From the front line …

The Salvation Army’s ministry at Virginia Tech University


Captain Karl Dahlin, Covington, Virginia corps officer, provided the following firsthand reflection on The Salvation Army’s ministry on the campus of Virginia Tech University following the April 16 shootings.

Families arrived looking for answers. Media trailers surrounded the facility (the Inn) designated for the families. The Salvation Army’s role was to be available all hours through the night to offer direction and counsel. Often families were frustrated by the lack of information and direction, so this role was vital in tending to their spiritual well-being—these families who had endured so much. On Monday and Tuesday The Salvation Army coordinated the volunteer religious counseling services at the Inn.

Families stayed at the Inn while waiting for news of their loved ones and as they waited for bodies to be released for funeral preparations. The Inn’s staff showed great compassion to the families in the midst of their raw emotions. As a result they had a need to be ministered to in return. Many of them volunteered to work above and beyond their hours in response to this heartache. Our counseling team was able to provide a great ministry to the staff at the Inn as well as the families.

From the very first night The Salvation Army helped extend comfort to the families of the victims by offering meals, coffee, and snacks from the Roanoke disaster canteen parked under the awning of the Inn. These services were also available for volunteers, law enforcement officials, and students of the university. On average approximately 1,000 to 1,200 meals a day were being served. During Tuesday night’s candlelight vigil over 1,200 students were greeted with hot cocoa, snacks and water.

During the candlelight vigil, as the canteen met the physical needs of the students and families, our officers met their spiritual need through prayer. Captain Karl Dahlin prayed with the campus Meet You At The Pole prayer group. He stated that the students “prayed for the sustaining power of God to be with the families and student body. They prayed in thanksgiving for the privilege of having known some of the students killed in the shooting. They prayed that what was meant for evil might be used by God.”

The presence of The Salvation Army and what the uniform stands for was a greater ministry than we could ever imagine. “Oftentimes in the midst of a calm, quiet moment when no activity was even taking place individuals would come and say words of thanks for ‘all we were doing.’ The ministry most appreciated was often just our presence beside them during these difficult times.”

From The Salvation Army’s national

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