As a former pub owner, I often see past customers walk into The Salvation Army’s community and family services office in Moncton, N.B. They are as surprised to see me wearing the uniform of an assistant corps sergeant-major as I am surprised to see them. I tell them I’m now spending my time trying to help fix all the people I may have inadvertently broken along the way with my attitude and my choices.

A Life Changed
If you had asked me then, I would have told you I believed in God, but my lifestyle didn’t bear that out. I realize now I was making a lot of bad decisions—with alcohol, with drugs, with relationships.

I was not a regular churchgoer to say the least and my knowledge of The Salvation Army was hazy at best, but when I heard that my aunt and uncle, Majors Vida and Leigh Ryan, were being transferred to Moncton Citadel Community Church, I decided to attend their Sunday service, as any good nephew would.

Aunt Vida had always been an important part of my growing up. While I’d only see her about once a year, our get-togethers were very special to me. For some reason, they were the only time I was completely genuine and honest with anyone, including myself, baring my soul with her and only her.

I had never stepped into a Salvation Army church before, but that first Sunday, the congregation was welcoming, and by the third Sunday, I found myself approaching the mercy seat, tears in my eyes, asking God to forgive me for my past life.

Moving On
Now that I had been saved, I realized my life had to change.

For starters, I needed to stop drinking, so I asked God to take this sinful nature away from me.

When I woke up the next morning, the habit I’d had for years was gone. From that day forward, I promised him I’d never allow alcohol to touch my lips, and I have kept that promise.

I also needed to divest myself of my pub holdings. I was prepared to sell at a loss but before I could put them up for sale, I was approached by someone who offered to take them off my hands, and I was able to move on with my life.

Defining “Success”
Shortly after I became a Christian, my aunt and uncle were involved in an accident right before Christmas, and were unable to attend to some of their duties. They asked me if I could help out.

By now, I had transitioned from running pubs to being a business manager for a local RV dealership. There’s not a great call for RVs in the winter, so I had time to spare.

I started volunteering at family services and it soon became clear that I was called to work with God’s people in general and for The Salvation Army in particular.

I talked it over with my then-fiancée, Erika, a fellow Christian who had helped me on my journey of discovery. We prayed about it, and by the end of the day, we came to the conclusion that if we were to answer his call, we would put our faith in him.

At that time, I was also the Christmas kettle co-ordinator. Hearing so many wonderful stories of how the Army had helped so many reinforced my belief that I was called by God.

So in the new year, I sat down with the director of family services, Natasha Burkett, and poured my heart out to her.

“I don’t want to return to the secular world, I don’t want to go back to my job,” I said. “I really want to work here.”

What The Salvation Army could offer money-wise was not what I was used to, but my definition of success had completely changed by then. I consider myself 10 times more successful today than I ever was before.

Inner and Outer Faith
From attending church every Sunday, I moved to being the assistant corps sergeant-major, and my wife, Erika, and I joined the worship team.

But despite my aunt and uncle’s wonderful sermons and our reading the Bible, Erika and I still felt we had a lot to learn.

So when we were approached about taking a soldiership class, we jumped at the opportunity.

As we learned about what the Army stood for, its history and doctrines, everything matched perfectly with how we believed we should live, how we should give back, how we should be servants in our church and our community.

We couldn’t wait to finish the course, to become soldiers and wear the uniform, which we did in 2014. It’s an outward expression of our inner faith.


On Tuesday, November 28, 2017, Major May Hart said:

Thank you for sharing your story. It's good to hear how God is working out His purposes in people's lives. May He continue to use you and your wife for the kingdom. God bless you.


On Saturday, November 25, 2017, Eric O'Blenis said:

It is a pleasure to know you Dean and a pleasure to worship and serve The Lord with you. I saw big potential in you right from the start. You and Erika add soooo much to the Moncton Corps of the Salvation Army.


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