Testimony: Reverend Diane Ury
My first exposure to The Salvation Army was when I was a new student at Asbury College. The dorm I was in had about 20 Salvationist girls. They were really fun, loving and very kind to me. Christianity was brand new to me. Whatever it was, The Salvation Army was. It had a positive spin in my mind because of those young girls and how they treated me.
I met Bill there and eventually we got married. We had a wonderful ministry in local churches with the Methodist Church and Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. Given that, you may wonder what led us to The Salvation Army.
Bill had been doing a lot of speaking for The Salvation Army from around 2000. They invited him to come and speak at different events because he’s a church historian, a Wesleyan theologian and knows a lot about The Salvation Army. He’s a great speaker, and quite often they would invite me to come with him. I did quite a bit of speaking for the Army also along with Bill on some of these different special events. When Bill came back, he often said, “I love the Army so much.” They frequently sent home with him a uniform sweater for me, or a shirt, and I saved all of them. I had a feeling I was going to need those one day.
I kept saying, “Bill, why don’t we join the Army?” Eventually, we left the seminary after serving there 23 years. We entered into pastoral ministry with the Evangelical Methodist Church. The National Commander, Commissioner David Jeffrey found out that we were interested in doing something else. I was called to preach and to be in ministry in the denomination we were with, but our church did not like women in the pulpit. It was painful. I felt very stifled. It wasn’t a good fit for Bill either.
Commissioner Jeffrey called us and said, “I have an idea.” We were scheduled to do an event where he was going to be present. He presented the idea of being National Ambassadors for Holiness. We were dumbfounded by it. They wrote up the job description. I remember looking at my particular job description and saying, “Yes, I would love to do that.” It was amazing how the Lord, after all those years of ministry, provided so that if I could have written a job description for myself I couldn’t have found anything that was more of a delight to my own heart. It was a gift from the Lord.
Commissioner Jeffrey did not say we had to become soldiers, but that it would be a good idea. I had always admired the Army so much. It didn’t make sense to be an Ambassador for Holiness for The Salvation Army without actually belonging.
I remember the first time wearing that uniform. I just cried. It was such an honor to me to have that on, to be a part of this wonderful group of believers, this communion of saints over the decades. It was an incredibly powerful thing to me. I can’t even tell you how many people, when we were traveling around wearing the uniform, total strangers, came up to me with tears in their eyes saying, “Welcome home.”
I have learned much since we became involved with the Army full time, like the vast number of things we do in our own local communities. It blows my mind. In Wake County (North Carolina), Bill and I had a tour and realized we had no idea. All the incredible things our own group does in our one county – phenomenal programs, ministries, outreaches and provision for our people right where we live. I didn’t know we did all those things for homeless children, providing their backpacks and lunches.
One thing that really struck me is the many opportunities to meet officers, hear their stories, and how many of them as very young children, had no sense of belonging or sense of love. But there was an Army officer who was picking them up every day for years and bringing them to the corps, and saving them out of destitution, the poverty of a life of lovelessness, much less material poverty, and bringing them in to the corps family and loving them.
I’ve met many officers brought into officership right out of being in a homeless shelter or from the ARC. Some had been prostitutes and now they’re officers. That is for me the power of Jesus, the power of His love working through real people. I am deeply humbled being around officers, looking at their faces and knowing what they have done with their lives, unseen, unsung, caring for children and people that nobody else notices, changing the world. And it still goes on.
One of the challenges for the Army is of our own self-perception. Are we a church or are we an organization? I hear both. I know we are an organization but if that’s all we are, we’re in trouble because the world needs Jesus. He is the only answer to the darkness and despair of the world. I am concerned when I hear people talking about officership as a career instead of a ministry. Vocabulary is very important. If people are in officership for career, that’s a very different thing than if we’re being an officer for ministry.
I’m really proud of all four of our training colleges. We get to go to those quite often and I see a lot of good, strong leadership there, making sure that we stay true to our doctrines. It’s so important that we are not “fudging”, especially on Scripture and the authority of Scripture.
Jesus has made a way at this point in our history where The Salvation Army is deeply respected. We have proven our worth not just in disaster relief but to our society. We are a contribution, we are deeply respected and we’ve earned it. We’ve worked our way there. The opportunity lies in capitalizing on that position of respectability and influence to open doors, places that we are able to go in with influence. Not only service-oriented groups but to be ministers of the gospel, to not be afraid to say the name of Jesus in the places where we go. That’s an incredible opportunity that I hope we won’t miss for fear of political correctness.
What does it mean to be a Salvationist? The Salvation Army is a group of people who have been led by Jesus to go into places in communities where it’s not the most attractive and set up a hub, a space for people who live in those communities to meet the living God who can save their hearts, their souls, and their spirits and set them free from the bondage of sin. We stay where the people are. We help them to stay out of trouble. We help them to put food on their tables. We help them learn how to be parents. We help them learn how to be teenagers who live lives that are wholesome and safe, purposeful and with meaning. We can be family for people that have no family, who never had anybody love them, no sense of belonging. We are a place of provision. We’re a church, a family that takes care of one another and takes care of our community. We look out for our community.
I love being a part of a church that is committed to seeking the lost and the least and the last, those who are being trafficked, who are people that most folks would want to avoid and cross on the other side of the street if they saw them coming near. I love being a part of a group that is called to go toward people that are scary and make you uncomfortable and you don’t know what to do. We’re called to be with those people and love them.
I love that we are not afraid to share with anybody no matter how destitute, no matter how broken, no matter how sinful, that Jesus loves them and He can come into their lives and completely transform who they are, and set them free from any kind of sin. We see it happen. We watch it happen and we believe it. There’s no restriction for The Salvation Army. If you want to be involved in ministry to every level, every degree of service and self-giving, there’s no place like The Salvation Army.
Reverend Diane Ury is a soldier of the Raleigh, North Carolina Corps and with her husband, Dr. Bill Ury, serves as The Salvation Army USA National Ambassador of Holiness.