Youth encouraged at El Cajon Corps

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Programs promote academic, artistic and spiritual growth.

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In June, the El Cajon, Calif., corps held Youth Sunday, commemorating a year of successful youth ministry and demonstrating accomplishments in music, art and troop programs.

During the service, the congregation honored outgoing Corps Officers Captains Terry and Rutendo Masango for their five years of service and their commitment to youth.

“Under their leadership, El Cajon Corps has been a source of illumination for the community,” said Matthew Weeden, corps youth director. “After-school programs like BOOST [Best Out Of School Time] are going into their fourth year and seeing extraordinary growth as the community recognizes the need for The Salvation Army to provide a safe haven for kids to learn and grow.”

The nearby EJE Academies Charter School regularly refers parents to the program, which is made possible by a group of volunteers ages 19-78 who are committed to enhancing the lives of children. During the school year, these volunteers, led by Corps Ministry Assistants Jacob and Danielle Bratton, provide one-on-one homework assistance. The children receive meals and snacks and time for fun activities.

“BOOST is wonderful, but getting the family to church on Sunday and introducing the children to Jesus is our highest goal,” Terry Masango said.

The program’s youngest volunteer, 19-year-old Austin Ericson, shares that commitment.

“I feel like I was able to connect with each child,” she said. “I also loved the way the BOOST program and The Salvation Army taught Scripture to the kids. I never experienced God’s Word and love so strongly at such a young age and I really think it will impact them for the rest of their lives.”

On Tuesday evenings, many of the kids stay at the corps for troop programs—Sunbeams, Girl Guards and Adventure Corps. At troops, Weeden introduces the children to the life of Jesus. “We must present an accurate picture of Christ to them at a young age,” he said.

Weeden uses his background working in education to bring Gospel-centeredness to youth ministry. “With much of school curriculum and music drifting away from all references to faith and the Bible, it is important to avail ourselves of every opportunity to connect kids with Christ.”

The El Cajon Corps also strives to fill the gap left when schools abandon music and art to focus on academics, including an art club that meets regularly at the corps and music instruction.  

“Music and art are vital to the expression and emotional development of future adults,” said soldiers Zi and Helen Masango, who teach percussion, guitar and singing. “[They] provide an outlet enriching the heart and soul through the course of life.”   

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