Interview with Commissioner Yvonne Westrupp: A passionate developer of people
The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa Territory is preparing to farewell our President of Women's Ministries Commissioner Yvonne Westrupp, retiring at the end of this year after completing forty years of service.
Territorial Secretary for Women's Ministries' Colonel Heather Rodwell asks Yvonne about the successes, visions and hope she carries with her.
Yvonne and I met as teenagers in the early 1970’s at The Salvation Army Dunedin South Corps. Those years were significant in both of our lives, and I never would have guessed we’d end up serving together in our final appointments.
As Yvonne prepares to enter retirement we can be certain her days of missional engagement and living to make a difference are not ending. Yvonne is someone who has triggered new conversations about the place and focus of Women’s Ministries going forward. She is not one to be satisfied with status-quo. Countless times I've witnessed Yvonne's incisive questions emerge in the midst of a whirl of discussion. Hers is the voice of godly wisdom.
Many of you will have your own reasons to be grateful for Yvonne’s life and ministry. Today we honour her as a woman of valour who has not been afraid to disturb the present.
You have demonstrated a passionate commitment to developing others. Why is this important to you?
Yvonne: I am energised by developing others and encouraging them to be all God has designed them to be. I love seeing people discover their gifts and strengths and find a place to use them. This comes from my own journey of discovering who I am, how God has gifted me and the people who spoke into my life encouraging me that I have something to offer. I believe every person is unique and has a God-designed purpose and contribution to make. Sometimes people can’t see it yet, but when we position ourselves in God’s plan, we shine.
As a woman in leadership what have you discovered about sustaining the pace?
'When you are given an opportunity to lead, take it, even if it requires courage and is out of your comfort zone.'
Yvonne: Sustaining the pace is an ongoing challenge for all people in leadership. It takes continual reviewing of priorities, spiritual input, refreshment and flexibility around tasks. Learning to decide what really matters and focusing on that is a key.
In relation to being a woman officer in leadership there has been huge change over my service as an officer. There are so many more opportunities now to lead, and there’s space to find your leadership style and where you fit in the Army. I was given some wise advice a few years ago and I have done my best to follow it – 'When you are given an opportunity to lead, take it, even if it requires courage and is out of your comfort zone.'
If I could take the experience I have now and go back to the beginning of my officership I would do things differently. I would focus on the things that are the priority, I would be more courageous and I would take the opportunities given to me even when I didn’t feel confident.
As you conclude 40 years as a Salvation Army officer, what gives you hope for our future in this territory?
Connecting to God: The wonderful response to the New Zeal events and the call to seek an encounter with God. There is great hope when people’s hearts are toward God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Connecting to young people: The young people who connect with the Army’s mission and calling and just want to get on with it. They are courageous and not afraid to challenge the way we do things.
Connecting to one another: The amazing growth of connectedness with our social service ministry and our worshipping communities and the fact that people are experiencing spiritual transformation and then offering to serve in the Army.
Women’s Ministries has changed substantially over the years. How would you like to see this continuing, going forward?
Yvonne: I can see a positive change in progress in our Territory. People are seeing Women’s Ministries as an open door to opportunities rather than as a set model. This change that is taking place allows women to dream of what could be, to make changes along the way and to be relevant to their own settings. Women of vision, courage, passion for mission and a desire to be relevant are leading the change and I look forward to seeing this continue.
I am encouraged with the progress in The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa Territory in reference to gender equity, particularly with women officers. After reading Raewyn Hendy’s thesis, 'LASSES, LIVE UP TO YOUR PRIVILEGES, AND STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!', Gender Equality in The Salvation Army in New Zealand, 1883-1960' it became clear to me that, over time, the Army had moved away from some of the radical views and opportunities for women in leadership of the early days. Now I can see that we are again moving to align ourselves with this fundamental belief/value.
This is in line with my heart for people and their gifts and potential and it gives me great hope.
If you want to share a memory, prayer or a word of encouragement you have for Commissioner Yvonne, then head over to The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa Women's Ministries' Facebook Page and leave a comment!
By Colonel Heather L Rodwell
Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries
The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa