Many cultures, one faith
The Whittier Corps reflects the diversity of the Rio Hondo area of Southern California.
The Salvation Army Whittier (Calif.) Corps joins individuals who represent a vast array of cultures—from Laotian, Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Indian, Asian and Brazilian.
The congregation’s mix reflects the diversity of Southern California’s Rio Hondo region, located about 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles and named for the Rio Hondo River, a tributary of the Los Angeles River.
“It is a blessing to see the variety of cultures worshiping together as one family,” said Major David Sholin, Rio Hondo area coordinator and Whittier corps officer with his wife, Deanna. “Recently, we have been seeing an increase in the number of people attending our services, and we are doing our best to add others to our congregational family.”
Rev. Mike Phrasavath, a Nazarene minister, contacted the Southern California Division in 1994 about establishing a Laotian congregation within The Salvation Army. Then Divisional Commander Colonel George Church asked Sholin, who was divisional finance secretary, to arrange an official interview with Phrasavath and his wife, Kongma. From that interview, the Laotian ministry grew and has existed ever since.
For many years, the Laotian Corps was based in Santa Fe Springs. Today, the congregation meets at the Whittier Corps, where it continues to be a viable part of the corps’ multicultural ministry. Majors Mike and Kongma Phrasavath, now retired Salvation Army officers, voluntarily lead the Laotian congregation alongside the Sholins. Approximately 20 Laotian soldiers and friends worship on Sunday mornings and attend Bible study and prayer groups during the week.
Just down the street, the Santa Fe Springs Temple Corps—located on the same property as the Santa Fe Springs Transitional Living Center and SAVN.tv—conducts Spanish-speaking worship services.
As the holidays approach, Sholin said the congregations are “preparing to celebrate together the joy that we find in experiencing the fullness of Christ in our lives, and sharing our joy with the broader community around us.”