My Calling: A testimony from Lt. Antonio Hodges
I’m from Portsmouth, Virginia. My mom migrated from Antigua, West Indies. After a failed marriage, my siblings and I were raised by a single mom who did all she could. She worked a full-time job as well as being a full-time student. I got to the Army through one of our babysitters who introduced our family to The Salvation Army. I was two, my sister was three and a half and my brother was nine. Our first officers were the Penhales. My mom did all she could, we pretty much were taken in by the Penhales. I saw The Salvation Army serving at a very early age and that changed the trajectory of our lives.
I always wanted to know that I could in the same way give back to the community and others the way that the Army did for me. So I’ve felt from an early age that I was called. I felt like God wanted me to give back. I’ve always wanted to serve, to help.
In high school, I fell in love with cooking. I was in the restaurant life becoming a manager for a few restaurants. I had a chance to work at the home office to open new restaurants, train people, and set those up. I feel like God owns all of that. I met my wife, who was a behavior therapist helping autistic children. I thought that was going to be our life. I feel like I was called earlier, but my wife had different plans, so we lived our life for that.
Then one day she said, “Well, I feel like I’m called.” Afterwards we butted heads a couple of times. I was excited when she told me, but I didn’t believe it because we’d already gone through this discussion. We decided that we were going to fulfill our calling to officership. God used everything that we had for this. I see that He was ordering our way the whole time.
We entered training in 2019 and were hit by the Covid shutdown. It was different. But I thank God for our training experience. The community we had through the pandemic era allowed us to do things together differently but handle it so that everything worked out.
When I became an officer, I already knew what officers went through, but that was on the outside looking in. Finally stepping into it I saw you truly impact the lives of others. People bring their heaviness to you and pour out their lives. Seeing life and what people go through is where you start to grow.
The hardest thing about officership is understanding all the hats we have to put on. It’s not just an officer hat or a pastoral care hat, or social service—it’s a lot of everything. An officer becomes the one-stop shop for a lot of people that depend on the Army. You want to be all of that at the same time. You want to jump in and do whatever it takes to help others, serve and be there for them. I want to be all in and give it all that I got. That can be overwhelming sometimes.
I’m very excited about my wife and me doing this ministry together with my family. Together, we are all doing this, and we all share our ups and downs together. It’s exciting to my wife and I growing and seeing our kids right there with us through everything. It’s a lot of love, a lot of smiles, and even a little sad times—together.
For anyone who might read this and feels like God is speaking to them about being an officer I would say that God’s calling is for all of us. Once you know that’s what God wants you to do in The Salvation Army, don’t look back to other things. You can fully go in knowing that this is what God has called you to do. Share your light through this avenue, no matter what happens. Even if you’re young, you can grow and be strengthened by your calling.
I thank God for the walk that we have. It goes through different routes. He’ll always be with you if you follow His plan and lean on His direction. He’ll always get you to right exactly where you need to be. We have a feeding program and my restaurant life and serving customers helps a lot. I never knew that I could use that or that would be my greatest advantage so that we have one of the strongest feeding programs in this area. God let me use all of that. He’ll take anything and it’s going to be beautiful.