Kona Corps looks to future while celebrating the past

This summer, The Salvation Army Kona Corps celebrated 50 years of ministry to people on the west end of the Big Island of Hawaii and implemented several new programs to build a strong future.

The July 9 celebratory service was one of the first events in Kona for newly commissioned Corps Officers Lts. Jose and Raghel Santiago.

“Kona Corps is our first appointment…and we are blessed and happy to be here,” Raghel Santiago said.

The couple welcomed Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Divisional Leaders Majors John and Lani Chamness to the meeting, along with other Salvation Army officers, Advisory Board members and people from the community. The brass band played and the division’s hula group, Hula Halau, performed. Major Joe Utrera, the first Kona Corps Officer, gave the message.

“It was awesome to praise God for what he has done in Kona through The Salvation Army for 50 years,” Santiago said.

While thankful for the blessings and achievements of the past, the Santiagos aim to build upon them, further expanding the corps’ outreach. During their first month, they started three new programs.

Their first week in Kona, they started what would become a weekly event: the “Hot Meal and Worship” ministry at the pier. Each Thursday evening, the Santiagos and corps volunteers serve a hot meal to anyone who wants one, from individuals facing homelessness to tourists.

“We sing songs, do a small devotion, and offer prayer to anybody who wants to be prayed for,” Santiago said. “In the four weeks we have been doing this ministry, four people have accepted Christ already, and we average serving food to about 65 people.”

Another new program is a weekly outreach to about 150 kids from a nearby low-income community. Every Tuesday evening, the kids sing songs, play games and hear a brief devotion. In its first two weeks, this ministry brought five new children to the corps’ Sunday meetings.

“To have these young kids know about God and worship a Lord that loves them is one of our main focuses for this program,” Santiago said.

For the 60 children that attend the corps’ preschool, the Santiagos just launched a regular chapel time. Each Friday, they partner with the pre-school leaders, offering songs, story time, a Bible memory verse and prayer.

“What is awesome is how the kids’ parents are happy that their kids are getting ‘church’ time when we made the parents aware of this ministry,” Santiago said. All 60 parents agreed to let their children participate in the ministry.

“I had two mothers say how glad they are for this opportunity because they don’t go to church,” Santiago said. “This program might even open doors for the family to start attending our church services.”

The Santiagos have more plans for the fall, including free brass instrument lessons for youth from the community.

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