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Jul14FriFor Matt Schnaider, soldiership was a natural progression. July 14, 2017 by Ken Ramstead
"I can’t say what becoming a soldier will do for you,” says Matt Schnaider. “Soldiership is a personal commitment between you and your Saviour. No one can tell you when or why you should become a soldier or what will happen when you do. Only God can tell you that.”
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Soup and Ping-Pong
Schnaider was raised in a Christian home but walked away from his faith when he became a teenager. “I didn’t so much get into trouble or anything as much as I didn’t conduct myself in a Christian manner,” he says.
Schnaider’s mother died when he was young and he left home when he was 15. “I ran away to Toronto and lived with my aunt and grandmother for a couple of years,” he says. Schnaider then joined the Canadian Armed Forces, eventually serving in Lahr, Germany.
Now married, the soldier would attend chapel and church services, “but I was just going through the motions.
“However, when we were on manoeuvres, The Salvation Army was always there for us,” he recalls. “There was a canteen truck that went out with the troops and The Salvation Army had a canteen on base where they would serve soup, hot chocolate and hot dogs. We could play Ping-Pong or just hang out. If you didn’t want to go to a bar in town, that’s where you went.”
The end of Schnaider’s time in the military coincided with the dissolution of his marriage.
“I wandered aimlessly, but there were certain signs that I saw, certain things that made me think there’s got to be something more to life than this,” he says.
Now remarried and after a period of soul-searching, Schnaider returned to his faith. “But the church my wife and I were attending seemed too large and impersonal to us,” he says, “so we decided to look for something smaller. We went to two or three different churches and then we decided to try The Salvation Army.
“I’d had a good rapport with them when I was in Germany,” he continues, “and they seemed to do a lot of good for a lot of people, so we decided to check out The Salvation Army’s Southlands Community Church in Winnipeg.”
Schnaider went by himself on that first visit. “I didn’t know what to expect at The Salvation Army,” he smiles, “so I didn’t want to subject my wife to anything too weird.”
Schnaider attended a service and enjoyed it. Phoning the church the next day, he ended up talking with Captain Peter van Duinen, the corps officer. “While we were chatting, I mentioned my military service and he told me his parents had been in Germany, too. It turned out that they had been manning the canteen that served me and my mates!”
A Dose of Feel Good
The Schnaiders started attending Southlands in the spring of 2014. He became an adherent in the spring of 2015 and a soldier in March of the following year.
Why? “For too many churches I know of, their idea of outreach is when they hand out water or clean up a yard,” explains Schnaider. “They do a lot of good but they do it one day a year, maybe two. I saw what the Army did—how the Army helps people not one or two days a week but 365 days a year—and I wanted to be part of that.”
“Schnaider is our emergency disaster services representative and serves as our director of business administration on our mission board,” says Captain van Duinen. “He’s active in serving God through the men’s ministry and the youth ministry—anywhere there is a need—and he has found an outlet to do that through The Salvation Army.”
Schnaider also helps out with the Salvation Army soup truck, which hands out hot food in the evenings.
“That’s my weekly dose of feel good,” he says. “I’m doing something to help others.
“Becoming an adherent was a natural means to that end but I needed more. Becoming an adherent became a part of belonging, and then soldiership became the commitment.
“And for me, becoming a soldier sealed the deal.”