Sometimes God calls us to serve in our community, other times in a neighbouring town. For Rich Cannon, God’s call led him across the world—literally, from Australia to Canada—and to The Salvation Army’s Meadowlands Corps in Ancaster, Ont., just outside of Hamilton.
Ticket to Ride
Originally from New Zealand, Rich always knew about the Army, but he grew up attending a megachurch before walking away from God at 17.
After “hitting rock bottom” at age 20, Rich returned to church and felt God directing him to Australia.
“I felt God and the Holy Spirit calling me to step out of my familiar place,” he recalls. “I listened to what God put on my heart and, at the age of 21, I booked a one-way ticket to Melbourne. I trusted in God and had only him to lean on.”
Reaching the Disregarded
While in Australia, Rich became immersed in outreach, which he had done as a student youth leader in New Zealand.
“Most churches I’ve experienced have strong youth and young-adult programs. But there’s nothing for those ‘transitional teenagers,’ ” he explains. “Around 17 to 20 is when you’re exposed to so much and must make critical life decisions. It’s a crucial time, and there’s not many programs that cater to that group.”
Rich began doing youth ministry with Planet Shakers Church, but after COVID-19 lockdowns, he stepped away to establish an outreach ministry called Young Visionaries—which is still running today. Using creativity and art, the goal was to connect with young adults who had lost contact with the church.
“I felt this group was disregarded after they left. That didn’t sit right with me because Jesus would leave the 99 for the one.”
In 2019, Rich had visited New York City, where he met Ashlynn, and after a lengthy long-distance relationship, they married in 2022.
Afterward, when figuring out where to live as a couple, despite having youth ministry offers in Australia, they decided to settle in Canada. Rich desired to do youth and creative ministry in North America.
While searching, he felt that no position fit the mould he was praying for until he saw one with The Salvation Army.
Having prior knowledge of the organization, he says the decision was easy.
“I’m very passionate about outreach,” Rich says. “Many churches were offering conventional youth pastor jobs. That’s great, but they were missing that outreach component. The Salvation Army is boots on the ground, actively involved in community. I’m drawn to that because I want to bring the church to people.”
His desire for a church with sound doctrines also contributed to his decision to take the job.
“I had a turning point in faith,” Rich goes on to say. “I realized I needed to go somewhere that preached a gospel about repentance and surrender. When you read Scripture, it’s about laying down your life and surrendering. That wasn’t preached in the places I grew up in. It was about how you can be blessed and prosper. It was a self-serving gospel.”
He believes The Salvation Army is scripturally sound and has helped him dig deeper into God’s Word and rediscover what it means to follow him.
As the new youth outreach facilitator at Meadowlands, Rich has big—but humble—goals.
“The angle isn’t about building youth ministry; it’s about seeing kingdom culture influence mainstream culture,” he states. “I would like to see our programs running in schools, our people evangelizing in the streets, influencing media.”
For Rich, it’s not as simple as drawing people into a youth or young-adult group or hiring someone to run programs.
“More important than employing people is deploying people,” he says. “Once we get youth and young adults in, it doesn’t stop there. Are we going out, sending people out and making disciples who are influencing the world for God?”
If Salvationists can answer yes, then for Rich, that is success.