now stationed in Lancaster, Pa.

How do you and your spouse complement each other in ministry?

Thomas said his wife is generally more outgoing and a people person, while he tends to be on the shy side, but that changes depending on the situation. Susan says her husband is even-tempered and gentle, able to quickly analyze any situation and make solid decisions. Susan says it takes her “longer to process things and put it all together. He can do that quickly and I can’t.”

Major Susan: “When you first become lieutenants, you’re just trying to figure it all out. You don’t even know how you complement each other. The Lord just kind of allows my gifts and his gifts to balance each other out. If one of us is having a rough day and the other one is there to kind of calm the waters a little bit, that’s always good. You’ve got to point each other to God. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of something, you don’t always have the God perspective. One of us will bring that. We do that for each other, so that’s really important. We often say we share a brain. We say that a lot just because we’re older now. I think there are a lot of times where we hit that moment where we kind of think the same thing at the same time. It’s like a confirmation maybe that this is the direction the Lord wants us to go just because we’re on the same page about it. Then there are times when something is going on and it bothers one of us and the other one goes, ‘No, you’re not right about this one.’ There are times when that happens.”

Major Thomas: “We’ve been in ministry since our early 20s and since we’ve been blessed to work together, we’ve become part of one another. That really is what marriage is all about, but a lot of people don’t have that blessing we’ve had in the Army to be together constantly. So, when we have ministry throughout the day, we know what the other one is thinking. We can anticipate each other’s move. A lot of the other areas where I might be weak, she’s strong. In areas where I’m strong, she might be weak. The Lord kind of figured that out bringing us together many years ago. We didn’t see it back then. We trusted Him for it. Certainly after 35 years of doing ministry together, we can see how He really brought us together for such a time.

“We feel the things God has allowed us to do together has been the greatest blessing. The thing about our ministry is everything has been based on love. Officers will ask us all the time, ‘How is it you’ve gone to all these appointments and everything seemed like it was just so incredible.’ It’s really simple. It’s the scripture. The scripture says that we’re to love God first with all of our heart, soul, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves. When we love God first, that love we have for Him spills over to the love we have for each other, and that just spills over into ministry. It’s amazing what people will do for you when they know you love them. It covers so much. The things we’re not able to do, it doesn’t matter because when you love people, they come alongside you and do the things you can’t do. It’s all part of the ministry and such a neat feeling. There’s no feeling like it.”