My Calling to Officership: Lt. Mark Cancia

May 3, 2023 | by Brad Rowland

My Calling to Officership: Lt. Mark Cancia

I was a kid when my family transitioned from the Haitian Baptist Church and got connected with The Salvation Army. For my dad, it was a reconnection because he was an officer in the Caribbean Territory. But for many of us, it was our first encounter. When I got connected with The Salvation Army, I loved it because I could understand everything that was being spoken since it was in English. The second reason was because the meetings were shorter and a meal was served afterward.

At the corps, I became part of the programs and then went camping during the summer. As I grew older, I continued to connect with the various ministries of The Salvation Army, including working at camp and the Salvationist Service Corps, then taking on local leadership responsibilities at the corps where I was going to college.

I had seen officers and appreciated their work. I saw it as something that was admirable. As I got to high school, understanding the way we impacted the lives of people for good, I knew that that was something that I wanted to be part of. When I was 15, I attended a youth councils when they made a call to officership. I responded to that call because of everything that I had seen being done in the corps. I knew that that was something that I wanted to do as an adult. What's nice is that the way the Lord wired me as an individual aligned very well with the work that we do as The Salvation Army.

After I was called I continued to experience life, by obtaining a higher education. As I realized more about what The Salvation Army does in the community, I realized the need for an individual to be educated and well-rounded to connect in the community and to relate well with others. I chose a couple of college degrees. I went to Tallahassee Community College first and got a general education degree, and then Florida State University. Both of those experiences allowed me to connect with people and learn about different disciplines that prepared me for the work that we do.

While at Tallahassee Community College, I was part of the Student Government Association, which gave me insight into leadership and organization. I was also able to be part of other extracurricular activities like college cheerleading program, which connected me with other people that were experts when it came to athletics. When I went to Florida State, I studied interdisciplinary social sciences, which helped me understand communities and what it takes for communities to thrive, whether it be education, transportation, government sanitation, medicine. As an organization I began to wonder, "How can the gospel connect within a community?" When I actually went to the training school, those things helped my thinking about individuals and community and what it takes to connect well within both.

I thought the training college was going to be like a more traditional college atmosphere. But it wasn't. There weren't athletics on campus but the same communal aspects were there. It was interesting to me that we were reviewed in the way that we were. I thought that was helpful because while I got feedback on my work. That was helpful in my understanding of what I do and how other people perceive it in the community.

Upon being commissioned, I was sent to Louisville, Kentucky as the assistant corps officer for a year. Then I was sent to Nashville, Tennessee, where I was the student ministry coordinator. Then I went to Ashland, Kentucky to stabilize the operation at the beginning of the pandemic for three months. Then back to Nashville. Shortly after returning to Nashville, I was appointed to Jackson.

I did not foresee the administrative responsibility of officership because growing up, I saw everything done publicly or behind the pulpit. I had heard of statistics, but I didn't know exactly what the implementation of statistics looked like. I understand its value because our administration helps us do the work, both direct service and telling the story of what we do.

The best thing about officership is doing the work. It's showing up. It's being present and active in the community. The corps is a center of influence, a place where people can come, be inspired, part of work that changes lives for good.

I love Jesus, so it's important to remember that in Him, we live and move and have our being. Officership can become challenging when we forget that or when we leave Jesus behind. But we have to remember that He goes before us, He's with us, and He will continue to be even after we're gone.

My advice for anyone becoming an officer is to find a mentor, somebody that is currently doing it. Talk to them, work with them, learn from them, connect with them.

It's hard to measure impact or value of a changed life. What officers do is we improve lives every day through the sharing of the gospel, through the provision of program services or opportunities that people may not otherwise have access to.

It's incredible. This work that we get to do as officers is humbling because of the magnitude of it. It's an honor. It's honorable work because of what we get to do and be part of in the lives of people. Whether you're working with a donor or somebody who's dependent upon our services, we're creating opportunities for people to live fuller lives, the lives that Jesus had intended each one of us, for us to live. John 10:10 states that Jesus came so that we could live abundant lives. And the life of an officer living with The Salvation Army, allows people on all stages of the spectrum to experience a fuller life.

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