14 June 2018


By John Ollis


Annually The Salvation Army conduct what is called “Youth Councils” which are a series of meetings, especially designed to encourage young people to consider full time ministry (Officership) I began attending from age 13, and either the very first year or maybe the 2nd I became strongly aware that God had placed a call to ministry on my life, the awareness was so strong, I could not doubt it. There wasn’t a struggle I knew it was right, and I committed myself to it, and from that day on, only had one goal and that was to go to College and train to be an officer. The Youth Councils were a highlight of my year as it gave me the opportunity to meet other Christian young people. I met a group of youth from a regional Victorian city and developed a great connection with them. So much so I decided to resign my job at 16+ years and move to that city. My parents had no objection, I quickly found accommodation and employment and became involved in the local Salvation Army, at last I had growing Christian friendships, that were truly life changing.
Two older spinster ladies  who were school teachers began to attend the corps, they were different and probably extreme in some ways. They met every morning at 6.30am for prayer for an hour, and invited me to join them, this was an exciting new experience and adventure for me. They also gave me a small book written by a William Booth Clibborn entitled “The Baptism in the Holy Spirit”. I was happy to read it as there was obviously a Salvation Army connection. (Mrs. Booth Clibborn was the daughter of William Booth the founder of the S.A.) The Booth Clibbor’s  had experienced this “Baptism” which included for them “speaking in tongues” the same experience the 120 had experienced on the day of Pentecost. I was encouraged by these ladies to seek this experience.
After being away from home for a couple of years I received word that my mother was unwell, so I decided to return to Melbourne, and again was involved in the grocery business. One night kneeling by my bedside I began to “speak in tongues” it was quite an experience, although I must honestly say the next week was personally a “wilderness” experience, as I had no teaching on the Spirit filled life, and had a very defeated week. My mother’s health improved so I returned to the regional city, but because of my bedside experience I began to attend a fledgling Pentecostal church, where I was baptised in water, and began to weekly partake of Communion. I received so good teaching but was still very immature, and a person really upset me one day and I withdrew. That very same week I bumped into the local Salvation Army officer on the street, and he invited me back to the “Army” but also said if I came back he would make me the Corps Sergeant Major, which is the highest lay position in a local corps. This of course pandered to my pride and I accepted. The next Sunday I was back in uniform and sitting on the platform in front of over 100 people. They surely must have wondered what was going on.
The call of God on my life was as strong as ever, so I eventually applied to enter College at the beginning of 1962. It is a 2 year program and the first year quickly went by with much blessing and encouragement. At the start of the 2nd year cadets (students) are sent to a corps for practical training for 4 months, I was sent to assist at a small Victorian country town, I began to enjoy preaching, but hated collected money most days. In those days like most denominations there was strong antagonism against the Pentecostal/Charismatic experience. I began to realise that I had no real future as a Salvation Army officer (the attitude 50 years on is very different today).So I did not return to College but began attending a good solid Pentecostal church in Melbourne and in February 1964 entered Commonwealth Bible College in Brisbane (The Assemblies of God) and what a year of teaching and development and growth, I was starting to really “live the dream”. I graduated in the December with a Diploma in Bible & Theology. I had been sent as part of a team of students to a local church in Brisbane, and on graduation was invited to be their Assistant Pastor  which I accepted, the church was small and on my return to Brisbane after Christmas I took a job. Within three months everything changed and I will write about this in my next blog.