MONDAY MAN: Army rooted in the church
The Salvation Army is a church, not just a social or charity organization, and this is the message that the Divisional Commander for Barbados and St Lucia Major Dewhurst Jonas wants the public to know.
Today’s Monday Man Dewhurst Jonas wants more than anything to see the Salvation Army recognized for the work they do spiritually as it has touched the lives of countless Barbadians.
“The solution to this is for the Army to get back to the basics such as having open airs, street meetings as we were the dominant church doing this. I want to see the Salvation Army marching the streets again so everyone knows this is the army of God.”
Over the years the Salvation Army has become synonymous with the provision of food and clothing while many have forgotten that the movement is based on the church and ministering of the word.
Having been called to be an Army officer at the age of 19, Jonas believes that one has to understand the nature of the work to understand what he has to say about the organisation he serves.
“I was not called to do social work; I was called to be a minister of the gospel”, Jonas said. However he explained, “We are a church . . . but we believe that it is not wise to preach to people who are hungry, homeless.
On speaking of his entry into the Salvation Army, Jonas says joining the Salvation Army has to be a calling, so it takes a special person to join. He said to be a Salvation Army officer one has to be called, for without that calling you cannot last as it is a hard and thankless job. Despite this, Jonas has served the Army faithfully for many years. “I born into the Salvation Army, even though my parents were not officers they were members of the Army.”
Jonas, who grew up in the organization, received his calling to be a Salvation Army officer at the age of 19, and entered the Salvation Army training college at 24, but served in various capacities in his home church and at one point was the president of the Future Officers Club.
The veteran Army officer describes his 28 year journey as “a real adventure . . . I have had the privilege of working almost throughout the Caribbean”.
Jonas’ journey started in Barbados after he completed his training in 1982. He was appointed to the Josey Hill church for one year then transferred to St Lucia for five years. The Antiguan-born Jonas then served in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana before he returned to Barbados.
But what keeps Jonas going? According to him working with the Salvation Army was a labour of love, however to see the transformation that could take place in a person’s life was the best part of being in the Salvation Army.
“I have had the privilege of seeing it over and over again. I see people come in as drug addicts who turn their lives over to the Lord, they transform physically and in most cases I have the wonderful pleasure of seeing some of them becoming Salvation Army officers serving in other parts of the Caribbean”.
Jonas believes that many people are written off by society and called hopeless, however he contends that there are no hopeless people with God because God can do the impossible.
“That is no cliché that is serious talk”, Jonas said and he added.
“What sets the Salvation Army apart is that we take real pleasure in saying we go for souls and we go for the worst because there is hope for everyone in life.
“I believe part of the failure of the church is that we want to evangelize the evangelized we are not going after those who are hardened in sin”.
He explained that there were individuals who go to other churches and would try to woo the members away while there was “a whole country out there to be evangelised”.
For Jonas there are pleasant memories of his work, however his most memorable undertaking since was to see the life transformation of a young man who came to the Salvation Army for help.
“There was a young man Captain Derrick Miller who came to the Salvation Army as a drug addict, I had the privilege of leading him to God, making him a soldier in the army, seeing him go off to the Salvation Army training college, witnessing his ordination as a minister of the gospel, and officiating at his wedding, now I am waiting for the privilege of dedicating his first child,” said Jonas.
Even though Jonas has been able to help many his work has had an impact on the lives of his family members. Through his work the Major has been called to make trips overseas and work long hours in the eleven local churches, but what has been the most impactful is the need to travel and in many cases reside in other countries.
“The impact on the family has been tremendous, my daughters are grown now but I remember when I worked in Guyana, which is a very large country and there are times when I had to go 18 miles away from Georgetown and had to leave the children by themselves”.
He added that during his work in Trinidad he hardly had the opportunity to put my children to bed at nights; however his family have understood the nature of his job and always cooperated.
“The children have turned out well, my eldest daughter has a law degree and is currently doing the New York Bar and the younger has completed her first degree and is pursuing a masters degree”.