by Judy Vaughn –
Golden State Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Richard Love reports there are now seven Salvation Army outposts in the division, three of which are thriving in the greater Bay Area as an outgrowth of attached corps, and a response to tremendous needs. He praises the “perseverance and tremendous spirit of the people who initiate and continue this work.”
The Army’s presence in San Francisco peninsula communities represents a major thrust forward from the Redwood City Corps, which is growing rapidly.
In the past two and a half years, Redwood City has been a major player in opening and now running the Clara Mateo Shelter in Menlo Park. Its church population has grown to 71, a 31 percent increase. The new Hispanic Temple has opened with an average attendance of 80 people; and East Palo Alto–with a tremendous social service outreach to 50 or 60 families a week–is building its corps services with Home League and Bible study classes in English and Spanish.
During recent heavy rains, these units were greatly challenged. San Mateo County Coordinator Envoy Ron McKinney reports having dispensed $45,000 of goods-in-kind in the area. East Palo Alto continues to serve 210 meals a day to people evacuated from their homes and issue hundreds of emergency vouchers a month. East Palo Alto is often described as a city for the poorest of the poor. The Army is making a real difference.
After starting as an outpost, the award-winning Youth Outreach Program in Kings River has now been a corps for a year. Gang intervention activities with the school district have met with such success that the city is willing to provide a new facility.
Starting from Zero
What kind of faith does it take to start a church “from zero”? To hold your first praise meeting in a huge gymnasium with your wife and two kids making up the entire congregation?
Envoy Ezekiel Guevara of the Milpitas Outpost is full of stories about the faith, miracles, dreams and ironic coincidences that characterize his family’s ministry. For the past 20 years, he and his wife have been on a pilgrimage leading them to The Salvation Army. By their count, the ministries of at least 20 pastors, theo-logians and missionaries have evolved from their work in each place they’ve been…they’ve left a healthy congregation.
When he was working as an insurance salesman, “the Lord pulled my ears” and brought him back to the church. On the Friday he was laid off from a job, then Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Jerry Gaines called to ask when he could come to work for The Salvation Army.
Gaines had met the family when they were invited to Redwood City to lead music for a soldier’s enrollment. He had prayed with them and asked them seriously to consider soldiership. By the time he called back, the Guevaras were already prepared to say yes. “In fact,” says Guevara, “without even knowing we were going to be part of The Salvation Army, we were already using Army literature and Spanish language tracts.”
Today, the family continues to minister from the same neighborhood church gym where they started, but now with a congregation of 30-40 people and with a full program of youth and adult activities. At the end of March, Love will enroll 25 new soldiers. “We actually have more who want to join, but don’t have the money for uniforms,” Guevara reports. It doesn’t seem to matter. With pride in his voice, he says, “Everybody in the church knows we’re The Salvation Army.”
Starting in the Park
With no building and no congregation, Captains Carlos and Carol Hernandez started their Los Banos ministry literally in the park, doing open airs for children.
Eventually the children came to vacation Bible school and day camp. The Army’s philosophy is that once you provide a service for children, you gain their parents’ trust and eventually their participation as well. And that’s what happened in Los Banos.
Today the outpost has a growing Sunday school and youth programming, Bible study, League of Mercy, women’s outreach and REACH energy assistance. It has an advisory council of 17 people and the city–a bedroom community, half of whose residents commute to San Francisco and San Jose–has asked The Salvation Army to consider starting a soup kitchen, shelter and after school program. Over 100 families received Salvation Army Thanksgiving and Christmas assistance.