1 November 2022

'I am not a tick box'

Joyce Chimkupete

A photo of Joyce Chimkupete wearing traditional African Salvation Army fabric

Joyce Chimkupete shares her journey towards accepting a leadership position at her corps.

I have been going to Bristol Citadel since 2014 and a lot has happened in my life. I used to go to church and quickly run away after, until Corps Sergeant-Major (CSM) Keith Paine started asking me to do bits and bobs. That’s how I began to get involved at the corps.

Initially, I was very uncomfortable. People can make you feel out of place, not knowingly. Not that they mean to be unkind, but I’m human and I sometimes take things personally.

I decided to join the Bible study. I was the only black person, but they were very welcoming. I could be vulnerable with them and they became my family.

Then Keith asked me to help with teas, and then with welcoming people, until one day Keith told me that they wanted me in the corps council! I was very reluctant because I didn’t feel confident. But I prayed about it and thought that maybe God wanted me to grow. So, I joined the corps council.

When our new corps officers arrived, Majors Christa and Peter Beeldman, they did a visitation. This was a big thing to me and I was very excited and happy. I felt recognised and loved. And then they started showing me my strength, which I didn’t realise I had!

One day they said that I had been nominated to be Assistant CSM. I still didn’t feel eloquent enough, so I spoke to my sisters, who are also strong in the Lord. They encouraged me and we prayed for four months before I said yes.

I initially didn’t feel I deserved this post as I am black and have experienced racism here in the UK and some people do not value us. I also didn’t feel like I qualified because I’m a woman and, in some cultures, women are viewed as the lesser, weaker sex and are not respected. And I am a single mum. Single mums are sometimes looked down upon, and that disqualified me in my thoughts.

These reasons appeared legit, but I looked at the word of God. It says that promotion does not come from the east or from the west, but that God is the one who lifts people up. He’s the one who validates us.

Moses used to stammer. Deborah was a woman. David was the youngest. Gideon was the least in the clan of Manasseh. If God chooses me, then he will enable me to do this. In my human thinking, it was not possible, but God saw that it fit.

I feel greatly honoured to be in this place and I do not take it as a token, where people put a black person somewhere so that they tick a box. I believe God wants to use me to further his Kingdom. He wants me to encourage my black brothers and sisters who are in the church and feel insignificant because of the colour of their skin.

I would encourage those who are different to take courage and be bold. But it needs those who are already in the systems to support, so that people who are not bold, who feel timid, inferior, insecure, may come out and blossom, because there is a lot of hidden talent in a lot of people.

My prayer is that God will give me strength, capability and wisdom in what I need to do. My prayer is that we become more inclusive. And my prayer every day is that this will not be a token thing. I am not a tick box, and I know my God will use me to make a difference.

Written by

A photo of Joyce Chimkupete

Joyce Chimkupete

Assistant Corps Sergeant-Major, Bristol Citadel

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