Heart of a Servant

By: Tiffany Oliver

“The Salvation Army saved our life.”

I grew up in and out of foster care and lived with six different families throughout my childhood. I wasn’t always the easiest kid growing up, but I didn’t have the best role models to look to, either. My mother was on drugs, and my dad was an alcoholic who eventually passed away due to the disease.

While my parents battled addictions, my siblings and I struggled to care for ourselves. Some days, I didn’t eat because it was my sister’s turn to have food. We would also take turns with the one blanket we had to sleep with at night. I was deprived of the small necessities that so many take for granted, like underwear and soap. I would see kids my age with an extra dollar buy a candy bar while I chose to buy myself soap.

God saved us with this church. We started coming to The Salvation Army church to attend corps cadets, sunbeams, and any other groups offered, simply because it was a break from our reality. I was so grateful for the time at church and the little things it offered, like air conditioning and cold water to drink from the fountain. We went even if it was just for 30 minutes or an hour. We dreaded going home.

These groups gave me a great sense of accomplishment. As a young kid, when I finished a project or a task, I would earn a badge on a sash. As a teenager, the groups taught me stability and responsibility- two things I never had at home. The Salvation Army helped me to grow up, mature, and learn how to control my emotions. When I faced hard times in my life, I would mentally go to a happier place. My happy place was The Salvation Army.

Some of my fondest memories are from Camp Hidden Lake, The Salvation Army’s summer camp program. We never got to take a family vacation, so camp was a big deal for us. My sister and I would walk from the other side of town with our suitcases to get to the camp bus. One year, the bus waited 30 minutes for us because they knew how much we loved camp. Our camp counselors would even write us letters throughout the year, which so much to us. I still have friends from camp that I talk to like they’re my best friend because that’s how strong of a bond we formed.

The Salvation Army officers and staff were true servants. They had the biggest hearts and were the most selfless people. They got us Christmas gifts, gave me the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument, and paid for my sister and me to go to camp every summer. They never once judged any of us or our situations. They treated my parents and family kindly and never criticized them on why our clothes were dirty or why they hadn’t fed us all day. The few times my mom came to church, they hugged her as if they’ve known her for years.

After high school, I joined the military for 15 years and then became the police officer I am today. I serve because I’m passionate about what I’m doing, and I love what I do. I’m not in this for the money; I’m in this for the service I provide to others.

I think I have the heart of a servant because of The Salvation Army serving me and my family when we needed it the most. They served me, so that’s why I serve now.

This story originally ran on the official website of The Salvation Army’s Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division.