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Jun18TueA church program brought Richard and Beth Smith to God and a spiritual home at the Army. June 18, 2019 by Ken Ramstead
Richard and Beth Smith had spent decades looking for a church that they could call their own and that met their exacting standards.
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“We wanted to become part of a church that had as much love and compassion for those in need as we had,” says Richard.
“We found that home in The Salvation Army,” adds Beth.
A Welcome Home
While Richard and Beth were churchgoers when they were young, they had both drifted from faith by the time they were adults.
“On different occasions, Richard and I would attend churches but we were never comfortable,” says Beth.
Then Beth went to the Salvation Army church in Belleville, Ont.
“It was a revelation,” she says. “I had never been to a church that was accepting and friendly.”
At first, Beth started attending on her own but eventually convinced her husband to join her.
“We wanted to belong to a church where we could volunteer and be part of that. That was very important to us. We both have a lot of love and compassion to share.”
While the Smiths appreciated The Salvation Army’s structure and its rich history, it was the congregational experience at Belleville Citadel that was instrumental in their decision to become members.
“The corps officers, Majors Wil and Catherine BrownRatcliffe, are approachable, available and easy to talk to,” says Richard, “with a welcome lack of pretension.”
“And I love the mercy seat,” smiles Beth. “I use it regularly. It’s different from any other church I’ve attended.”
Walking With Jesus
About a month or so after Beth started attending Belleville, she saw an announcement for an Alpha course that was to be conducted at the corps.
Beth had taken an Alpha course at another church about 20 years before, and was eager to retake it. But Richard wasn’t. In fact, after Beth and Richard had a difference of opinion one day, she playfully told him, “Your punishment is going to Alpha!”
What happened next was more than even Beth could have anticipated. Beth came to God during a retreat at the conclusion of her Alpha course.
“It just hit me,” she says. “It washed over me in a very emotional way and I then gave my life to the Lord.”
For Richard, it started right at the beginning of the first Alpha session with the question: “Is that all there is?”
“The feeling grew as our group grew closer and experienced the courses together. For me, Alpha brought a whole different perspective to my life, as if I was walking with Jesus.”
Enthusiasm and Commitment
“Richard and Beth have a practical enthusiasm for their faith that encourages others,” says Major Wil Brown-Ratcliffe.
“They showed ‘compassion in action’ when a fellow Alpha participant needed help to move on short notice. The move required some hot and unpleasant work, and Richard joked that this work may be God testing his resolve to his new Christian commitment. But his response was to roll up his sleeves and help someone in need.”
Richard and Beth have shown their enthusiasm and commitment through regular attendance at worship, taking the Alpha program and attending the Global Leadership Summit.
Richard and Beth became adherents this past April but they aspire to become soldiers and, eventually, officers.
“We’ve got a lot of growing to do in our faith, but we’ve got time,” says Beth. “And we want to be more involved in the church.”
“They’re eager to learn and grow in God’s Word and his expectations and plan for their life,” states Major Brown-Ratcliffe.
Over the Christmas holidays, the Smiths did 13 shifts on the kettles. “It was a special feeling, having people come up and talk about the Army,” says Richard. “We felt so proud, even though we were not members yet. People hold The Salvation Army in high esteem.
“We’ve worked with other volunteer agencies, but the Army is different,” he continues. “It’s more personal. The Salvation Army is going to help. If you need help, they are there.
“And now, we’re here, too!”