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Colonels Deslea and Philip Maxwell: The Army and Us

Colonels Deslea and Philip Maxwell serve as Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries and Chief Secretary for The Salvation Army USA Eastern Territory

Philip Maxwell: Deslea and I have been on this journey of Salvation Army officership for 37 years. We graduated from the College for Officer Training (CFOT) and were commissioned as Salvation Army Officers at age 21, being married 6 months later. We worked through that early teething stage of our marriage at the same time we were new officers. That beginning, founded a tight synergy that is reflected in our ministry. As a result, we are probably more comfortable, working closely together than working in separate areas of responsibility.

PM: I hold strongly to the fact that The Salvation Army is a mission–motivated movement. I call it that because it sharpens the focus of what we do and how we do it. As Salvationists, we are always ready to engage in our community. That’s the mission part of it. The movement part shows that we can more easily adapt and transition, not just in ourselves but also in the programs that we provide. We saw that firsthand during the pandemic. So many plans and programs had to abruptly go, but in their place came new ideas and ways to engage our communities.

Deslea Maxwell: We knew our calling was to serve in developing countries, but Papua New Guinea was not a place I imagined going. When we arrived, we learned quickly that this was not a safe environment. For the four years we served there, we were housed behind razor wire. After sunset, it was not safe to leave the home compound. We were almost carjacked, and Phil had his life threatened. But despite the dangers, we loved the people and the worship of Papua New Guinea, whose love for God is genuine and spontaneous. While serving overseas, we saw fresh aspects of who God is. We always knew that His hand was on us, but there, His protection was like turning a kaleidoscope and seeing it transform into something different and new.

PM: I understand how difficult it is to leave your home country and reside in a completely new one. It’s in our DNA to lay down our roots and find comfort where we are. As we have come to appreciate it, God’s calling is a calling to serve, not a calling to a location. Although we form tight connections where we have served there is still an excitement as to what God might have prepared for us in the future.

DM: Even though our three children were grown and did not come with us to our appointment in Papua New Guinea, they still share in our calling. Even though we speak on the phone often, we haven’t had the privilege to be as hands–on as we would have if we had been living in Australia. They have learnt to stand on their own two spiritual feet, and they have excelled in their own personal journey. God is a better parent than we could ever be. Today, our two oldest children, Kylie and Chris, who are also Army officers, and talk openly about their own calling to overseas service. Our youngest, Nathanael, had his own calling in the Royal Australian Navy. Even there, he has his own ministry. Nathanael is the one who his fellow sailors reach out to when they are going through a personal crisis. As difficult as it has been, he is respected for the standards he keeps and the genuineness of his faith relationship.

Deslea and I live by the mantra – There is no better place to be than the center of God’s Will. This is affirmed every day.

Interview by Hugo Bravo