Linked in and never alone

by Warren L. Maye

“They devoted themselves to … teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” —Acts 2:42

For four days in April 2024, Gatlinburg, Tenn., nestled amid the Great Smoky Mountains, hosted a transformative gathering of 75 officers from the USA Eastern Territory. The event offered worshipful meetings, enriching workshops, and fun-filled excursions. Beyond the scenic vistas and camaraderie, attendees departed with insights on navigating challenges and embracing the many blessings that come with being single officers.

Under the theme “Linked In,” the officers explored their links to biblical and Salvation Army history, to the Church, and to the spirit of Jesus Christ Himself. They worshiped through song, dance, prayer, and testimony. The highlight each day came in reflective devotions and thought-provoking sermons delivered by Colonel Janet Munn, who in post-retirement ministry served as the retreat’s Bible class teacher.

“People seemed very eager to hear from the Lord and receive refreshment from the Spirit and one another,” Munn told SAconnects. “I think the scriptural theme and messages contributed to that sense of refreshment and connectivity.”

“This retreat was wonderfully planned by Major Heather Holt, program secretary for the Northern New England Division,” said Major Beverly R. Smith, territorial Pastoral Care officer. “She put together a fantastic committee and executed the plans with great success.”

Major Holt was excited by the officers’ eagerness to be in relationship with God and one another. “The life of a single officer can be very lonely, so fellowship opportunities are vital,” she said. “A single officer is responsible to preach every week (unlike a married couple who can alternate).”

Workshop topics, such as how to travel alone, were practical and informative. “Single officers move more often, making it difficult to build local support systems,” Holt said. “We spent time in the Word with Janet, then formed small groups for discussion and finally our own self-reflection.”

Munn’s messages from Acts 2:42–44 described how important it was for the officers to listen, share, eat, and pray together, said Holt, adding, “Singles don’t necessarily get to choose who their partner will be in ministry—or even if they will have one.”

Indeed, some officers expressed concern that they might be separated from a ministry partner, as there are fewer officers being commissioned this year. “So, having an opportunity to listen to the Word being preached is refreshing,” Holt said.

What did the officers think of their four-day retreat? Major Holt asked five to reflect on the experience and share their most important takeaways.

Major Loraine Medina, corps officer of the Mayaguez Corps in Puerto Rico, said, “Serving overseas for 14 years, serving in another division, and then coming back to my home division in Puerto Rico in this last year has been a big transition. So, when they told me about the retreat, I was looking more for a time of refreshment.”

Being single, Medina was blessed with the flexibility to adjust her schedule and accept a last-minute invitation to the retreat. She said, “I think I was the last one to register because I was very busy. But at the last moment, I saw the will of God.”

When Medina realized just how much effort went into planning the retreat, a feeling of personal conviction welled up inside of her. “Colonel Munn went right to the point. I really believed that the Lord used her. Even when she preached to the  whole crowd, she made it real for me.”

Captain Clifford Douglas, corps officer of the Bushwick Corps in Brooklyn, N.Y., went to the retreat hoping to better understand how other single officers deal with high expectations and criticisms, and to share his own take on those and other challenges. “I was thinking about how I can hear the experiences of my single colleagues and grow. I asked myself, ‘How can I share what I know, so we can all grow together and build community?’” He sensed an opportunity for personal growth, development, and self-reflection.

“One thing we talked about is how the Church sometimes says being single is ‘okay,’  but you know, still asks, ‘When are you going to get married?’ Like, if you’re single, you’re incomplete.” During the retreat, Douglas said, he realized that the more important question is: How can we, as God’s temple, impact the Kingdom?

“God can use every one of us as His instrument to share His love and compassion to the people. That’s what we’re here for. God sees us, God knows, and we are as justified as anyone else. I am a complete person.”

Lieutenant Esther Mobley, corps officer of the Staten Island Stapleton Corps and Community Center, wanted to simply hear from God. “We are officers whether we are married or single, right? It is our relationship with God that determines the outcome of our singleness as an officer. We’re in a relationship with God, and so God calls us to be His servant in our singleness.”

Mobley sees her singleness as a blessing that allows an unwavering focus on ministry. Indeed, single officers can devote more time and energy to their ministry and congregation. “I think sometimes people look at singleness as a bad thing. Personally, I don’t think it is,” she said. “There are many times when I’ve found myself being very grateful and very pleased that the Lord called me to come into officership when He did. Because honestly, I can focus everything that I have on the mission that God has set in front of me. I feel like that’s a blessing.”

Captain Jessenya Alicea, corps officer in Beacon, N.Y., was amazed to discover how many single officers there are in the Eastern Territory. “Sometimes when you’re in a command, you only see one or two, you know, different singles, right? But I noticed that they are scattered throughout the territory.”

At the retreat, Alicea found the challenge of social isolation and aloneness for singles can be defeated by gathering with an array of other single officers, both younger and older. “Someone does get me. People are experiencing the same kinds of things as I am. I’m able to connect on a different level, and that really helps me to not feel alone.”

Alicea, who was previously married, knows that the solution to maintaining a healthy work-life balance doesn’t necessarily come from marriage. “Like, ‘Oh, well, that [problem] will be fine once you get married.’ But that’s not always the case,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with being single, at all, and it’s biblical. That’s what this retreat helped to show.”

Captain Kimisha Marshall, personnel officer at the College for Officer Training, was relieved to learn the retreat was not what she expected. Circumnavigating the issues of sexuality, dating, and marriage can be daunting for anyone, and single officers are no exception. “The first single officer retreat that I attended was more like a matchmaking type of thing, but there was only one guy there,” she remembers.

“This retreat was far different. It was much more about single officers coming together to support, uplift, and encourage each other. This was really great because many of us are spread around. To be able to connect with other officers who have more experience than I have, and to hear their stories, was excellent.”

Managing stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue can be particularly challenging for single officers. “Colonel Janet Munn was phenomenal with the message that she brought to us on how to persevere,” said Marshall. “While she spoke on it, I thought about all the people who I have lost in these past couple of years, my big supporters.

“But I’m thankful that the Lord put them in my life for the season that I needed them. How great it is to see what the Lord has already brought me through. In my ministry, I know He’s going to continue to do much more. So I was thankful to have the time to reflect. My biggest takeaway would definitely be just persevering, connecting with officers, and knowing that I’m not alone in this.

“I will continue to pray for the Lord to send me a wonderful husband someday, but that’s not the highest priority. There’s my relationship with the Lord and taking care of myself and knowing what my needs and desires are. Most of all is knowing what the Lord wants for me, and not just what I want for myself.”