As area commanders and public relations officers for The Salvation Army’s Maritime Division, Major Kelly Rideout and her husband, Major Paul Rideout, were touring the ministry units hardest hit by hurricane Fiona last year.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge to know what impact you’re having, what difference you’re making,” Major Kelly says. “Sometimes, Paul and I felt as if we weremere bystanders.”
However, when the couple visited one of the places that had been hit badly and she mentioned how she felt, the Salvation Army officer appointed there replied, “But that’s exactly what we need. We need you here to boost our morale and keep us encouraged, to keep us going.”
“That was proof,” says Major Kelly, “if I needed any, that what we were doing was necessary.”
Major Kelly wasn’t born into the Army. Her mother was a Salvationist but when she married someone of another denomination, she started attending his church. That continued for a decade until they moved to a new community, when they reached out to the church and received no response.
“My mom really missed The Salvation Army and wanted to go back,” recalls Major Kelly, “and my dad had no problem with her wish.”
Just prior to that, Major Kelly’s aunt, who was a Salvationist, had started bringing her and her brother to the Army Sunday school.
“We’d pile into the back of our aunt’s station wagon with our cousins,” Major Kelly smiles now. “We loved it, so when our parents asked us if we’d like to join The Salvation Army, we wanted to very much!”
The Path to Soldiership
Eventually, Major Kelly’s mother was reinstated as a soldier, and her father became one as well. The family became heavily involved in the life of their congregation.
“Every night was busy,” Major Kelly remembers.
She became a junior soldier but soon aspired to more.
“There was something happening that I was unaware of,” she says. “Looking back, I can see the influences in my life leading me to become an officer: good, solid, strong cadets and officers.
“My corps was close enough to St. John’s, N.L., that cadets would visit us on Sundays from the College for Officer Training. Getting to know them made a big impression on me.”
Her music teacher, retired officer Lt-Colonel Mary Lydall, was an important influence, too, as was her Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Dawe, who led her to Christ.
“Everyone, and more things than I can think of, led me to soldiership.”
As a young person, Major Kelly was always encouraged to consider officership.
“Did I think I was a fit for officership? Absolutely not,” she says. “But I was 17 and it was only a couple of years before I realized that this was right. It was at this point in my life that I was discovering my own personal relationship and faith in Christ. And the confirmation of officership came from the fact that there was so much peace in it, that this was the path.”
Front-line officers for 28 years, this is the Rideouts’ first non-front-line position.
“It’s been a challenge for us and a lot of learning,” Major Kelly says. “But one of the reasons that we’ve embraced being in this position is because we’ve had leadership encourage us that we could do it, that we had something to bring. In and of ourselves—and I say our because Paul and I are both in this together, both area commanders—there’s affirmation that comes from that.
“And while we know that everything we do is not perfect,” she continues, “we give it what we have, as we have in any appointment. We’re action people; we find it difficult to just be, we have to be doing. It’s in our DNA as Salvationists.”
Major Kelly believes that God called her in the way she needed to be called, and she firmly believes and values the mission that she has been called to.
“That’s who we are as officers,” she says. “The Salvation Army is about believing. It lines up with my own personal belief system and my own convictions and my own theology. It lines up with where I am in my own life. Here I am.”
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