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Saturday, 18 July 2015 06:24

New Swift Current Salvation Army officers are happy to return to the prairies

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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For the new corps officers at the Salvation Army in Swift Current, their appointments represent a return to the province where they started their work as soldiers 31 years ago.

Majors Donald and Elizabeth Grad arrived in Swift Current June 26 to start their new assignments after 18 years in British Columbia.
“We were excited,” Elizabeth said. “The thought of spending the last six years in the same province we spent our first six years was really intriguing.”
She noted the pace of life in Swift Current is quite different from what they were accustomed to in Vancouver and Burnaby.
“We joke on the way to work every morning about this commute is just going to kill us,” she says with a laugh.
“It takes all of about five minutes, if we hit red lights. You can’t do anything in the big city that fast.”
It has been an easy transition for them and they are happy to be here.
“Swift Current is kind of what we expected from previous experiences and we love it,” he said.  “People have been so friendly. Everyone we run into is so friendly. We’re excited to be here and our desire is just to serve God and help people know about Jesus and to help people.”
Their service in the Salvation Army started in Saskatchewan when they were posted to Meadow Lake in 1984. They were in Nipawin from 1986 to 1990 and for the past 18 years they were in the Vancouver area.
“We have been in various places,” Donald said. “We’ve been in corps work, like church work, and we’ve been in administrative settings in Calgary with Thrift Stores and most recently we were in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. We were running what’s known as a transition house.”
Grace Mansion provides transition housing for up to 85 residents who are receiving support to make positive changes to their lives.
“They can stay with us for two years and had to be clean and sober and to work on a program of self-development,” he said. “It was exciting work, but it could be tough because you’re working with hurting people.”
They worked for six years at Grace Mansion and before then for 12 years at the Salvation Army’s Metrotown location in Burnaby.
The Metrotown ministry activities included a street ministry initiative where people were provided with soup and sandwiches.
“We were quite effective in telling people about Jesus and hooking them up with other resources and services,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth was a member of the Burnaby Task Force on Homelessness that involve representatives from various agencies to assist people who are struggling with homelessness.
“I was part of a number of different centres and things that they opened up,” she said. “We opened up an outreach resource centre and I met people on our Monday night serving on the street with a big truck.”
Although their previous postings have provided them with a wealth of experience, they do not feel overqualified for their positions at the Swift Current Salvation Army.
“Every community brings its own strengths, its own challenges,” Donald said. “We have great people in terms of staff and volunteers. So I have to say we don’t feel overqualified. We thank God for experiences and how He has taught us, but in any location, there’s always stuff that you still feel challenged by.”
It has already been a busy time for them since they arrived in Swift Current at the end of June. Elizabeth has spent three days in Saskatoon to provide support to evacuees from communities in northern Saskatchewan that are threatened by forest fires. She was joined by Pat Newburgh, a volunteer at the Salvation Army in Swift Current with experience in disaster support.
“The Salvation Army was doing food service,” she said. “The food was all prepared off-site and we were serving. There’s over 400 people in that soccer arena that we were in.”
The work involved long, 12-hour days on their feet. In addition to serving food she also provided emotional support to evacuees. She spent some time with a woman with four children who were alone there without any other members of her community at that centre.
“She doesn’t know anybody else there in the building and so I prayed with her and chatted with her every day after that,” Elizabeth said. “I also had a good fun time playing with kids for a while.”
A big challenge for the evacuees is to keep the children occupied. The emergency workers are helping to organize activities for the children. There will probably again be volunteers from Swift Current who will provide support at these fire evacuation centres.
Donald and Elizabeth are still getting familiar with all the activities at the Salvation Army in Swift Current and discovering their new new community, but they are already excited about the community’s support for the Salvation Army.
“There is so much going on in Swift Current and there is so much public support for the Salvation Army in Swift Current and that’s very encouraging,” she said.
They walked around in Vancouver in their Salvation Army uniforms without even receiving a second glance from people.
“Here we walk around in Salvation Army uniform and people come and talk to us,” Elizabeth said. “So it’s a different community. The large city centres are a whole mix of different influences and different groups and we could get lost in that.”
They have already met a variety of people in the community, including farmers who dropped off fresh produce at the food bank.
“We’re really excited about the community support and not just at Christmas time, which I think is great, but just year round,” Donald said.
Their intention is also to connect and co-operate with other agencies and groups in the community.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to is getting to know the people from the different agencies and the different groups that help people,” she added. “We did that in Burnaby, we did that at Grace Mansion. We’ve done that and got connected to what the community offers because we can’t provide everything, but if somebody else is doing a service, we like to work with them.”

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