Sharing tea, cookies and the Word

Tea services draw homeless women.

Esther Juan and her granddaughter enjoy “Tea at 10–see ya then” at the Kahului Corps. [Photo by Kathy Merritt]

What is so extraordinary about drinking from a “real” china cup—served from a “real” porcelain teapot—and eating cookies served on “real” antique plates? Perhaps it’s because these items are not your everyday tableware; they’re expensive, fragile, and typically only used for special occasions.

Captain Nancy Ball, corps officer of the San Bernardino, Calif., Citadel with her husband Stephen, recognized the “preferred” feeling conveyed when using real china at an ordinary meal. She wanted to share that emotion with the homeless women living in the adjacent shelter. So she came up with the idea for “Tea at 2.”

Each day at 2 p.m. Ball invites the ladies in for tea—poured from a porcelain teapot into an eclectic collection of china teacups she has collected. After serving each woman, she passes around cookies on antique plates. A Bible study follows the time of eating, drinking, and talking.

Virginia’s story
Ball had asked Virginia to Tea at 2 many times, but she always declined. Ball, however, never gave up. After numerous attempts, Virginia finally came.

After Ball spoke about the tea ceremony, she asked if anyone had a prayer request. Virginia raised her hand.

“Most of you know I’ve been in a gang all my life. Every time I get in a program, something happens that makes me go back to the gang. A rival gang attacked my gang and the retaliation is planned for later today. This isn’t the life I want. This isn’t what I want for my three little boys,” Virginia said.

While Virginia wept, Ball prayed for her—for wisdom to make the right choices, strength to carry out the choices she made, and protection for Virginia and her sons against any gang retaliation.

Virginia returned the next day and told Ball that she wanted what Ball taught—more of Jesus and the Bible. Ball told her she would clear her calendar anytime Virginia wanted Bible study.

Since then, Virginia returned—sometimes as often as three times a week—eager to know Jesus and to introduce her sons to the Lord.

Now Virginia and her boys are in their own apartment. The boys—ages 6, 8, and 12—are doing well in school. Virginia keeps in touch with Ball and comes by The Salvation Army whenever she can.

A good idea catches on
A/Captain Kathy Merritt, of Maui’s Kahului Corps, had been struggling to find a way to reach out spiritually to the homeless women on Maui. The corps’ traditional Home League holds Bible study on Tuesday evening, but many homeless women couldn’t attend because the women’s shelter where they stay requires them to “reserve” their bed by 6:00 p.m.; afterwards they must stay on site. If they were to come to Bible study, they would lose their safe, dry place to spend the night.

During a visit to the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division, Colonel Sue Harfoot, territorial secretary for women’s ministries, told Merritt about the San Bernardino Corps’ Tea at 2 Bible study. Inspired by this, Merritt got to work. Since Maui school releases children at 2:00, that time wasn’t good. Merritt decided on “Tea at 10—see ya then,” with a Bible study on “Becoming a Woman of Worth.”

Meetings began in early March.

From reports submitted by Suzi Woodruff-Lacey and A/Captain Kathy Merritt

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