“I often kid people that when I met Sandra, my wife, I was going to rescue her from The Salvation Army—and I had to go undercover to do it,” smiles Major Owen Budden. “I’m a mole and I’m in deep.”
Owen Budden grew up in a Christian home in a rural outport community in Newfoundland and Labrador.
From the age of 17 to 24, he started to experiment with things many teenagers experiment with—“Or, at least, I thought a lot of them did,” he says now.
But at the age of 24, Owen invited Jesus into his life.
His uncle had been diagnosed with brain cancer and Owen wanted him to be healed from that. “I asked God if he would heal my uncle,” explains Owen, “and if he did, I would give my life to him.”
Soon after that, a cousin gave him the good news that his uncle was on the mend.
“ ‘Jesus,’ I prayed, ‘if you are who people say you are and you can do what people say you can do, do it to me.’ And he did. I met Jesus.”
Inspired By a Verse
Owen graduated from university and became a teacher in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the winter of 1987, Owen met Sandra, who was leading a Salvation Army youth group in St. Anthony, N.L., where Owen was teaching and leading his own youth group from the United Church.
“We discovered we had a lot of things in common,” Owen says. “We just really connected. It was almost like a soul connection.”
The two became husband and wife. After three years in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., where Owen taught school and Sandra worked as a nurse, the couple realized that they needed to decide on a home church for them and their two children.
"I knew Sandra really enjoyed going to The Salvation Army and that’s where her family worshipped.”
While Sandra wanted Owen to decide, and Owen was leaning to the Church of the Nazarene, a verse from Ephesians 5:25 came to him: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.”
“So I said, ‘Jesus, if you could go to Calvary for me, I’ll go to The Salvation Army for Sandra.’ ”
Called to Serve
Now Salvation Army senior soldiers, the couple felt that mission work was in their future but were unsure which way to go.
Owen drove out to a country road and prayed, “Lord, we really need to know what’s happening, where to go.”
He closed his eyes waiting for God to speak to him and had an image of a very small man in a uniform in the distance.
Owen shook his head and said, “No, Lord, this can’t be right. Let’s get serious.” He closed his eyes again and the man came into closer view, but now Owen could see he was wearing a Salvation Army uniform.
“I knew it had to be me. And I listened to God’s voice, saying, ‘Owen, you said you’d serve me anywhere, anytime, anyplace, anyhow. Here I am showing you The Salvation Army, and you are telling me no?’
“So that was my calling into the Army.”
Overseas and Back
As Salvation Army officers, Owen and Sandra served in Markham, Ont., then Papua New Guinea, followed by Halifax, Woodstock, Ont., and Winnipeg before returning to Papua New Guinea. They came home to Canada in 2020. While serving in Hamilton, Ont., Owen had a health incident in 2021, and he retired in 2022.
“I believe that The Salvation Army is where God called me to be,” Owen replies when asked to sum up his career. “Before I became a soldier, I had a respect for The Salvation Army, but no desire or inkling to join. I now serve God through The Salvation Army.”
For Owen, the Army is a special place because of its two-pronged approach to ministry, the spiritual as well as the social.
“To have the opportunity to speak to people who are struggling and develop ways to help them is a big part of why I love The Salvation Army. Of course, the opportunity to preach the gospel is so important. But it’s not just about sharing the gospel so people can get ‘saved.’ It’s about accompanying people on their journey through life. And some of my most wonderful memories are the journeys I have taken with people who have had to go through the rough times in life.”
While Owen has retired, Sandra is still serving as an active officer.
“I’ve almost accomplished my mission of rescuing Sandra,” chuckles Owen. And with a wink, he concludes, “Another few years, and I will have her out of The Salvation Army.”