It was a tough assignment. Partly due to its physical location in a small town in Oregon, The Salvation Army corps served a number of individuals who were under the care of the state’s Mental Health Division. How were their needs to be met? And would the community understand if they were welcomed into the corps family as regular members of the church?
While the Army is perhaps best known through its social services to families and individuals, it is first and foremost a church. It has, since its inception, practiced the Founder’s admonition to “Go for souls and go for the worst.” This means the Army often ministers to those individuals and families who are not truly or fully reached by other churches or community groups; it means the Army is hidden in anonymity as it seeks to help those deeply mired in need.
The following stories illustrate the Army’s practical, caring ministry in just one small town in Oregon–a ministry that “resurrected” the lives of those who were embraced by the compassionate acts of the soldiers and officer.
Embraced by friendship
Katherine (not her real name) had suffered two strokes before reaching the age of 55. A learning disability in her youth stretched on into adulthood. Her health at the time she came into contact with the corps was precarious; she would later be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Her two sons were adults and on their own, but she had little communication with them or other family members who lived in her community. The communication that did take place was often caustic. Katherine had been married twice, and was now divorced.
Linda (also not her real name) lost her mother when she was young and her father remarried. Afterwards, there was little room for Linda in her father’s life. She was a people-pleaser–at least she tried to be. Her marriage virtually ended when she entered a mental health facility after a nervous breakdown. Now living on her own but estranged from her children, she was seeking to restore her relationship with them.
What do these two women have in common? Both were made to feel at home in The Salvation Army–an occurrence that transformed their lives.
Now, both want to give back to the community by ministering through the Army in visits to nursing homes, participating at the Sunday worship service and youth activities, and taking part in the Army’s musical ministry.
Touched by compassion
The third story? It’s similar in one essential way to the others: it is a story of inspiration–of lives changed and growing because the Army is meeting a basic need.
This story centers around three children whose father had, for a number of years, been out of the home and whose mother perished in a drowning accident just a few years ago. They now lived with their grandmother. The two older boys were pre-teens when they encountered the Army. Their sister was the youngest of the three.
The children had been invited by a relative to the Army’s youth activities. Blessed by their godfather, Mike, who helped them get around, the children accepted their cousin’s offer and began attending youth activities at The Salvation Army. It didn’t take long for them to realize there were many benefits to their growth and development thereand basically, they just had a good time and enjoyed the fellowship.
As their classes continued, the leader of the boys’ program invited Mike to sit in on a class to observe what they were doing. It wasn’t long after that he was invited to lead the boys’ program. He agreed, and soon found his leadership there dovetailed nicely with those ways in which he was trying to help the young people. Shortly after, he became a soldier, and accepted leadership as the young peoples’ Sergeant-Major.
Mike’s new role as Adventure Corps Leader led to his being asked to help with the young peoples’ camping experience. He and the children are now veteran participants in the Army’s week-long summer camp. In addition, the children have learned structure and discipline as junior soldiers, and have participated in Salvation Army youth musicals.
These young people are still living with their grandmother, but now a security blanket surrounds them as they are covered in the cooperative efforts of their grandmother, godfather, and The Salvation Army.
Touched by God’s love
And that’s what the Army is all about! Wrapping people in God’s loving care and helping them to grow. Letting them know they are a valuable part of the community. And giving them the knowledge and grace to discover what can happen in their lives when they give themselves to God…and have their own “resurrection day” as their lives and emotions are touched by the Holy Spirit, bringing new life to their bodies and souls.