Serving in Scotland

By: Laura Poff

Holly Needham first visited Scotland while on vacation after the Boundless international congress, in July 2015. At the time, she was serving as the assistant director of the family life center and a personnel officer at the Evangeline Booth College in Atlanta. She had never traveled outside of the U.S. but had always felt drawn and called to overseas service. From the moment she arrived in Scotland, she was hooked.

“I don’t know what it was, but there was something about the people that I just loved,” Needham said. “There was something about Scotland that I felt really drawn to.”

When she returned to Atlanta, she expressed interest in being assigned an overseas appointment, preferably in the United Kingdom Territory, which she knew had a shortage of officers. By January of the following year, she had been approached about a new assignment and begun the transfer process.

She completed and mailed forms to International Headquarters, asked fellow officers to write letters of recommendation and, once her part was done, waited for final approval and an appointment.

She didn’t have to wait long. By June, she was preparing to report as the corps officer of Dundee, a small coastal city in eastern Scotland, near Edinburgh.

“I had never heard of it, I had to pull up a map online to find it,” she said.

When she arrived with few things, having left most of her belongings and her cat in Atlanta, she was met at the airport by her new divisional commanders, who drove her to her small house a few miles from the corps outside of the city center.

“I was excited when I first got here and pumped to finally be where I felt God had placed me,” she said. “In the first few months, you’re basically in vacation mode – everything is new and exciting, but then the reality of being so far from home hits, and it’s difficult.”

She found community in her corps family, leaning on longtime soldiers to answer questions about the culture, the community and the history of the people who worshiped there and for friendship and support.

The corps is housed in a small building on a large plot of land with a single room for meetings, a bathroom and a kitchen. Weeknights are filled with band, songsters, youth programs, Bible study and free community dinner on Friday evenings. An adult group called CAMEO (Come and Meet Others) is open to both genders, and the children’s Sunday school meets in the afternoon.

When she arrived, the city center corps had recently shut down due to the building being condemned and that corps was in the process of combining with hers. Members attended worship together and held weekday meetings together but functioned as separate corps, until January when the financial accounts were combined and the sharing of space was confirmed as a long-term, if not permanent, situation. Combining them was her first and thus far greatest challenge.

“There’s still a few people who are holding on to the past, but it’s never easy to merge two corps,” she said.

Next, she’ll oversee the construction of a new building on the large plot of Army-owned land the current building sits on. The hope is that ultimately the Army’s services will expand and additional corps will open in the community.

“We decided that we need to start with what we have and then build,” she said.

Needham will serve as the corps officer of Dundee until her visa expires in 2019.