by Christina Holman
After 45 years of service, Chief of the Staff Commissioner William Roberts and World Secretary for Women’s Ministries Commissioner Nancy Roberts retired. This joyful occasion celebrating their worldwide service was attended by family, friends and colleagues who came from across the country—with many others joining the live stream—and was conducted by General André Cox.
The General expressed deep gratitude to the Roberts for their example and service, and commended them to the crowd as true servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “When they said yes to the Lord, they meant it. And when they signed a covenant that said we will go wherever we are needed, whenever we are needed, they’ve proved it. They proved that what they signed all those 45 years ago means something. And we want to salute two outstanding leaders of The Salvation Army.”
The service was held at the Dearborn Heights, Mich., Corps, in their home division, Eastern Michigan. Led by Commissioner Harold Hinson, it began with a parade of flags representing the countries where the Roberts have served including the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Kenya and the United Kingdom.
Tributes highlighted the Roberts’ authenticity, compassion, generosity, dedication, joy and unequivocal trust in God to direct their lives and ministry. Representing officers were Lt. Colonels Lonneal and Patty Richardson, while Lt. Colonels Mickey and June McLaren represented friends. Representing the family were the Roberts’ daughters, Becky Hurula and Barbara Steffes, who cleverly wove together lessons from their parents’ ministry through song with the help of the Roberts’ grandchildren. The musical presentation was full of memories and laughter and concluded with the entire family singing, “The Family of God.”
In response, Commissioners William and Nancy Roberts shared experiences and insights from their journey. “We could not have written a better story for our lives,” said Commissioner Nancy. Commissioner William added, “We have learned that there is value and fulfillment found in serving—leading by serving.”
Dr. Joseph Baunoch, the Roberts’ nephew, shared a beautiful vocal solo, “His Grace Still Amazes Me.”
Commissioners William and Nancy were then presented their Certificates of Retirement by General André and Commissioner Silvia Cox. The General recounted, “The events of the 2013 High Council led us to work together in a much closer way…I suddenly realized, ‘Lord I need a Chief of the Staff,’ and with the turmoil growing in my own heart and mind at that time it seemed a ‘big ask.’ I believe in all of that soul searching during that time God led me to the right people, and I am so grateful to you both because when I asked the question, knowing I’d be the third General to ask you to carry on, the answer was yes. I believe God chose you both for a very specific reason. I believe the Army needed experience and a steady hand, and God in that 45 years of officership had been preparing you to step up to the plate and to take that responsibility.”
He continued, citing his health issues a year ago, “When we didn’t know what the future held with my lung cancer diagnosis, with little notice you were thrust into additional responsibilities and you did so seamlessly, and the work carried on.”
In commenting on their close-knit relationship, Commissioner Silvia Cox said to Commissioner Nancy, “Thank you for who you are and for being who God wanted you to be and for the privilege to work with you.”
The celebration’s theme, “Destination Providence,” was affirmed time and again showing the Roberts’ lives were appointed every step of the way, giving glory to God.