Setting souls free in Freeman Park

Small outpost is making a big difference in the community.

by Stefanie Segur –

Park visitors gather for a worship service.

The small town of Woodland, nestled in the farmland of Northern California, is the home of an Army outpost led by John and Helen Kilcoyne. The couple often takes advantage of the warm California sun, holding worship services in Freeman Park—a place the community considers an eyesore. Countless drug deals and crimes happen there on a daily basis. The Kilcoynes are out to change this. Every Sunday, unless it is raining, they hold a service in the park. Recently, the outpost has had some members rededicate themselves to Christ.

Dozens of homeless people attend the worship services; afterwards volunteers serve food to those in need of a hearty lunch, dishing up anything from pizza to barbecue. The Kilcoynes and the outpost soldiers use food as a tool to minister to people. “Many around Woodland are hungry,” Kilcoyne explained, “so we feed them and offer to pray for them.”

Stories of hope are coming out of Woodland every day. One concerns Tony, who was drinking with some of his buddies in the park when the aroma of pizza enticed him. He approached John and asked if he could have a slice. Taking the food, he put his beer down and began to take a bite. John and a soldier named Corina asked if they could pray for him. Bewildered, Tony accepted and asked them to pray for the power to stop drinking. The Kilcoynes and the outpost soldiers began to pray for Tony. Shortly thereafter, they began to gather for worship and Tony excitedly asked if he could join them.

He rushed over to his friends, threw them the leftover pizza and shouted, “I’m going to church…here, take my beer—I don’t need it. God is helping me now.”

Tony was set free in Freeman Park. The Kilcoynes are hoping to maintain the momentum and pray that now, with the nice spring weather, they will be able to touch even more lives. John’s goal is to put the small town of Woodland back on the map and to let the people know that The Salvation Army is there and willing to help those in need without hesitation. They’re off to a good start and their ministry is growing each week.

The Lord is blessing the town of Woodland. “We couldn’t provide for all these people without the help of volunteers and my wife, Helen,” Kilcoyne said. “A great group of soldiers and volunteers keep things running. Tad, the chef, does all the barbecuing, and Catherine and Debbie—dubbed “the Marthas”—help prepare and serve the lunches, as well as decorate for worship.

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