When Stephanie Purdy officially became a Salvation Army soldier this past April at St. John’s Temple, N.L., she invited many of her non-Army friends to attend the ceremony. “I was leaving my old life behind and starting anew,” she says. “But I wanted to be accountable to my friends inside and outside the church. I wanted them to see me, sharing my faith at that moment.”
Originally from Venezuela, Purdy and her parents, Andy and Sonia Albert, immigrated to Montreal in the late 1990s, where they gravitated to Montreal Citadel.
“We didn’t know much about Canada or The Salvation Army until we got here,” Purdy says. “We stayed, despite the snow and the cold. We felt safe in Canada, and The Salvation Army became our second home.”
Purdy’s parents became Salvationists, and the couple made the decision to become officers and attended the College for Officer Training when it was located in St. John’s.
“That’s why I’m here,” laughs Purdy. “My parents were commissioned in 2005. I lived with them for a year while I finished high school, but I returned to St. John’s. I had no ties to Sherbrooke, Que., where my parents were stationed, so I decided to see if I could make it on my own. It was a scary decision, but it solidified my faith. I love it here!”
The Big Picture
During that time, she met and married Tim Purdy in 2012, who is pursuing a degree in ocean and naval architectural engineering at the Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Purdy herself is a fourth-year nursing student at MUN.
“We actually met through a mutual friend who invited us both to be on the university’s Salvation Army Student Fellowship worship team—or as they appropriately call it, ‘The Salvation Army Spouse Finder,’ ” smiles Purdy.
Purdy was happy and grounded in her faith. Considering that her parents are officers and her husband is a soldier, soldiership might have seemed the next logical step. But Purdy’s decision to become a soldier was the product of years of inner debate.
“There wasn’t any pressure put on me,” she states, “but there was an expectation, and I rebelled against that. I treasured my individuality and freedom. But I also believed in the biblical injunction: from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.”
One day, Purdy was out for a drive and had a debate with God.
I want to answer your call and I want to be obedient, she prayed.
“And this voice in my head, which I know was the Holy Spirit, replied, ‘You not doing anything is disobedience. I’m asking you what I’ve been asking you for years.’ ”
It was either become a soldier or disobey God.
“To be honest, it’s not something I necessarily wanted to do at that point but I knew that that was what I was required to do,” explains Purdy. “But getting where I felt OK with it took a couple of months.”
And that only happened the morning of her enrolment at St. John’s Temple, when she donned her uniform for the first time.
“I realized I was part of this bigger picture,” Purdy smiles. “Soldiership wasn’t taking away my individuality—it was making me part of something bigger than myself.”
“Stephanie demonstrates a sense of genuine joy in her service as a soldier,” says Major Rene Loveless, corps officer at the temple. “She has a servant heart that expresses itself in her caring and compassionate response toward others, through her involvement at the corps and by her leadership of our cradle roll ministry.”
Becoming a soldier radically changed Purdy’s faith.
“I never tried to hide the fact that I was a member of The Salvation Army but it’s so much more public now,” she says. “People can see so much of what I am, and the godly standard I aspire to, without even knowing my name, and I’m just fine with that.”
Is officership in Purdy’s future?
“I used to say no,” she replies, “but you never know what God has in store. We can only see bits of the puzzle that God has mapped out for us, so I’m happy taking it one step at a time.”