El Centro Salvation Army ministers to body and soul

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Thrift store chapel gives people renewed faith.

by Suzi Wooddruff Lacey – 

Captain Jerry Esqueda conducts a service in The Salvation Army Thrift Store in El Centro, Calif. [Photo by Suzy Woodruff Lacey]

Each week, 50 to 100 people congregate at the El Centro, Calif. Salvation Army thrift store—they are participating in a unique social service ministry started by Captains Jerry and Vicky Esqueda, El Centro corps officers. Inside a makeshift chapel within the thrift store, a worship service takes place every Wednesday at noon. People come to hear Captain Jerry’s inspirational words, sing, share testimonies and prayer requests and partake in a Mexican lunch brought over from the corps kitchen.

At a recent service, 30-year-old Joshua Michael shared his testimony. The pharmacy intern—newly divorced—was driving cross-country, trying to reconnect with his life’s purpose. He stopped at the corps to ask for a gasoline voucher card. Instead, he prayed with Captain Jerry and decided to stay in El Centro, volunteering to paint the store and ask God to direct his next steps. Tears filled his eyes as he recalled Captain Jerry saying, “Welcome home.”

Many prayer requests focused on asking God for help and for strength in these difficult times. Many others were pure gratitude for blessings that followed the dark hours.

Socorro (CoCo) Seym translated the service into Spanish. Although she was born without arms or legs, CoCo doesn’t let anything stop her from living life to the fullest, serving God and blessing others. She teaches Sunday school at the El Centro Corps and leads the girl guards. CoCo, recently enrolled as a soldier, says The Salvation Army is the first church where she is truly needed and valued.

Eighteen-year-old Josie Gonzales confirmed that, “CoCo is like a mom to me. I can tell her anything! She helps me, encourages me and has taught me so much about how the Bible can help me in my life.”

Many people came to the noon service with their heads down, burdened by life’s hardships. They left with smiles, full stomachs and a renewed faith in the blessings God has for them.


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