“Go for souls and go for the worst”
Following Booth’s mandate at the Murrieta Corps.
by Glen Doss, Major –
Although coarse in appearance and tattooed conspicuously, humility shines through Patrick Rodrigues’ rough exterior. Pat, 54, might have been one of William Booth’s original converts. Now he proudly wears his new soldier’s uniform.
“For a long time I knew about God, but I did not know him. Attending the corps, participating in the Bible studies, has begun a hunger in me not just to know about God but to know him. By being of service I’m trying to make up for all the bad that I did.”
Dan White, 58, spent the majority of his life behind bars. “The devil had me by the nape of the neck. There was no turning back for me, until 35 years of prison time had elapsed,” he says. “But once I became willing, everything else fell into place. I became a soldier in an endeavor to seek integrity, to be a man of my word. In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be where I am today.”
Pat and Dan are among a dozen senior soldiers, ranging in ages from 14 to 91, who were recently enrolled at the Murrieta Corps by Sierra del Mar divisional commander Major Linda Markiewicz. Eight, including Pat and Dan, are Riverside County ARC graduates. Thirteen adherents from the ARC and four junior soldiers were enrolled as well.
Recent ARC graduate Dale Greenhagen, 33, says God has called him to wear the officer’s uniform. “Feeling hopeless in county jail, needle tracks all over my arms, I fell to my knees and prayed: ‘Lord, I’m at my wit’s end—the only place I have to turn is you. I give you my life.’ One day, I hope as a Salvation Army officer to share my life experiences with others coming off the streets, I was on the streets; I did drugs; I sold drugs. But God is a God of restoration. He transforms your life and gives you a new purpose.”
Paul Skill, 49, feels his faith growing stronger as he helps others through the corps. “When I realized I wasn’t succeeding by leaning on my understanding—as my addiction to drugs and alcohol and my criminal activities landed me in and out of prison, leading to the loss of my family—I finally fell to my knees, opened my heart to God and asked him to help me find a better way. His Spirit entered me and changed the way I think. I know that being a soldier will strengthen my walk with Christ.”
Jerry Jové, 45, was enrolled along with his wife Coleen and her mother, Eunice Pearson, 91. Eunice, a child of Salvation Army officers in British Columbia, left the Army for the Presbyterian Church after she was married. When her son-in-law Jerry entered the Riverside County ARC, Eunice began accompanying Coleen to the worship services.
“Throughout the years I told Coleen I would love to go back to the Army someday. But never in my wildest dreams did I think Jerry would be the one to bring me back—it has to be the work of God! It’s like a journey home, and I’ve finally arrived.”
Jerry accepted Jesus soon after entering the ARC. “Today I’m ready to serve—to give back for what The Salvation Army has given me. I feel I’m being led gently through my spiritual walk and that I will be placed where I’m needed most.”
The change she saw in her husband helped Coleen decide to join the corps. “I saw the softening of Jerry’s heart as I watched him move into the role of spiritual leader of our family. And I realized I had a problem, too—I was a codependent. What was missing in our lives was Jesus; now he has made our life together complete. Also we have two grandchildren whom we needed to bring to church where they will receive the right teaching.”
The triple enrollment highlights a movement of the Holy Spirit through the Murrieta corps. Major LeAnn Trimmer, corps officer, says, “We have experienced a phenomenal growth spurt. I gaze out at the congregation on Sunday mornings, utterly amazed at the astounding thing that God has done!”
The Sunday morning attendance has climbed from an average of 60 when the Trimmers arrived four years ago to 110 today. Many—though by no means all—of the new attendees are ARC graduates and their family members.
Recruiting Sergeant Rick Mabie, a 1997 ARC graduate is a key player. Mabie has taught a weekly relapse prevention class at the ARC for years. “He isn’t content to see people sitting on the fence,” says LeAnn. “He moves them forward. As soon as he was commissioned, he ran with it.”
Close to 30 people regularly attend the corps Friday night Bible study, half of who are ARC graduates. Recovery is presented as Christian growth, an essential experience for all. “Whether we ever drank or used or not, we are all in recovery, because we all have our set habits—some of which are destructive,” says LeAnn. “We talk turkey: this is what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about.”
Recently an ARC grad remarked, “We’re not the normies: we come from the rehab, so we’re different.”
“No!” LeAnn interjected, “We’re all in the same boat.”
Corps Officer Major Darren Trimmer, says “There is no distinction here. The retired officers and other long-time corps members who have come alongside the ARC graduates no longer refer to them as the ARC men. We are a family.”
In order to better serve the total corps population, the corps recently launched a weekly Al-Anon meeting. Thirteen attended the first session. A course titled: “I’m a soldier, now what?” will begin shortly.
“Two years ago,” Mabie recalls, “I told my wife that I had a vision of a sea of blue up on that stage. Watching the enrollment ceremony, she turned to me and whispered: ‘Your dream came true!’”