Pair pushes urban ministry
As first African American divisional commanders in the Central Territory, the Richardsons are on a mission.
By Julie Borgen –
Lt. Colonels Lonneal and Patty Richardson now lead The Salvation Army Northern Division, which serves Minnesota and North Dakota, as the first African American divisional commanders in the Central Territory of the United States, and just the second in The Salvation Army across the country.
“We are a diverse nation—the Twin Cities are a perfect example of that,” said Lonneal Richardson. “We have a strong urban ministry focus and plan. Not that the rural areas aren’t important, but the urban areas are where most of the population lives and it’s where we have the most problems, and the most opportunities for The Salvation Army ministry to have an impact.”
The Richardsons step into their new roles after spending more than two decades serving as Salvation Army officers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Missouri.
Most recently, the pair were appointed leaders of The Salvation Army’s Midland Division in St. Louis and were on the front lines of the rioting in Ferguson, after the death of Michael Brown.
“I was personally involved in a conference call with the White House as they were dealing with what was happening there,” Richardson said. “The Salvation Army played an important role there in not only providing for the people affected, but in serving as a bridge-builder between law enforcement and the community.”
The leaders say they believe their experience and The Salvation Army’s mission are particularly needed in the Twin Cities now, given recent events.
“Race relations and economic disparities—these are difficult conversations. But who better to be at the table than The Salvation Army?” said Patty Richardson. “We have to be an Army that’s inclusive and reflects our communities.”
In addition to helping heal those wounds, the Richardsons are committed to combating urban food deserts, fighting the cycle of poverty and incarceration that plagues some neighborhoods, and empowering people to help themselves.
“We will challenge our staff and our Salvation Army officers to address the root causes of poverty and other problems,” said Lonneal Richardson. “As the old saying goes, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. We must be involved in teaching people how to fish.”
And that is why the Richardsons believe that The Salvation Army is just as relevant today as when it was founded by William and Catherine Booth over 150 years ago.
“The Army was created for a time just like this,” he said. “The best days for The Salvation Army are still ahead.”