Peter Willard’s Testimony
On the day of his enrolment as a Soldier, 22 November 2009, Peter testified as follows:
Some time ago Gill Cotterill shared with Sue a passage from scripture & an extract from it was shared to us again on a prayer card earlier this year by Officer Cadets Karl & Rachel Carpenter.
It is from Ephesians chapter 3 & part of verse 20:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”
These words have been constantly in my mind & heart during our time here & are reflected in this testimony.
In December last year the theme of my adherent testimony was how the Salvation Army had sown seeds with us, which had culminated in our becoming adherents.
On Christmas Eve 1979 Sue gave birth at All Saints hospital to our first child Timothy. On Christmas Day I arrived at the hospital ward & shared with them the out reach of the Salvation Army ministering to the families & giving thanks for the new births.
This was my first significant experience of the Army’s outreach & a moment in time which has remained with me ever since.
It took almost 28 years after that seed had been sown for us to come through the doors of this citadel for the first time; it was only 15 months ago that we committed to the Army, 3 months later we became adherents & now 12 months on we are becoming soldiers.
I concluded my adherent testimony with the words:
“I do not know why God has brought us to this place; or what he intends for us”
At this point Major Drew stated: “I know that God has something in store for you both in this place”.
So I would now like to share some incidents from the last 12 months of our ‘get out of your comfort zone’ roller coaster of a journey!
Just before Christmas we followed the band to support the town centre outreach, which to me at that time was just about us being there!
However Steve Scoulding had other ideas, thrust a collecting box into my hand & said, “Stand over there!” So as I nervously stood there with my empty box & my trusty little red Salvation Army lapel badge, hoping that someone would put something in, I observed the world around me: the people who hurried on & looked the other way; the people who were stopping to listen, not only to the music but also to Richard Craik’s words; the number of parents who encouraged their children to put money into the box; the woman from South Africa who stopped & talked to me about her experiences of the Salvation Army. I felt the unbelievable joy of saying God bless & thank-you to them all.
This was my first experience of giving tangible outreach & confirmation that I could!
Earlier this year, we attended the Contagious Christianity course which helped our understanding that we all have a Christian story to share & opportunities to do so.
Not long afterwards I visited my 91 year old Aunt, who is the last remaining relative from my parents’ generation. I talked to her about the Army & during the discussion she shared with me that she prayed every day; but it was her secret & nobody knew!
Before leaving, I asked whether she would like me to pray with her. I had never done this before & asked God to provide the words. I knelt down beside her chair, held her hand & started with the words “Father God”; but I needed to say no more as she most eloquently spoke her prayers out loud!
God had provided the words, & my Aunt’s secret was no secret anymore!
The Easter Holy week this year was like none I had ever experienced. For the first time I experienced the power of the cross; how we can forgive others & in doing so, how it gives us the opportunity for a new start with the slate wiped clean.
During this Holy week God spoke to me through many people & readings; & in the early hours of Good Friday I was called to write a testimony, where God laid out some of what would happen to me over the coming weekend, And early on the morning of Easter Sunday, the prophesy fulfilled, I sat at my computer to complete the testimony. Then as I came to the point of conclusion with tears running down my face; I was compelled to write the following words:
“But for me the culmination of this Holy Week is my declaration of commitment to become a Soldier of the Salvation Army!”
My first reaction was: “Where did that come from!?”
Prior to then I did not really understand when you should go to our place of prayer, the Mercy Seat, & during that weekend I visited it twice!
At least twice earlier in that week I had declared that I did not need to become a soldier, & here I was making a declaration of commitment to become one!
Of course I knew where it had come from; but this was confirmation that whether it is being called to give testimony, to visit the Mercy seat, or to become a soldier of the Salvation Army; on all counts, if we are listening it is God who calls & we who follow.
In trying to sum up the events of this life changing week, I could find no better words than those from the hymn which has also been constantly in our minds & hearts during our time here:
“In Christ alone my hope is found
Here in the love of Christ I stand”
I would like to say that having made the decision to become a soldier, everything from then on was easy. But like all things in life you have to work for them. I had faith in God; but was I capable of being worthy of him?
Over the coming months my worthiness was to be challenged many times; but these occasions were continually being countered by many more blessings & encouragement. God seemed to be saying to me:
Do your best & keep on trying!
During this last week I was asked:
Why are you doing this; what’s in it for you?
This was a question I had never really asked myself. I initially responded that people had referred to me as being a happier person, more at ease with myself, & that this might be an answer!
However I found three words which I believed more effectively answered the question: Faith, Purpose & Trust, & early on Wednesday morning I found myself not using the Bible but the Collins English Dictionary to define them:
Faith: “Trust in God his actions and purposes”
Purpose: “The reason for which anything is done created or exists”
Trust: “Reliance on and confidence in the truth, worth and reliability of a person or a thing; faith”
Thus my second response was that, on Sunday morning as I nervously look out at the people who have come to support us, I will be standing there in faith, with a purpose & trust in God who I know will be there with me.
It would not have been too long ago that if somebody had said to me that I would be standing in front of this number of people declaring my faith, I would not have believed them!
So as I stand here assured of Christ’s love, I am drawn back to the full text of Ephesians 3:20:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”
So I would like to thank God, this corps, & all the individuals who have influenced our journey & I can think of a no more fitting conclusion to this testimony than to use the words of Salvation Army Song (SASB 706):
“Just where he needs me, my Lord has placed me.
Just where he needs me, there would I be!”
God bless you all & thankyou!