9 May 2022

Responding to God's call: 'It’s not about what I want'

Cadet Hannah Turnbull

Cadet Hannah Turnbull
Cadet Hannah Turnbull
In the weeks before Candidates Sunday (8 May), we asked people what the theme Becoming means to them.

I am a first-year cadet training to become a Salvation Army officer at William Booth College (WBC) along with my husband, Stuart. I am a mother to two wonderful children, who are abundant in energy and love, and we have made WBC our home.

Those who have known me sinceI was a child may have expected that I would become a cadet in the same way they expected I would become an adult, a wife and a mother. By this I mean officership has always been part of my life conversation along with growing older and growing a family.

Cadets Hannah and Stuart Turnbull
Cadets Hannah and Stuart Turnbull

However, this hasn’t always been what I thought I’d become. I wanted to become the Blue Peter vet, taking care of animals on the programme – a niche career prospect, but I thought that was the best job in the world.

At the age of 18 I went to the Army’s territorial congress with members of my corps. It was at this gathering that my life changed. During the response time in one of the meetings I audibly heard God tell me that one day he would enable me to become a Salvation Army officer.

I was terrified! I sat in my chair and watched as other people physically responded to the call to the mercy seat – and I was adamant that I wasn’t going to be joining them.

I may not have responded immediately to God’s call on my life but I remained open to listening to him and taking opportunities to explore my calling.

At summer school the following year I was introduced to Essential, a gap-year programme run by Alove – an expression of The Salvation Army for young people and young adults. Wanting to follow God’s leading, I applied.

Becoming logo for Candidates Sunday 2022

For the next couple of years I lived and worked in two communities in the north of England. I had so many opportunities to learn from beautiful Christian people what it means to be a leader in The Salvation Army and, again, God called me to officership.

I wasn’t ready to become an officer then but Philippians 1:6 remained a constant comfort: ‘I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you, will not stop in mid-design’ (The Voice). I held on to this verse as a promise that it was OK for me to keep travelling with God because he wouldn’t give up on me.

My life hasn’t always been joyful and exciting. I have faced many years with poor mental health, which challenged my relationship with God. I felt lost in who I was and who I had become as a person. I wasn’t the person I thought I would become, and this made me feel like I had failed as a child of God.

After a period of thinking I wasn’t good enough, that I was a failure, I was reintroduced to that verse from Philippians. Considering the end of it helped me to rebuild my relationship with God: ‘I am confident that the Creator … will keep perfecting you until the day Jesus the Anointed, our liberating King, returns to redeem the world’ (The Voice).

That letter to the church at Philippi became a power source for my faith. Paul writes with enthusiasm, giving instruction on how the Christians there should deepen their spiritual lives. He tells them to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ (4:4). ‘Always’ means in the good times and the bad! He reminds them not to be ‘anxious about anything’ (4:6) and testifies that he can do all things through Christ ‘who gives me strength’ (4:13).

Reflecting on my life has challenged me to consider what ‘becoming’ means to me. As a child I wanted to become a TV vet. I thought it was about reaching a goal that I set myself. Now I think it goes much deeper than that. It’s not about what I want but about developing the life I’ve been given by God for him.

God has carried me through trials because he wants me to become a leader of his people as a Salvation Army officer. God has enabled me to feel pain as a process to becoming who I am today as a cadet. At WBC I have time and space to develop the skills I need to become an officer that I wouldn’t have had in my previous circumstances.

What is God asking you to become? He wants to talk to you about it – all you need to do is be open to listening.

Testimony by

Cadet Hannah Turnbull

Cadet Hannah Turnbull

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