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Feb9FriFor Brian and Natalia DeBoer, soldiership in The Salvation Army means complete surrender. February 9, 2018 by Ken Ramstead
"When you’re wearing a Salvation Army uniform," says Brian DeBoer, “it’s a symbol that you’re a part of the body of Christ. You’re involved in something bigger than you.”
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“You’re giving yourself up completely to following him,” continues his wife, Natalia. “That’s what soldiership is all about.”
Brian was raised in a Christian home and even studied to become a pastor and worked for a time in his denomination.
“But as time went by,” he says, “I kept asking myself the same question: ‘Does this ministry look like Jesus to me?’ I was having a hard time connecting what I was doing to what I felt the gospel was.”
So Brian stepped back and evaluated his life, wondering what were the most important priorities in his understanding of the gospel.
He looked at Luke 4:17-21, where Jesus quotes from Isaiah, and James 1:27, where James defines true religion. “Those are formative Scriptures from my understanding of the gospel.”
Brian wanted to find a church that prioritized the saving of souls, caring for the poor and holiness. “That seemed like The Salvation Army to me.”
Encouraged, he contacted two local Salvation Army officers, Majors Darrell and Lise Jackson at Georgetown Community Church in Ontario, who gave him The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine, and he read it from cover to cover.
“Natalia and I were happy to see that those tenets we held dear, such as assurance of pardon, were also part of the Army,” says Brian. “Having a theology that matches the work helps me feel a part of the mission of God. It makes every task more spiritual and clearly done for Jesus, not just for an organization.”
The couple started attending Georgetown, but Brian and Natalia were not content to simply sit in a pew and worship. They had always intended to become soldiers.
“It’s second nature for us to want to be everything we can for the church,” says Brian. “We wouldn’t settle for less. If we were going to be part of The Salvation Army, we were going all in.”
Brian and Natalia have always dreamed of being in ministry together, and feel the Army is the right place to make that dream come true.
“Brian and I have very different personalities,” laughs Natalia. “He’s more of an academic while I’m a roll-up-my-sleeves-and-get-my-hands-dirty kind of person. We complement each other, and The Salvation Army plays to both our strengths.”
The DeBoers became soldiers in April 2017.
While they are still getting to know the corps, Brian and Natalia are now playing an active part in the life of The Salvation Army’s Cornerstone Community Church in Mississauga, Ont.
“I feel a strong sense of calling in this position, working with the corps, working with community services and working with the pastors, Lieutenants Daniel and Bhreagh Rowe.”
Brian is the director of children and youth ministries, and Natalia participates alongside him. Their children, Kylynn, seven, and Carson, four, are often involved in special music presentations.
Brian, a Christian singer-songwriter, has also been called upon to lead worship, and Natalia—who plays the violin—has occasionally sat in with the worship team. In addition, the couple are helping to build up the corps’ Sunday school program and Brian helps out with the food bank and does kettle pickups during the holidays.
What’s more, they’ve been welcomed into the candidates’ fellowship, signifying their interest in Salvation Army officership.
“We are taking this as a time to practise our co-ministering fellowship,” says Brian. “Helping the sick, the marginalized, people that don’t always fit in and are outcasts in society, helping to point them to Jesus, that’s what The Salvation Army is for us.”