The Salvation Army in Mexico puts into action the worldwide Salvation Army theme: “With Heart to God and Hand to Man”
by Major Larry Repass –
Deep within Mexico City lie the neighborhoods of Morelos and Tepito. They have a dark reputation, earned over the last eight to ten decades. Taxi drivers will refuse to drive there at night.
About 75 years ago a young Methodist, Alejandro Guzman, heard God calling him to Morelos and Tepito to help the alcoholics and street children. With a handful of others, he rounded up the residents for a Christmas Eve almost-midnight supper. They held open air meetings—illegal at the time—putting Christian words to Mexican folk tunes. They gave simple but nourishing meals to street children and provided public baths for those who lived on the streets or were too poor to have plumbing. Volunteer nurses from the same church treated the sick and provided midwife services, since doctors and nurses (like the taxi drivers) were loathe to visit the area.
Three years later, Guzman heard that his work sounded like The Salvation Army. He had never heard of the Army, but later the Army would absorb his “Salvationist Patrol.” This year the work will celebrate its 70th year.
Today, from a group of buildings in the heart of Morelos, Salvationists continue to serve the needy, offering both material help and spiritual guidance. Corps #1, the “White Chapel,” preaches the gospel and offers daycare services as well as occasional food and clothing help.
Next door, a mental health clinic, started for counseling the victims of the 1985 earthquake, provides marriage and other types of counseling, and is expanding into medical clinic services, under the direction of Major (Dr.) Sallyann Hood of the U.S. Western Territory.
Her husband, Major James Hood, is director of the Adult Rehabilitation Center next to the Clinic. The center operates a night shelter where an average of 50 men, for two dollars a night, receive a safe place to sleep and a hot shower, along with a free meal if they arrive before 8:30 p.m. Counseling is available for those who want it and at various times rehabilitation programs for the addicted are provided. Sometimes a fifth of the men are undocumented travelers from Central America trying to reach the U.S. They are generally not charged for their keep, since they often have been robbed of all money and papers.
A slogan in action
At Christmas time, The Salvation Army in Mexico takes to the streets, putting into action the Army’s worldwide theme, “With Heart to God and Hand to Man.”
Salvationists set up their red kettles to collect money to help the needy. Sometimes the kettles are enlivened with a choir of children or a brass quintet of officers to create a festive atmosphere.
League of Mercy members from every corps carry bags of useful items to hospitals, homes for the elderly, women’s jails and juvenile detention centers. Many corps also organize Christmas dinners for the needy.
After holding a Christmas party for neighborhood children, the cadets and staff of the School for Officers’ Training traveled to the center of Mexico City with hot food for the homeless—they also visit with food every Tuesday night. Before serving the food, the cadets presented a lively program including a timbrel routine, a clown act—which elicited uproarious laughter—and a drama calling those present to reflect on God’s love as expressed in his sending his Son to be our savior.