In their 25 years of ministry, Majors Judy and Vaden Vincent have served in corps and social services in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Nova Scotia, bringing their family with them on their journey through officership. Major Judy felt she was doing God’s work as she ministered to some of society’s most vulnerable—children, seniors and people experiencing homelessness.

But as Majors Vincent explored their passions in ministry, they were also navigating the burdens of mental health at home. “Mental illness is difficult in our family,” says Major Judy. “We’ve struggled. Our children have both struggled.”

These challenges reached a critical point in 2017 and Major Judy’s life changed forever when their son, Brock, took his own life. Now, six years later, she tearfully recounts her story and the relationship with God that has carried her through.

On Their Journey

Mjr Judy sits on the beach during a visit to her hometown, Valley Pond, N.L.
Mjr Judy sits on the beach during a visit to her hometown, Valley Pond, N.L.

Major Judy was raised in Valley Pond, N.L.—a small community with a big Salvation Army influence. As a teenager, she felt God calling her to officership, but she was anxious. “I was nervous and concerned,” says Major Judy. “I felt like I couldn’t do it myself.” 

It wasn’t until she was married with two young children, Brada and Brock, that Major Judy and her husband, Major Vaden, made the decision to answer God’s call. “I was still worried, but I began thinking, It might be possible now,” she says.

In 1995, the Vincents moved their family to St. John’s, N.L., to attend training college. “As Salvation Army officers, I’ve heard many say that their kids struggle because of the moving. I think my kids struggled with the adjustment, too,” explains MajorJudy, who spent many years as a stay-at-home mom before entering training college.  

Two years later, Majors Vincent were commissioned in the Messengers of God’s Love Session. They were relieved to move from St. John’s back to a small community for their first appointment in Hant’s Harbour, N.L., now Lower Trinity Corps. After five years in corps appointments, they became divisional youth leaders in the then Newfoundland and Labrador East Division, where they ministered to children and youth at Camp Starrigan. “We enjoyed that immensely. I loved working in the kitchen with the ladies and working with the kids. We loved the camping,” says Major Judy.

From left, Brada, Mjr Vaden Vincent, Mjr Judy and Brock at the Vincents’ commissioning in 1997
From left, Brada, Mjr Vaden Vincent, Mjr Judy and Brock at the Vincents’ commissioning in 1997

A drastic change from their time at camp, Majors Vincent were later appointed to the Booth Centre in Hamilton, Ont., where they served the people experiencing homelessness downtown, followed by appointments in Ottawa—Major Vaden as area commander and MajorJudy as director of spiritual care at Grace Manor, a long-term care facility.

During her time ministering to children, seniors and men experiencing homelessness, chaplaincy became Major Judy’s greatest passion. “I think it brings a little bit of hope where most of them have none—just to be able to talk to someone who is not going to criticize them or tell them what they are doing wrong, but just listen. Let them cry,” she says. “A lot of times you can’t fix what is wrong, but I think the best thing you can offer is your presence and a listening ear.”

The Hardest Year 

In 2017, as they approached 20 years in ministry together, Majors Vincent faced the most difficult year of their lives.

“We knew Brock struggled with mental illness,” says Major Judy. After a few failed relationships, he moved back home with his parents, now stationed in Halifax at the Centre of Hope. “He wanted a family, to get married and have children, but he didn’t feel like it was in the cards for him.”

On January 4, 2017, Major Judy took Brock to a doctor’s appointment. When they came home, she told him she would go and get his prescription from the pharmacy, less than five minutes away. “When I returned, he’d taken his life,” she says. “He struggled more than we ever realized, and he didn’t want to talk about it. I think he felt there was no way out.

“That day was the hardest day of my life. I found him. It was hard on me physically, mentally, spiritually—to face something like that as a minister when we’re trying to minister to other people who are struggling. We thought, Where did we go wrong? What did we do?” says Major Judy.

“I know that a lot of people see suicide differently than I do, but I see God just taking Brock in his arms and carrying him home. That’s my belief and that’s what keeps me going,” she says. “If I didn’t believe that, I don’t know what I’d do.”

In the same year, Major Judy suffered an accident where she was hit by a garage door. She sustained a severe concussion and was in the hospital for many days. “When I came out of the hospital, I had to use a walker because I was so dizzy I couldn’t walk,” says Major Judy. “It was a difficult year.” 

Sufficient Grace

Majors Vincent found ways to cope together. They took long drives, put Brock’s baby photos in a special album and displayed his pictures on a bookshelf. “We went to see a counsellor, a beautiful Christian woman, and she helped. She would pray with us,” she says. Major Judy also participated in music therapy, a clinical form of music intervention for a variety of mental and physical disorders such as post-traumatic stress, depression, Alzheimer’s, substance abuse and anxiety.

“I don’t blame God. It was hard even going to church, but I think it was one of the only things that got me through. God is carrying us through,” says Major Judy, whose favourite Scripture has always been 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

“There are many times that I have felt very weak,” she shares. “God is continually bringing us through. He is our constant every day.” 

Mjr Judy’s daughter, Brada, with her sons Avery and Braden
Mjr Judy’s daughter, Brada, with her sons Avery and Braden 

In the corps and at work, Majors Vincent found good friends who helped support them through the tough year, including Majors Wade and Linda Budgell, then divisional leaders in the Maritime Division, who spent time with them, took them out to meals and helped them move into a new house. “We couldn’t have asked for any more compassion.”

Peace and Healing

Major Judy retired from active service in June 2022, and following her husband’s retirement later this year, they plan to return to Newfoundland and Labrador and become involved in a corps there. She reads, quilts and embroiders, and she is excited for the next stage of her journey—peace and healing.

Majors Vincent cherish their family and two teenage grandsons, Braden and Avery, who remind them of Brock in many ways. Their daughter, Brada, and son-in-law, Christopher, continue to be a strong, loving support system.

“If you’ve got kids, make sure that as parents, you spend time with them, talk to them and listen to your kids. Make sure they are healthy, physically and mentally,” says Major Judy. “Mental illness is a big thing. We don’t cover it up. We talk about it.” 

For help, visit:

The Salvation Army Crisis / Hope Line 
905-522-1477 or 1-855-294-4673


On Friday, May 5, 2023, Nicole Muzichuk said:

I’m so sad and so sorry to read this story, I also have two teenagers that struggle mental illness. Keeping you in my prayers and you can also keep me and my family in yours, we all need prayer.

On Friday, May 5, 2023, Heather McDonald said:

My heart is breaking for both of you! What a tragedy - and your willingness to share your story. My son deals with mental health issues as well as some intellectual difficulties, and our journey has been very hard, with lots of ups and downs for over 15 years at least. We have prayed for him, and have to trust that he’s in God’s care. Even when he threatens suicide and the experts claim that he doesn’t really mean it! My prayers are with you !

On Thursday, May 4, 2023, Arlene Holland said:

I’m sorry for the pain and loss of your son you have experienced. So thankful you have your Heavenly Fathers love and comfort. He knows your pain and loss. Our Saviour indeed suffered much loss and pain in losing His children. Loss,s of brutal deaths and loss of unbelievers. He truly has experienced all that we experience. I pray that you will see the joy of your son’s life with the one who called and created him. And trusted him to your loving care while on earth. May you continue to feel His comfort, presence, love and care all the days of your lives. Be still and know He is always beside you. As you sleep each night, feel His glory resting upon you. God bless you and your generations. Love and hug, Arlene

On Thursday, May 4, 2023, Devavaram Prathipaty said:

A very beautiful expression of an officer’s personal spiritual journey and ministry as officers of The Army. Thank you for the story. May God use you in your retirement for His glory.

On Thursday, May 4, 2023, Ira Barrow said:

Dear Judy, the other people have expressed so well my thoughts about the everlasting arms of God. I believe they are the "ever waiting" arms too. Your story is amazing to read and it will be an inspiration for other people. I remember you, mainly, as that rather quiet, angelic, young womnn in Old Testament classes. I think I learned more from cadets like you, than you and they leaned from me. I will continue to pray for you, knowing the journey of grief never ends. But His grace is sufficient! All the promise of God are sure!

On Thursday, May 4, 2023, Joyce. Barry said:

Thank you for sharing from your heart. As a person who has been touched by the heartbreak of suicide, I firmly believe that God is close to the hurting one and gently takes them to Himself. The assurance that He understands and loves unconditionally helps when the tempter tries to makes us doubt. May you continue to know/feel the “Everlasting Arms round about and underneath you .”

On Thursday, May 4, 2023, Loretta Hill-Finamore said:

Thank you Judy for sharing your story, I too believe your beautiful son was in Gods loving embrace. Thank you for being so open and honest and the HOPE your story gives to others struggling. May God continue to Bless, strengthen and heal you and Baden and your family. My heart is so moved reading this...THANK YOUU FOR YOUR COURAGE AND FAITH

On Tuesday, May 2, 2023, Rev.Art Elliott said:

I am so pleased that you shared your story so frankly and so well!Not only can your story be a light to help others but your point in bringing mental illness in the open,talking about it,having a good listener,is so important!The best to you and God Bless!

On Tuesday, May 2, 2023, Anna Hughes said:

That was a beautiful article. It was a pleasure working with you in Halifax. May you continue to find peace in life’s journey. God bless you both.

On Monday, May 1, 2023, Wavey Simms said:

I've thought about you - Majors Judy & Vaden so many times over the past 6 years & have uplifted you to God in prayer. I realize & believe that only by his grace & strength have you been able to cope & carry on. May the peace of God flood your hearts & lives daily. Love & prayers to you both & your family!

On Monday, May 1, 2023, Shirley R Holloway said:

Those were some of the best years working at Camp Starrigan under the leadership of Majs Judy and Vaden . They will always be very near and dear to our hearts . we keep them in our hearts and prayers as they blessed us may they continue to bless others .

On Monday, May 1, 2023, jim bellingham said:

We appreciated the time that God gave us with Majors Vaden and Judy at Meadowlands Corp. in Hamilton, ON.Thx for the article, jim and diane bellingham

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