Carson City is the new home for Salvation Army Capts. Dora and Mark Stearns and 17-year old son Adam. They expressed joy to be in the type of city where your neighbor comes over to welcome you the morning after your arrive, something this couple has never experienced in previous postings.
Like any regular U.S. military officer, the Salvation Army posts their officers where they think they can use their unique talents to “do the most good.” That means possible reassignment every few years to new “bases.”
Prior to being assigned here, the couple did their ministry in Anaheim, Portland, Albuquerque, Laughlin/Bullhead City, and Olympia, Washington, mentoring the homeless and those with drug and mental issues. They learned a lot over the 10 years since receiving their graduation certificates in 2010 from the Salvation Army Training College in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, both graduating as lieutenants. The Army encourages couples to journey along the same path.
The Stearns have been married 21 years and have had quite the interesting journey to finding their path to God, each other, and Carson City. He was a former popular disc jockey playing adult contemporary rock in Salem and Portland, Oregon spinning tunes for over 20 years before deciding to forge a new career within hotel management primarily for the Comfort/Choice Hotel chain working his way up to becoming a “troubleshooter” for underperforming hotels.
Dora, too, worked within the hotel industry and it was when they worked at the same hotel in Eugene their life journey as a couple began. An immigrant from El Salvador, Dora earned her U. S. citizenship in 2013 when they were posted to Albuquerque. Her ability to speak Spanish has been well-received in many communities and has rounded them out as a couple.
It was through his hotel career the couple found their way to the Salvation Army, and it took a hurricane named Katrina to show them the way.
While attending a hotel conference in Denver when Hurricane Katrina was devastating New Orleans in August 2005, the owner of the hotel group where Mark was employed asked all management to go back to their home bases to “do something tangible” Mark states. “Dora and I took his challenge to heart and returned to our hometown of Anacortes, Washington which is just 14 miles from Mt. Vernon, Washington, where I was remodeling a hotel.”
That challenge led him to the Salvation Army. It was when he and Dora decided to assist with the annual holiday food drive, that they learned how food insecure so many were. Through their efforts, 2,032 pounds of food was donated within four hours. So appreciative was the Salvation Army that they asked Mark to attend and speak at their service to be able to recognize the couple’s contribution.
What they heard and saw at the church touched their souls setting them on a new path.
Mark admits he had thought of being a pastor since age 16 and when the pastor assigned to the Anacortes Salvation Army Church told him, “You are called to be a pastor,” the wheels began to turn though not before quite a bit of self-doubt. He states, When I expressed my doubt, the pastor stated, ‘When God calls he never gets it wrong,’ and then handed me an application to take the first step and apply to the college.
Dora, too, was encouraged to apply and the journey to Carson City began. Along the way, both were ordained as ministers in 2015, thus fulfilling his lifetime dream.
Having only been in Carson City since June 29, the couple is still learning the community and the many programs currently in place so important to their churchgoers. They both feel blessed to be able to provide over 200 boxes of food to needy families every Wednesday and to shepherd those who need help in these unusual times. They appreciate all the work done by their predecessors Capts. Leslie and Mark Cyr who were reassigned to Pueblo, Colorado.
What do they foresee for the future? Mark wishes to “Expand current capacities to serve the many families in need.” Dora believes to do this, “The highest and best use of the former church site not yet sold on Colorado Street should be to keep that building as the church and turn the current site at 211 E. 2nd Street into a full Family Service Center.”
The Salvation Army is governed by an Advisory Board currently led by P.K. O’Neill who speaks on behalf of the board stating, “Mark and Dora's background with the Salvation Army has brought a new perspective and excitement to our community. They have only been here a month now but are rapidly settling in and becoming Carsonites.”