We spend a lot of time at work, whether at the office or working from home. Although our desks are home to the usual business clutter, we also make space for our own personal pictures, photos and other mementos. David Youngmeyer spoke with four Salvation Army staff about the story behind a significant object in their workspace.
Major Nigel Luscombe, Mission Project Officer, Territorial Headquarters (THQ), Defense Force Chaplain
Significant object: Japanese door curtain, blue cotton with white Japanese characters and images of deer, a forest, and a stream, divided into three panels, 90cm x 42cm.
The door panel is mounted on my office door at THQ in Wellington. It is special to me, not only for the meaning of the text, but also because of my connection with Japan.
I majored in Japanese for my BA degree and spent two and a half years with The Salvation Army in Japan. I can read Japanese and speak it to a lesser extent. I continue to practise by doing my daily Bible reading in Japanese.
The door curtain was a gift from the Japanese Salvation Army band that visited New Zealand in 1998. I was the corps officer at Feilding at the time, and accompanied the band throughout the South Island and to Wellington to help with logistics.
The Japanese writing is from Psalm 42:1, which in English reads: ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you.’ To me, the verse means that we don’t have just one drink, but constantly go back to drink. It’s the same for our souls: we go back to God on an ongoing basis.
The door curtain was up on my office door in Southern Division in Christchurch. Several colleagues who came to my office jokingly complained that they had to bend down to get in. I always replied with a line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: ‘Only the penitent man will pass’.
I was assigned to Japan in 2018, where I was the assistant business secretary and property secretary at THQ in Tokyo, and later also became the executive officer for the Japan Staff Band. I came back to New Zealand mid-2020, where I was territorial risk and audit manager for a year and am now mission projects officer.
Captain Julie Turner, Regional Leader, Samoa Region
Significant object: Painting of flowers on bright background with dark surround, acrylic on canvas, 51cm x 75cm.
This is a painting on the wall of my home office in Apia.
I started my posting in Samoa with my husband Eric in January 2021. Previously, we were directors at The Salvation Army’s Epsom Lodge in Auckland for four and a half years.
The Salvation Army has been running an Alcohol and Other Drugs Programme at Samoa’s main prison, Tanumalala Prison, since August 2021. As part of this relationship, I was invited to a talent quest at the prison for prisoners, which was attended by their families. It was an amazingly positive event in a prison environment.
This flower painting—created by an inmate—caught my eye. It has a real life about it. I love the painting because it speaks to me of light coming out of darkness. It speaks to The Salvation Army’s mission to bring light to where there isn’t any.
I ended up meeting the artist and I bought the painting. It’s something special from Samoa and I’ll treasure it forever.
Captain Jacob Howan, Corps Officer, Blenheim Corps
Significant object: Photocopied colour handout of Rembrandt’s 1633 oil painting The Storm on the Sea of Galilee on one side and class exercises on the other, laminated, A4 page.
This picture is pinned to a noticeboard on my desk at Blenheim Corps. I received it in 2015 during my first year at Booth College of Mission in Upper Hutt, where I was in training to be a Salvation Army officer. It was a handout for a class activity, so there are questions for discussion on the back.
The picture shows a dark and stormy sea with waves crashing over a fishing boat. While most of the crew are struggling to control the boat, Jesus is calming things down. In the distance is a visible wedge of blue sky.
The scene is full of meaning for me. It seems that sometimes despite our best efforts, life constantly finds a way to throw rubbish at us. At times like that, it can feel like we are in a storm. Looking at this picture reminds me that no matter what difficulties I face in my life, things will get better. I think it is helpful to be able to look beyond our current situation.
I’ve taken the picture everywhere with me. First it was on my desk at the college, followed by three years in Tīmaru where I was corps officer, and now it is still with me in my third year as corps officer in Blenheim.
Sam Coates, Senior Graphic Designer, THQ
Significant object: Transparent plastic cube, from SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium. Features two penguins standing on ice, 5cm x 5cm x 5cm.
This little cube has been on my desk at THQ since I started working for The Salvation Army in early 2017. It’s a fun item and although it is essentially an Australian souvenir, its real significance to me is that it was a present from my then-girlfriend (now wife), Talya.
I met Talya in late 2016, when I was in my previous job as a designer at an advertising agency. About three weeks after moving to The Salvation Army, we decided to start dating.
A couple of days after this, Talya went to Australia on a pre-planned holiday. It was hard to be apart just after we started dating, so my mind was very much on Talya.
What makes the cube so special is that Talya was thinking of me when she bought it. The object itself doesn’t mean a lot, it’s all about the emotional connotation it has about our relationship.
I brought the cube into THQ in early 2017 and put it on my desk where it has been ever since. I probably wouldn’t have looked at it again if I’d kept it at home. While it is on my desk at the office, it always reminds me of Talya.
We married in December 2018.