Goderich Officers called to Ministry After Receiving Assistance from The Salvation Army

by Caroline Franks
Categories: Divisional News

Long before they were Salvation Army officers in Goderich, Ontario, Lieutenants Derek and Angela Kerr once sought help from The Salvation Army Food Bank. What they didn’t know at the time is that this experience would become a blessing in disguise.

Back in 2009, Lieutenant Derek was working in retail management when he got sick and was on short term disability and unemployment benefits. With a mortgage, car payments, and children to care for, the debt started to pile up and by 2011, when he started back at work, they needed some assistance.

“We have always been supporters of The Salvation Army and contributed when we could. Our oldest son always volunteered at the Christmas Kettles,” said Lt. Derek. “We had to ask for help, but it was kind of embarrassing. Within a week, we were told to go to The Salvation Army Dundas Food Bank where we were able to get some food and register for a Christmas hamper and toys.”

The couple received Christmas support for three years.  Lt. Angela says she was overwhelmed with the number of things they received for their six children.

Both Lt. Derek and Angela’s first experience with The Salvation Army Church was at a breakfast with Santa event they took their children to at The Salvation Army Meadowlands Church in Hamilton.

“The Corps Officer at the time made a point of  sitting with our family and that made a huge impact on us. A few members of the church also went out of their way to extend greeting to us,” said Lt. Angela. “It was an extension of community, friendship and love.  That’s what encouraged us to keep coming back to church.”

The family managed to get back on their feet financially and they bought a new home in Caledonia, south of Hamilton.  Within a year of each other, Lt. Derek and Angela started working at the same food bank they once received assistance  from.

“We felt called to ministry and social justice. It was a progression but definitely something God mapped out for us,” said Lt. Derek.

“In 2016 we attended an officer information weekend,” said Lt. Derek. “After that we decided to sell the house and move to Winnipeg where we attended The Salvation Army College for Officer Training to become officers.”

Their first posting as Salvation Army officers was in Goderich where they have been working since 2019.

“Goderich is a beautiful, small, rural community and exactly what we expected for our first ministry,” said Lt. Angela. “God has been faithful and provided what we needed along the way through all our challenges, including the pandemic as we learned to pivot and be creative in reaching out to our congregation and community.”

Lt. Derek says their personal experience with asking for assistance has opened doors of communication with staff and clients who may be dealing with difficult things.

“We can say there are brighter days ahead. This is a difficult time in your life, but it’s only for a season and we are invested in getting you back on your feet and finding happiness in your life. One of the greatest things about being an officer is that you get to walk along side people and journey with them. Its also great to bless people especially at Christmas, and I always get so overwhelmed at the generosity of our donors.”

Lt. Angela added “It’s a privilege to have someone open up and share their story with you as you share the love of Jesus and the gospel, pray with them, and see the transformation in their life. It’s so rewarding.”

Through the pandemic, Community and Family Services in Goderich and Clinton continues to operate their food bank by providing food hampers to clients through the doorway, and their meal program is now in a take-out format. The Salvation Army and another church in the community each offer the meal twice a month so that there is a meal offered every Tuesday. Lt. Angela and one other staff member make 110 meals a month for those in need.

In addition, Lt Derek and Angela pivoted their Worship services to Facebook Live, so their congregation can still feel connected.   “We are reaching people we don’t normally see or attend church, and we are speaking to them about the assistance we can provide. Our numbers have definitely gone up,”  said Lt. Derek.

“We are blessed to have the church, Thrift Store and two Family Service Centres  to support our community.”

To provide financial support to The Salvation Army, donations can be made online at www.salvationarmy.ca or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY, where donations can also be directed to a specific program or location.

By: Caroline Franks