It’s fitting that Emmanuele Fuldauer’s first name means “God is with us” in Hebrew. Though never a churchgoing woman, Emmanuele had always felt God at work. Now, thanks to The Salvation Army, He is working through her life.

Detour to Home Depot

Emmanuele’s first encounter with the Army was on the way to a lumberyard in 2005.

The newly minted registered nurse was renovating her house in Kingston, Ont., with the help of her friend, Kennie. One Sunday, they were on their way to pick up some supplies when Kennie suggested they take in a local Salvation Army church service at Kingston Citadel.

“This was his family’s church when I met him,” Emmanuele says.

She had never been in a church before other than for weddings and funerals, and they were dressed in jeans and denim shirts and wearing work boots, but she said yes.

“Kennie’s parents weren’t in attendance that day but he introduced me to some friends and the pastors,” Emmanuele recalls. “I honestly don’t remember much now but it must have ignited a small spark within me.”

Missing Inspiration

Emmanuele grew up in Vancouverand really didn’t know anything about The Salvation Army before that first encounter.

“I vaguely knew they had something to do with homeless people,” she says, “but to me, the Army was the thrift store. I just never knew that there was a church attached to it.”

Religion was never really discussed in Emmanuele’s family, so it had been left to her to process her own spiritual journey to God on her own.

“Although I was never introduced to any formal religious understanding of God,” she says, “I’ve always felt the ‘whisper’ of the Holy Spirit in me, but never understood—or felt I could trust—what I was feeling.

“As a result, the church service I attended with Kennie that day didn’t inspire any deeper feeling in me, sadly.”

“I hope I can help other people find God in their own journery." EMMANUELE FULDAUER

A Landing Place

Over that year, Kennie and Emmanuele became more than friends, and they started a life together; they married and welcomed a child, Jackson.

In the meantime, Emmanuele started working weekend shifts as a nurse at the hospital in Perth, Ont.

“But we never talked about church,” she says. “It was something Kennie would do on the occasional Sunday if he visited his mother with Jackson.”

Things started to change in 2016. Kennie’s mother passed away and Kennie and Jackson, now eight years old, started attending church, first at a nearby one and then at “Grandma’s church” at Jackson’s request. (Emmanuele was still working weekend shifts and could not join her family.)

Jackson became a junior soldier—an official member of The Salvation Army—and was soon followed by his dad, who became a senior soldier.

Not too long after Emmanuele secured a full-time position that gave her weekends off, COVID hit.

“I was a nurse working in a rural hospital on a busy medical surgical floor during the COVID pandemic,” she relates. “We were often short-staffed, our duties changed constantly, and we were faced with constant change and challenges. It was almost constantly overwhelming.”

Last year, Emmanuele suffered a total mental breakdown.

“I was a complete mess for months and barely left the safety of my home,” she says, “and if I did, I always had someone with me.”

She was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“In hindsight, I now realize I probably had multiple sclerosis for more than 10 years,” she continues. “That, and the constant stress during COVID, wore me down.”

It was during this moment of total vulnerability that Emmanuele completely surrendered to the whispers from the Holy Spirit.

“Every shift before starting my rounds, I would stand alone at the staff room door, asking God to be with me and to keep all of us safe,” she recalls. “I started putting my faith in God.“

And I am truly thankful that at that point in my life, thanks to what my son had put into motion, I found a safe place where I could land.”

Emmanuele Fuldauer
Emmanuele and Kennie are flanked by their church pastors, Captains Chris and Nichole Maxwell (left), and their retired pastors, Majors Catherine and Wil Brown-Ratcliffe (right)

Feeling the Pull

When things eventually opened up again—“summer, new growth, new beginnings”—Emmanuele started attending church with her husband and son at Kingston Citadel.

“I could feel the whispers of the Holy Spirit at work.

“And I liked it,” she smiles. “Everyone was so open, especially our pastors, Captains Chris and Nichole Maxwell, and the entire congregation seemed to be seeking the grace of God. It was just so wonderful.”

Intrigued and encouraged, Emmanuele decided to take an eight-week course offered by retired pastors Majors Catherine and Wil Brown-Ratcliffe.

“We had pitched the course as a ‘no strings attached’ opportunity to learn about The Salvation Army, its history and impact on society,” explains Major Wil. “Of course, the main thrust of the course was to learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, and how our faith informs our daily living.”

“Emmanuele was fairly new to faith, and that certainly added a unique dynamic to the group setting,” continues Major Catherine. “She wasn’t afraid to ask probing questions or to say where she was in her understanding of how God is working. Sometimes people are afraid of asking questions because it might be seen as a lack of faith or questioning God. But the truth is, of course, that often we don’t grow unless we are willing to ‘talk it through.’ ”

“They did a great job,” smiles Emmanuele. “And I just felt the pull.”

Finding God

Late last year, Emmanuele became a Salvation Army adherent, recognizing the Army as her home church. It has been a positive step in her personal journey and brings encouragement and pastoral guidance as her journey of faith unfolds.

And why The Salvation Army?

“The transparency, the complete and utter transparency of everything,” she replies. “Where the donations go, where the kettlemoney goes and all the work that they do. Everybody is focused on helping each other and helping those less fortunate. It’s the values of everybody there. It’s not feeling like it’s going to church just because it’s Sunday. It’s a genuine, real feeling.”

Emmanuele has considered becoming a soldier with Kennie and Jackson, or maybe even a pastor, but for the moment, she is content where she is right now in her faith journey.

“I haven’t returned to work because I don’t know how or in what capacity I will be able to,” she says, “but I trust that God will lead me and be with me. And I hope I can help other people find God in their own journey.”

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