Ruthie Forgey found fulfilling ministry with Salvation Army

By BRIAN GRAVES
Posted 4/16/18

It has been a decade since Ruthie Forgey was searching the Cleveland Daily Banner, looking for a way to supplement her income to support her and her 13-year-old son.

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Ruthie Forgey found fulfilling ministry with Salvation Army

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It has been a decade since Ruthie Forgey was searching the Cleveland Daily Banner, looking for a way to supplement her income to support her and her 13-year-old son.

The advertisement to which she eventually responded became her ministry as the leader of the Salvation Army in Cleveland, a cause which has grown beyond its walls in many different ways.

“I was an addictions counselor in private practice when the Salvation Army found me,” Forgey recalled. “I was a prodigal for many years and returned to the Lord in 2004, and I knew there where thousands of people just like me who grew up in this area, but had been hurt by religion – not by God.”

She said the church as a whole has progressed as “they have begun to embrace the ideal that God is good, kind and loving.”

“He’s also just, because that’s part of His character – but let’s get the other parts in there, too!” Forgey said.

She had left the church because of that church dogma of the times.

“The coolest thing about the Holy Spirit is when you hear its voice, you can’t unhear it,” Forgey said. “He pursued me relentlessly, and I became very passionate about sharing my testimony, and really wanted to work in full-time ministry.”

She said being a counselor for 20-plus years helped her, since being a counselor “is a ministry in its own self.”

Forgery said in 2008, when gas prices were reaching above $4 per gallon, it caused a decline in her practice which in turn forced her to look at ways to earn income.

“It was Christmastime and I saw an ad in the Banner online for an Angel Tree coordinator or a Kettle coordinator,” she said. “I thought the Angel Tree would be fun, so I applied for Angel Tree. But, I had some fundraising experience and I thought, leaving that interview, 'They will hire me to do those stupid bells.'”

That is exactly what happened, though her attitude softened soon after she acquired some enlightenment along with her new job.

“At that time, all I knew about the Salvation Army was the Angel Tree and Kettles,” she said. “I did not know it was a church. I didn’t know there are 126 countries where we are named, and countries we are not because it is too dangerous, and their ministry and passion is to serve 'the lost and the least.' I just loved the mission of the Army, and fell in love with it.”

“I even fell in love with the Kettles,” Forgey added. “I look forward to that every year. I love everything about it.”

Midway through that first season, Maj. Jim Lawrence called Forgey soon after she'd just picked her son up from school.

Lawrence told Forgey he had been praying to send someone to develop an SA corps in Cleveland with a bigger footprint.

“I think you’re the lady to do that,” he told her. “Would you be willing to stay?”

Forgey asked for the weekend to pray about the offer.

“I pulled over the car with my son and said, ‘We have an opportunity to go into full-time ministry, and I want you to pray,” Forgey said. “He prayed the most profound, beautiful prayer ever. I immediately got peace with it and called Monday morning.”

“We came in and started holding Bible study in the Family Store on 17th Street every night. It was the seven bell ringers and we have now grown into this,” she said. “God has really blessed this effort.”

She added the local corps is now assisting so many people it is in need of another van, and SA members have outgrown their current building on Inman Street.

“I have seen a lot of lives changed and transformed. I have seen a lot of prodigals come back. I have seen people receive salvation for the first time,” she said. “Here, we really try to model Christ more than we talk about Christ, because people need to see Him. You can’t share the Gospel with someone who is hungry. You feed them.”

The Salvation Army also offers daily showers and laundry service and feeds around 500 meals a week.

“Every day there is the uniqueness of the needs that come in here and what I, and many Christians, need to do is to be willing to be inconvenienced,” she said. “Jesus was inconvenienced and his schedule was interrupted. I thank God for those inconvenient moments, because that is where grace flows.”

“Just to see what God has done in the last 10 years, I can’t believe I get to do this every day,” Forgey said. “It overwhelms me and undoes me, and I’m grateful.”

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