Calling to disaster service leads to soldiership

Feb 24, 2023 | by Brad Rowland

Calling to disaster service leads to soldiership

By: Major Frank Duracher

John LeBeau was on a mission. His life's work has been as an engineer specialist at a local hospital. That involves such critical mechanical maintenance for all the boilers, chiller plants, and generators for heating, cooling, and emergency power. His nearly 40 years in that field gives him an extraordinary skillset.

But for John, something was missing. Working full-time all those years, he was never able to do what he really wanted to: be of some help for people in need.

"Helping in disaster work was high on my list," John admits. "But I am willing to do anything the Lord wants me to do and to go anywhere He wants me to go."

When retirement finally arrived, he cut his workdays down to three just to stay active and to keep some income continuing to supplement his Social Security. He was now able to pursue his calling to do something of great worth for the Lord.

But what?

"Since I was drawn toward disaster relief work, I did some online research," John says. "I knew there were a lot of worthy organizations, but I began to focus on The Salvation Army, mainly because of one elderly soldier who invited me to the (Sunday) evening meeting long ago at the corps in Canton, Ohio."

That encouragement, some 35 years ago, remained with John all his life, although he drifted from denomination to denomination—not quite connecting with each church's beliefs.

"Most churches I tried had at least one doctrinal exception which bothered me—and the response to me was mostly, ‘Chew the meat and spit out the fat.' In other words, ignore that one difference in favor of the all the positive ones."

It must be admitted here that as John did his research online for a disaster relief agency to perhaps join, church membership was nowhere near the forefront. That added bonus came shortly after. Deciding on the Army's Emergency Disaster Service (EDS) ministry was clinched when he began discussing the situation with his supervisor at the hospital where he continued to work now part time.

"I was surprised when my boss told me that The Salvation Army was very important to him as a child. He told me that the Army came to his home for several Christmases, providing gifts and food for his family!"

That did it for John. He looked up the Army's corps in High Point, North Carolina and contacted the corps officer, Captain Lars Ljungholm. Welcomed with open arms by the Ljungholms, who invited John to that following Sunday's worship services, John decided to give it a go.

"That first Sunday was such a blessing for me," John says. "I found the staff is incredible and the corps members were so friendly and loving right from the start."

So, it was back to the laptop for John, as he began another search, this time the doctrines of The Salvation Army.

"To my amazement," he says, "every one of the eleven doctrines align with my beliefs!"

Thus did John's intense education of things Salvation Army become twofold—while he began taking EDS courses to prepare for disaster eventualities, he also took soldiership classes culminating in his enrollment as a Salvationist in the Spring of 2022.

Now a uniformed soldier, he was becoming something he always felt called to do— service to people through a thoroughly Christian organization.

When Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida in October, John suddenly found himself in the thick of it. His two weeks working on the Fort Lauderdale Canteen on neighborhoods in Port Charlotte was amazing, he says.

John and his two canteen-mates daily fed some 500 families.

"I'll never forget people—particularly the children—emerging from the nearly-uninhabitable structures that were their homes, responding to our horn to signal that hot meals were now here for them!"

Now that John is a disaster veteran, and a Salvation Army soldier of the High Point Corps, he feels extremely blessed by a double-barrel dream come true.

"In EDS work, my preference is to bring my engineering skills (canteen upkeep, industrial maintenance, staging preparation, etc.)," he says. "But I am willing to literally do anything asked of me.

"Serve food? Sure. Logistics? Certainly. Clean toilets? I'm your guy!"

Wherever and whatever is needed is his goal.

After all, that's what a Salvation soldier does.

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