PARRY SOUND – Just weeks before Christmas, while many of us rush around to get things in order in time for the holidays, people like David and Laura Hickman are bringing comfort and joy to the lives of others.
Salvation Army Captain Peter van Duinen, centre, and his family hosted Salvation Army Cadets Laura and David Hickman for 10 days as part of the couple’s training to become pastors.
Stephannie Johnson/North Star
The Hickmans arrived in town two weeks prior to Christmas, as Salvation Army Cadets, immersing themselves in the community, training and learning about the kind of work they could potentially do as ministers within the Salvation Army Church.
“Every year at Christmas, cadets get sent out for almost two weeks to go into a location where there’s lots of exciting things going on and get some first-hand experience as well as spending time shadowing – in this case, my wife and myself – in the various things that are going on,” said Salvation Army Captain Peter van Duinen late last month . “It’s kind of unique because not only at this time is the Salvation Army doing all of this community stuff, but we also have our regular church, sometimes there’s funerals, they visit sick people at the hospital and visit our own congregation members in their homes and preaching on Sunday. It is a jam-packed two weeks.”
Van Duinen and his wife Leanne hosted the Hickmans at their home. Since moving to Parry Sound six years ago, the van Duinen family has hosted 11 cadets.
“For us, it’s an opportunity to share our experiences. Having the good fortune to stay in a location for as long as we have is somewhat rare in the Salvation Army world,” said van Duinen. “It’s exciting for us.”
To get to this point in their journey has been different for each of the Hickmans.
For David, who grew up in the Salvation Army church in Victoria, British Columbia, he thought ministry wasn’t for him, although he said his grandmother always said he would make a good officer. David said he tried a number of other avenues, before finally listening to his calling.
“I felt the Lord calling me into pastorship and finally started the process and the doors all opened,” he said.
Laura, originally from Brantford, met David in Victoria, through a friend at the Salvation Army Church.
Laura was a nanny for a family, who moved out West for a time.
The couple married in August 2009.
Laura started a psychology degree at Brock University and between her first and second year, while at a camp, she counseled a young girl and suddenly felt her planned path was going in a different direction.
“She was a girl who had said she kept her emotions to herself and definitely didn’t share he life story with anybody, but during that time she was sitting beside me, bawling her eyes out and telling me everything,” Laura said. “She asked me if I knew why she had chosen to talk with me and pray with me that night and I said, ‘no, why?’ And she said she had seen God through me and she knew it would be safe. So that, for me, changed everything, because I knew right then this was where God wanted me, was in ministry.”
While here in Parry Sound the Hickmans enjoyed working in the community, meeting new people and performing uplifting activities, such as handing out Christmas food hampers to those in need.
“It’s the relationships, hearing people’s stories and making a difference,” Laura said of the best part of the experience. “We got to give out a hamper yesterday and bless one woman with a surprise gift. She had asked for a contribution that her daughter could put towards purchasing an item and we were able to gift that item to see that she really appreciated that and to be a part of that blessing.”
David said he’s enjoyed this unique opportunity.
“To see all those toys and know that they were donated by people in the community, knowing that every single one of those toys was purchased by someone who not necessarily goes to the Salvation Army Church, but sees the work that the Salvation Army does and knows what they do is important for the whole community is really encouraging to see,” he said.
This summer, the Hickmans expect to be ordained as pastors and commissioned as Salvation Army Officers in June, and it will be up to the church as to where their journey takes them.
“When you sign up, you make yourself available to the Salvation Army. You go in with the mind set to go wherever you’re needed,” David said.