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Aussie officers around the world – Philippines Territory

Aussie officers around the world – Philippines Territory

Aussie officers around the world – Philippines Territory

Majors Debbie and Rod Serojales with their daughters Shaella (middle) and Amaya, are serving as a family in Rod's native Philippines, with the many joys, rewards and challenges that brings.

By Major Debbie Serojales

In 2006, after responding to a call that God had placed on my heart to serve him overseas, I was appointed to the Philippines, a country made up of about 7100 islands and well known for being a place with the highest number of natural disasters!

I lived in the Philippines for six years, with the incredible privilege of working at Joyville Children’s Home in a provincial town.

I met Rod at a youth camp we attended with some of our young people. He was also an officer and was serving on another island. We were married in 2009, unexpectedly blessed with our first daughter, Shaella, in 2010 and as a family we lived and ministered at Joyville.

We moved to Australia in 2012. It took me some time to get used to being back, but for Rod, who had never lived anywhere but the Philippines, it was quite a culture shock.

In July of 2012 we welcomed our second daughter, Amaya. Although we loved our ministry in Australia, for me, the call to serve overseas was still there.

Rod was passionate about serving in his own country and was keen to take back valuable training and life experiences to assist in ministry back in the Philippines. The decision to return was not an easy one as this time it wasn’t just about us – we had to consider the girls.

We returned on 1 May 2018. Although Shaella and Amaya settled reasonably well into home life in the Philippines, they struggled in some areas. They completed school mid-March in Australia, but upon arriving in the Philippines, school was finishing (as the school year is August-May) so they did not start school or have the opportunity to really build new friendships until four months later.

During that time they felt lost as they were grieving familiar surroundings and truly missed being with their school and church friends. Although they used to be excited to attend church in Australia, we initially struggled to get them to go in the Philippines or to mix with other children.

They missed the inclusive and creative worship with adults and children, and struggled with the language and many other differences. It took many months, but the girls now attend Sunday school regularly and, although they are quiet, they are slowly finding their place.

When I received my appointments I was surprised, as they were roles I never imagined that I would find myself doing. My initial appointments were: Literary Secretary, where my main responsibility was producing the War Cry for the territory, and the Generous Life Program Coordinator [Rod now has this role]. This program encourages people to live a generous life by the giving of time, skills in ministry and financial gifts to God.

After being in the Philippines for a few months, I received an additional appointment – Territorial Public Relations Secretary. This is a great challenge as I work to build the profile of The Salvation Army in the Philippines, consider how to partner with other agencies and businesses, and I have the big task of creating an advisory board for the territory.

For the first time, and with great support from Kidzone in Australia, we now have a Kidzone Philippines page included in every War Cry. This has been a great way to encourage the children and to share resources with leaders who are in far-flung, isolated areas.

Within the Generous Life Program, we are now working on adapting children’s resources to encourage our young people to think about how they can live generously for God. It is also pretty exciting that my first partnership with The Salvation Army was with Disney Philippines!

Rod’s main role is Territorial Corps Program Secretary and he has spent considerable time researching and providing resources to assist leaders in the field. His position provides opportunity to travel to every division and distant locations to support corps officers and leaders.

He recently travelled to another island, drove many hours to a town and walked quite a distance to meet with outreach leaders in an isolated mountainous area who minister in a tribal community. These leaders receive no allowance from The Salvation Army, as there simply is no funding, yet they are committed to serving God in this community with minimal resources.

They are incredible examples of servant leaders. It was his great privilege to provide training for senior local officers and then an impromptu spiritual retreat purely for the outreach leaders during his visit.

Rod was not able to wear his uniform as he hiked up the mountain to the outreach due to the safety risk – there is militia insurgency in that area. There are so many officers in the Philippines who serve with risk to their own safety, yet never doubt their calling as they know with certainty the plan God has for their lives.

In our roles we are so thankful that we get to spend time with incredible people, staff and colleagues in our workplace, community members and others within Salvation Army corps around the country. We are greatly challenged by their commitment in the midst of hardship and poverty and their willingness to serve. 

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