Mission as a Way of Life Commissioner Susan McMillan brings a global perspective as Canada and Bermuda’s new territorial commander
INTERVIEW BY GISELLE RANDALL, FEATURES EDITOR
n September 1, Commissioner Susan McMillan takes up responsibility as territorial commander for the Canada and Bermuda Territory. A Canadian by birth, she has served in various appointments around the world, most recently as territorial commander for the South America East Territory. In this interview, she shares about her spiritual journey, understanding of mission and vision for the Army.
Tell us about your background and calling. My parents are officers, so the idea of officership was always there. After I finished school and started working, I visited Mexico on a holiday and I felt God calling me there. I attended training college and was sent to Mexico a few months after graduating, where I had to learn Spanish very quickly! I went on to complete a master of business administration and certified general accountant designation, and held appointments in Canada, Argentina, Chile and International Headquarters. Most recently, I have been the territorial commander and territorial president of women’s ministries for the South America East Territory (Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay). You’ve lived and served in the developing world for many years. How has this shaped your faith? I couldn’t have been a leader in these years without relying on God completely. South America is a beautiful place, but it can be a dangerous place, too. There have been many times over the years when I’ve known that the Lord protected us. I was travelling in Bolivia with some officers when we came across a protest on the highway. People were throwing dynamite at a bus in front of us, so we backed up and tried to go around by driving across a field in the dark of night. Suddenly a face appeared out of nowhere, and a young man said he knew the way. We decided to trust him and got through to safety. 8 • September 2014 • Salvationist
“I couldn’t have been a leader in these years without relying on God completely,” says Commissioner Susan McMillan
What impact has it had on your understanding of mission? It has had tremendous impact. You learn that you have to depend on God. In South America, the social problems are acute—poverty, lack of services, discrimination, corruption—and our resources are limited. We don’t have the kind of support that you find in Canada, such as regular funding and large numbers of highly qualified personnel, so you have to rely more on God and your people. It means we need to be more grassroots, to understand what people are going through—not provide a menu of services, but rather be with the person and walk with them through their difficulties. Although we do have some social services with professionals—nurses, doctors and teachers—the main work is our officers and soldiers going out into their communities and caring for people. It’s very much incarnational ministry. Can you say a little more about incarnational ministry?
It means they are part of the community they serve. In Latin America, officers live in the Army’s buildings. Some are in the middle of a city, but others are in squatter settlements and slums. That’s where the Army is, so that’s where our people are. They don’t come in to work and then go home at night—they live in the community and do their best to reach out to that community. Can you give us an example? There’s a community clinic in a very poor neighbourhood in Paraguay, where the corps goes into the community to teach basic hygiene and nutrition. They don’t bring people to a building or project; they sit and talk with a circle of moms under a tree in somebody’s garden. Women are getting prenatal care, home births have decreased and the infant mortality rate has dropped markedly. Children are healthier. But it’s not because there’s a big hospital—it’s because of a small group of people who live in the community and live out their faith.