Q&A with Colonel Ralph BukiewiczColonel Ralph Bukiewicz has recently been appointed as the national chief secretary.
01. How did you first meet the Army?
I grew up in a very impoverished part of Milwaukee, WI where my sister and I provided as much care for our two blind parents as they provided for us. The Salvation Army had a unique ministry to families of visually-handicapped adults, and we benefitted from their compassion and support. I remember how those wonderful people who wore strange outfits loved us, expressing that love with thoughtful gifts at Christmas, boxes of food during the year and an invitation to spend a week at Army Lake Camp. At age 14, I recognized my need for a right relationship with God and experienced that by giving my heart and life to Jesus Christ. I became a senior soldier later that year and began an amazing journey of Salvation Army ministry and membership.
02. What is your favorite event or program in the Army?
Initially, it was all the Army’s music programs where I discovered a place to belong, develop my interests and express my faith. However, that has quickly expanded to include any program or event where lives are transformed—camp opportunities, shelters, assistance programs, youth activities and adult ministries!
03. What has been one of your biggest joys as an officer?
It’s difficult to narrow it down to a single experience, as the Army has given me opportunities to minister around the world and to have a frontline view of how God impacts and transforms lives. Yet, some of the most significant honors are in the less visible and quieter moments of praying with individuals as their loved one slips into the arms of God, to provide a ministry of presence in settings where words fall short, and to provide lifelong pastoral care to those who were involved in earlier appointments.
04. What has been one of your biggest challenges as a leader?
Throughout my faith journey, I have developed a strong resolve to ensure that biblical truth, standards and values are embraced in all areas of Salvation Army ministry. We live and serve in a world that might prefer that we adopt cultural worldviews and adopt more popular practices. As leaders, we will always face the challenge to compromise, weaken or even remove Christ from the center of our mission. However, in His strength, I will always stand firm for His call, His purposes and His glory.
05. How do you nurture your own spiritual life as a busy officer?
At the heart is Sola scriptura—His Word alone—where His Truth is preserved by His Spirit, regardless of public opinion, cultural perspective or personal bias. Added to that main course are a number of devotional materials, blogs and podcasts, and other great resources that will stretch and equip me. I am also eager to learn from many wise saints who surround me with their experience and wisdom!
06. Who has had the greatest influence on your officership?
The standards of Salvationism and officership were modeled for me as a young boy by those officers who offered unconditional love and care for our family as we experienced need. I don’t know whether they were great preachers, effective administrators or “successful” officers by standards of advancement—but they knew how to love! I want to be like them in these most important ways.
07. What are your hobbies?
Photography, graphic design, music, movies and hiking.
08. What are you currently reading (or a book you would recommend)?
I find myself coming back to reread “Leadership Prayers” by Richard Kriegbaum and “Tozer for the Christian Leader” from the collected works of A.W. Tozer. These books challenge and stretch me every time I open them.
09. What is your favorite scripture verse?
My favorite changes throughout the seasons of life, but right now, it is 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (NIV).
10. What are your hopes/goals for 2023 and your new appointment?
My wife and I look forward to discovering, supporting and experiencing a nationwide expression of Salvation Army ministry; expanding the sphere of those who can speak into our lives and being open to what God has prepared for us in places, in times and with people yet unknown.