Nearly 38 years of joint active Salvation Army officership were concluded on 1 April 2016 as Commissioners Steven and Judith Hedgren entered retirement. Their retirement ceremony was conducted by General André Cox, assisted by Commissioner Silvia Cox, World President of Women’s Ministries.
The spirit of rejoicing was all the more present because of the circumstances preceding the Hedgren’s retirement. A little over five years ago – on the eve of their taking the leadership reins of the USA Eastern Territory – Commissioner Steven Hedgren was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer. A series of aggressive treatments followed, that at times left the commissioner totally exhausted and requiring, for a while, total isolation to ensure he did not pick up any infection. No one could guarantee a positive outcome, but the Hedgrens continued to affirm that they were ready for whatever God’s will might be.
While willing to step away from their heavy responsibilities as territorial leaders, the Hedgrens continued to serve in that capacity aided by a dedicated staff. Ultimately, on his doctor’s advice, Commissioner Hedgren asked the General to relieve him of command as territorial commander. The Hedgrens returned to the USA Southern Territory where they were appointed as senior consultants while Commissioner Steve continued treatment.
In talking about their move to the South, Commissioner Judith Hedgren said, ‘We didn’t know if we were coming home to plan a funeral or a retirement.’ But God worked in an unexpected way as Commissioner Steven saw a steady improvement in his health – far beyond anything that could have been predicted by medical experts. Stronger than he has been since the ordeal began, Commissioner Steven testifies to God’s greatness and goodness as well as his total peace with whatever might lie ahead.
This victorious theme weaved its way throughout the many tributes paid to Commissioners Hedgren by family, friends and ministry associates from the three USA territories – Central, Eastern and Southern – where they served.
In presenting their retirement certificates, General Cox proclaimed: ‘God has been faithful to you throughout your active officership. While you have had days of sunshine you have also had days of uncertainty. But God has been there. And even in these latter days of particular trial, he may very well have used you most mightily as a witness. Your lives testify to the One who has called you.’