“People say I bleed red, yellow and blue,” laughs Debbie Clarke. “But it’s probably true! I was born Salvation Army, and I just love what it stands for. The ministry, the mission, just making a difference.”
To Thompson and Back Again
Debbie was born in Lewisporte, N.L. At the age of eight, her family moved from Newfoundland and Labrador to Thompson, Man., where her father was employed.
A lifelong Salvationist, Debbie gave her heart to the Lord before the move and was very involved in the corps in Thompson, playing in the band and discovering all the wonderful activities that the Army has to offer. She was enrolled as a senior soldier at 16.
“It was the natural thing to do,” she smiles. “And as I went through a few bumps in life, I depended on God more and more.”
At the age of 24, she moved back to Newfoundland and Labrador but returned to Thompson with her husband, Wally, when he found a job there.
Emergency Disaster Services
“We were very involved in the corps,” Debbie says. “Both of us were soldiers, both of us played in the band, and youth ministry was my passion. It’s still my passion.”
Debbie moved to the divisional Salvation Army camp in Woodlands just north of the city of Winnipeg where her husband was the property manager. Starting in the kitchen, Debbie became program director, then camp director and was eventually divisional youth secretary as a layperson for a few years.
She ended up with 15 years of youth ministry. But when the camp closed, the couple moved to Winnipeg, where Debbie worked in donor relations until she found herself as the emergency disaster services specialist.
“It’s My Life”
“Emergency disaster services is something I’ve always loved,” confesses Debbie. “When I was working at the camp, I was deployed to help out during hurricane Katrina.” Since then, she has volunteered to help during hurricane Michael, as well as fires in Saskatchewan and Alberta, including the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.
“For me, doing something for someone else is just so fulfilling,” she reflects. “It’s a gift of service; that’s just me all over.
“I have a love for people, helping people journey through what is a hopeless situation and trying to find a way to show hope, dignity and love to people. It’s my life.”
“One Person at a Time”
Debbie recently returned from Romania where she was deployed for two months helping Ukrainian refugees at a reception centre.
“It was a very different deployment for me because this one was not hands in the dirt,” she explains. “It was more an emotional piece where I journeyed with people, watching their body language, hearing what wasn’t being said. I needed to show a ray of hope to people there. It was very fulfilling.”
For Debbie, ministry is at the heart of what she does.
“It’s who I am. And so, whatever I do, even if it is handing a cup of water to someone, is done with the ministry piece attached to it. I could work in the secular world, but for me it’s more fulfilling doing ministry, making a difference to just one person is just … I love it.”
And Debbie can’t imagine doing what she does anywhere else but The Salvation Army.
“The Salvation Army has a worldwide reputation, and we work hard to keep that reputation,” she continues. “Me, I’m a behind-the-scenes girl. I love doing what I’m doing, but I like to do it quietly.
“And it’s encouraging to know that we are still around after all these years, still doing what General William Booth started: making a difference, one person at a time.”