Sad to leave, but committed to God’s will
Sandra Stokes, the divisional commander for the Salvation Army in Bermuda, is preparing to return to Canada after just over two years in the post.
Although it is typical for reassignments to take place within the organisation, Major Stokes was surprised when she received a call in August with “farewell orders” from the territorial commander.
“In the Salvation Army we operate on an appointment system, similarly to the military of the police. At any given time, a Salvation Army officer can reassign you. And that is what has happened to me.”
Major Stokes has been responsible for the overall operations, strategic planning, and spiritual growth of the organisation since she arrived in Bermuda in July 2018.
“This was my first time in the role of divisional commander, so there has been lots of learning. Lots of first-time experiences in a new country and a new culture and a global pandemic. So, in all of the ’newness’ I’ve learnt that you get through every experience and every encounter because of faith.
“Faith, to me, is having a full confidence in what I can’t see. It is having complete trust that God, my creator, is causing all things to work together for good. So while we may pull out experiences that may be disappointing or you may not have had the success that you wish, all of it comes together to serve His purpose in my life and my sphere of influence.”
Major Stokes will take up a new position in the Mission Department at the Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters in Toronto on her return to Canada next week.
Although disappointed to be leaving Bermuda after such a short time she is totally committed to fulfilling God’s will in her life. This entire experience has been a part of her own personal journey of faith, she said.
“Our humanity and human tendency may be to doubt or question things as they happen, but when you pull back all the layers, you realise and accept that not only is God with me but He is in me, God is in control.
“This new role and new experience has been stretching for my faith. But God was with me and will be with me. Because I trust Him and look to Him, I know that He brought me here to Bermuda and now He is leading me somewhere else. This has been a part of my journey and my journey with Him.”
Among her fondest memories of Bermuda: her first bite of a fish sandwich on raisin bread, enjoying the “simple but profound” beauty of the island and the rich worship experiences she has shared with the various congregations around the island.
“There is a freedom of worship here in Bermuda. The music, the dancing – I am not a dancer but they taught me how to sway a little bit. But it’s really the freedom of worship I enjoyed here.
“I remember one Sunday morning at Cedar Hill folks just stood up and wanted to share their testimony. They wanted to share what God had done for them. No one followed the programme, and it was awesome. To be free, honest and real in God’s presence. True worship is not just emotion, but it is devotion as well. The authenticity of it has been beautiful.”
The Salvation Army is a global Christian denomination in over 130 countries with a mission to “preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination”.
In Bermuda, it is active in providing relief to the homeless and those suffering from addiction, as well as supporting individuals and families in securing food.
Like most charitable organisations, the Salvation Army was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, however Major Stokes was impressed to see the way the local community came together to meet the needs of the vulnerable.
“This is a supporting, partnering, and collaborating community. We normally have a huge fundraiser in May, but for obvious reason we didn’t. But churches, businesses and organisations still came together for the good of the community. The spirit of team and togetherness, looking after each other and wanting what is best. I have really enjoyed that.
“I’m going to miss being in a place where the people are as warm as the temperature. I’ll miss the common friendly courtesy of greeting each other with that Bermudian, ’Afternoon!’ We have our challenges here, but this a beautiful island and a community committed to helping each other.”