Major Lois Wheeler celebrates 50 years as an officer
Growing up on a small farm in North Dakota, Major Lois Wheeler never imagined she would spend her life as a Salvation Army officer. What she did know was that God loved her and had a plan for her life.
“When I was very young, I started saying yes to the Lord,” she said. “I can remember at age three or four understanding my sins made Jesus sad, and I didn’t want to hurt Him. I knew it was important to live in a way that pleases the Lord.”
With the support of godly parents who instilled in her strong Christian values and practices, like participation in corps activities, Lois grew to love Jesus with all her heart. As she considered what path to take after high school, she sought God’s will.
“I asked the Lord to let me be with people,” she laughed. “On the farm with only my parents for company after my sister left for officer training when I was about 14, it was a little lonely.”
God answered her prayer in a big way. In her senior year, He put a calling to officership on her heart that could not be denied.
Entering the School for Officers’ Training just one month after her eighteenth birthday, Lois was the youngest cadet in her session; she worked hard to be recognized for her faith and abilities. She was commissioned in 1969 and after only two corps appointments found herself back in Chicago on the training school staff. Before long, a first-year cadet caught her eye, and she, his.
“At the time I was resolved that God had called me into service, and He was my joy,” she said. “My happiness did not depend on marriage but on obedience to God.”
God had other plans. It was no coincidence Lois was there when Joseph Wheeler arrived on campus. The oldest of seven children, Joe spent a good portion of his younger years seeking the Lord and where he fit in the Body of Christ. He found his place at the Benton Harbor, Mich., Corps. Studying the Manual of Salvationism on his own and then discussing it with his corps officer, he was enrolled within weeks.
“As I studied to become a soldier, I received a clarion call that the Lord wanted me to be an officer,” he said. Joe was commissioned in 1976.
The Wheelers married a year later and began an adventure of ministry together serving in corps, city command, divisional and territorial appointments and experiencing joy as lives were changed. They particularly have enjoyed working closely together as territorial evangelists and currently as pastoral care officers.
“We are honored and privileged to come alongside officers and affirm them in their ministry,” said Major Joe. “God has kindly given us good health, and we love our ministry and interaction with those we serve.”
In addition to their role as pastoral counselors, the Wheelers took on the responsibility of leading the territorial Emotional and Spiritual Care hotline earlier this year in response to the pandemic. They continue to reach out to officers at the local level, being concerned particularly for single corps officers who have no one to share the load. Though unable to visit over a cup of coffee or a meal as they usually would, they are mailing handwritten notes and making use of technology to support and encourage officers through emails, calls and video chats until it is safe to begin traveling again. “We pray for their provision, protection and peace,” said Major Joe.
“Some days have been more challenging than others,” concluded Major Lois as she reflects on 50 years as an officer. “But it’s all good. Any day we get to pray with someone is a good day.”