On the Front Lines in the Salvation Battle
by Mark Robb –
In Portland, Ore., at the Moore Street Corps and Community Center, the Salvation War is fought for the souls of men and women, boys and girls.
Too often, the word “war” is very close to the literal truth. At this inner-city battleground there are bullet holes in the back wall of the chapel. You can purchase drugs and alcohol less than a block away. The community center has long been an established “neutral” territory for the gangs that roam the neighborhood. But at Moore Street, or more commonly “The Sal,” there is always someone who is willing to share the love of God with anyone who will listen.
The commanding officer, Lt. Doug Riley, says, “This is truly a safe haven–best kept secret in Portland.” In the three years since Lts. Doug and Colleen Riley took command of the Moore Street Corps they have watched both the corps and the center grow.
Riley’s energetic preaching style and the use of a contemporary “praise band” on Sunday mornings has more than doubled attendance. Adult programs during the week at the corps include soldiership classes, Home League, Adult Bible study, Men’s Fellowship, Nightlights (a women’s program), Women’s Bible study, a traditional brass band, a contemporary adult choir, and a Timbrel Brigade.
For the youth, traditional programs include Girl Guards and Sunbeams, Adventure Corps, Corps Cadets, Jr. Brass Band, and Bible study for junior high and high school. Innovative new youth programming includes an African Drum Team, a Youth Gospel Choir, Jr. Praise Band and Worship Team, and Creative Ministries. The corps is blessed in having two part-time youth ministers. All programs are open to the public, and youth are drawn to these times of fun and fellowship with God.
Across the parking lot at the Community Center the battle is harder won. Here, Riley is “…trying to beat the gangs at their own game.” At “The Sal,” memberships are affordable. The staff finds a way for willing youth to work off the cost if they can’t afford a membership. Teens and adults of all ages flock to the center day and night.
Most Fridays between the hours of 10 p.m. – 2 a.m., 75 to 100 teens play “midnight basketball.” This is “The Sal’s” version of gang intervention; an attempt at keeping kids off the street. Besides a full sized basketball court, the center contains a well-equipped weight room, a pool, and a game room. They are used to their fullest extent, since 92,000 adults and teens pass through the Center’s door every year. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes meets at the Center twice a month with local high school athletes to talk about their future and how God fits into the plan. Social Services offers Life Skills courses where single parents can learn to provide for their children on a limited budget. Special attention is given to nutrition and health.
In addition to midnight basketball, the gymnasium is used for senior exercise class and aerobics. Christian music is played. Prayer and a brief Bible study are part of the class. Once a year, the gym is converted into a banquet hall. The North Portland Community Pride Banquet celebrated its third year in March 1998. Local talent entertains guests who are attending to honor those citizens who have given back to the neighborhood.
In December, the entire center is used for the annual community Christmas party. More than 800 underprivileged children from the community gather to sing carols. Before they go home, they get a toy from the Army. For some, it is the only gift they will receive this year.
Part of the Center building is used for the Bright Beginnings Day Care. Ninety-three children from six weeks to 12 years attend Monday-Friday, where both breakfast and lunch are served. School-age children are given a well balanced breakfast, taken to school and picked up every day. The Center Day Care makes employment possible for parents of the 90 percent of the children from single parent homes.
Riley would like to see Moore Street continue to grow. His vision includes seminars on marriage, finance, children and discipline, as well as offering free counseling services and job placement. He would like to promote Christian concerts and produce weekly radio shows and community cable access programming to reach people with the word of God. He wants to continue to “Reach people at their point of need…go to them where they are. Show them Christ through your love and compassion as Jesus did and let him work through you.” The Moore Street Corps and Community Center is on the front lines in the battle for the souls of mankind. It is a safe, caring place where the love of Christ shines true.