Couple united by love, calling

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2002

Salvation Army Capts. Julia and John Showers are among Valentine’s Day gifts in the fellowship hall of the Salvation Army Citadel on Mission 66. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[02/14/02] Three proposals and three weddings united Capts. John and Julia Showers and their work as officers of the Salvation Army brings them together 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We both are ordained ministers, we carry the same rank and powers, we work together and we still go home together,” said John Showers, who manages the Salvation Army center on Mission 66 with his wife of seven years.

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“People find out we work together and say How do you do that?,'” he said.

“We can’t imagine not working together. To have separate jobs would be strange to us,” Julia Showers said.

Even for the Salvation Army, where spouses are required to be in the service of the church, their situation is unique.

“In the Salvation Army, both of us are ordained ministers,” John said.

“It just so happens that we are equal,” Julia said.

They met in 1991 at officers’ training college in Atlanta, a two-year, in-residence training program for cadets to become ordained ministers and commissioned officers in the Salvation Army.

The organization was founded in London in 1865 by William Booth, a former Methodist minister. It is a formal church structured on military principles. “There are a lot of people who don’t realize that it is a church,” John said. Often, the organization’s service programs, including feeding the hungry and disaster relief, capture the spotlight. But the Salvation Army has regular Sunday worship services, too.

On the first day of class, the two met when he helped her move into the dorm. They became good friends. “We had classes together. Although we never dated for the two whole years we were there,” John said.

Mutual friends recognized their compatibility. “The teachers, even the principal, told us we needed to date,” he said.

Instead of asking her out, John took a different tactic.

During their second year “when we were dating other people,” Julia is quick to point out John passed her a note in class. “Marry me,” it read.

“I thought he was joking,” she said.

He really wasn’t.

“We had mutual friends and we were always together. I found myself more and more interested in her,” he said. “One day during history class, I passed her a note to see what her response would be and she said no.'”

After graduation, both were assigned missions n Julia in Monroe and John in Temple, Texas. They kept in touch, and a year later, reconvened in Atlanta with the rest of their graduating class for a week of study.

On the second day of class, John was at it again.

After lunch, Julia walked into the classroom to find John had written on the chalkboard “Will you marry me?”

“I thought it was a joke,” Julia said, with a laugh about rebuttal No. 2. “I was embarrassed and said no.'”

But John didn’t give up. Soon after their meeting, John “bit the bullet,” he said. He bought her a ring and then formally called to ask her for a date their first.

They met in Florida where they were visiting friends and family. “She went to the store,” he said, “and I froze the ring in an ice cube.” The plan was to serve it in her dinner glass that evening.

“She drank from the cup and didn’t see it,” he said. After about 30 minutes, she finally spotted it. When she did, he asked her for her hand a third time.

Only Julia couldn’t answer. “I got up from the table and left. He was in shock,” she said. “But I got my composure back and said yes that time.”

The Salvation Army requires couples to wait six months from their engagement until they marry, so barely a week after the required waiting period, they tied the knot three times.

On April 30, 1995, in Fredericksburg, Va., they donned their Salvation Army uniforms an organizational requirement in a private ceremony to make it official. But Julia wanted the traditional, white-dress wedding. So an hour later, after breaking for lunch, the two were married again, “with all the guests,” she said.

The newlywed couple then went back to McComb, where John had been transferred so they could work together. “At the church in McComb, the people wanted us to get married again,” she said. “They thought it would be good for the (congregations’) kids to see the two of us get married.” Wedding No. 3.

From McComb, the couple was transferred to Houma, La., and then to Vicksburg, arriving in January 1998, with daughter, Amber. “We’ve been here 4 1/2 years, which is long compared to others,” Julia said.

They expect a transfer soon.

Until then, they will continue taking turns preaching the gospel of the Salvation Army and running the food services, thrift store and other programs the organization has provided Vicksburg for 115 years.

The Army’s marriage requirement is controversial for some, but for John and Julia, it makes sense.

“It’s really a 24-hours, seven-day-a-week job,” John said.

“It’s important that we both have that same calling in our lives,” Julia said.