Major Janna Torgerson
Corps Officer, The Salvation Army Vicksburg Corps
My parents were missionaries and spent their careers in Laos and Thailand, traveling to remote villages among the Hmong people. For my parents, being missionaries wasn’t just about preaching; it was about serving the whole person. My mom was a nurse and provided healthcare in the villages, while my Dad was diligent in learning how to repair things to meet people’s physical needs first.
Growing up, I experienced my Dad embracing and celebrating cultural differences. I remember his stories as he honored some of the cultural customs of a Buddhist wedding service while performing a Christian marriage ceremony for new Christians. He was even known to incorporate sticky rice into the communion ceremony as rice was a familiar main staple and bread was scarce.
This acceptance and respect of personhood and cultural differences are what I found in The Salvation Army. We celebrate the uniqueness of cultures and in people. It doesn’t matter the background; everyone is welcomed and loved. I have felt that same feeling of acceptance in every corps I’ve encountered. The Salvation Army is a safe, welcoming haven, which means everything for the broken and suffering who walk through our doors.
I’ll never forget the Sunday morning I first walked through the doors of The Salvation Army in Selma, AL, where I attended Concordia College on an education scholarship. It was next door from my college, and I assumed it was just a church because it had “Salvation” in the name. I was feeling alone and desperately missing my Washington home and mom’s embrace. Upon entering, arms immediately enfolded me in a warm hug, and smiles of welcome greeted me.
The service felt familiar and real, and the people were genuine. The only difference was a small brass band, whereas I was used to only piano or organ music! I remember thinking the uniforms were a little unusual but was unfazed.
I felt like I was home, and in 1995, The Salvation Army became my church. It wouldn’t be long after that I felt called to become a soldier in 1999 and then an officer.
My parents were beyond pleased that I was following in my father’s footsteps and becoming a pastor. I am the only Salvationist in my family, and because of me, my family now has a hard time passing up any bell ringers!
When people learn I am a missionary kid, they often ask whether I, too, will become a missionary. I’m quick to lightheartedly respond with, “I am three thousand miles from home serving God. What’s your definition of a missionary?” God has called me to serve in any way I can, and the Southern Territory is my mission field.
The best way I know to serve is through The Salvation Army. There is no other church in the world that has the scope of service The Salvation Army does. I love that meeting human needs is part of our service, and we are not contained in what we can do. Where we see a need for outreach to people, we find a way to meet it.
I would encourage women who feel called to ministry and are interested in The Salvation Army to get familiar with their local Army corps by getting involved and serving first. My advice is to follow God daily, stand up for yourself, and if you need help, ask for it.
This is my calling, and I’m grateful for the hope I can share and the good I can do through The Salvation Army.