a warrior for her generation
Today, Shanique Taliaferro exudes the joy of the Lord. But in recent times, she had hit rock bottom and was desperately seeking God’s joy.
Forced to move in with her mother, who lived in one of Trenton, N.J.’s most challenging neighborhoods, Shanique would walk about a mile each day to pray at the State Capitol Fountain.
“I used to walk past The Salvation Army all the time on my way to the fountain,” Shanique says. “Then I saw the sign ‘The Salvation Army’ and it all clicked. I said, ‘Maybe they’re the army of the Lord.’ ”
Shanique rang the door bell at the Trenton Citadel Corps in July 2014, and a receptionist answered. Shanique recalls, “I told her I wanted to know more about The Salvation Army because God had called me to be a spiritual warrior.”
That day, Shanique was not permitted to go inside and pray, but she managed to get her hands on a War Cry magazine. The title reminded her of War Cry Intercessory Ministries, a prayer effort for members of her generation that she had started a few years earlier.
“I took that magazine home and read it,” she says. An article on the fullness of the Holy Spirit and two other stories about General André Cox, leader of The Salvation Army, caught her attention. “I began to cry because everything in that magazine really spoke to me,” she says.
“I felt the spirit of God,” she says. “It was an overwhelming presence. It was as if He was telling me to ‘Go back.’ ”
The next day, Shanique returned to the corps and requested to see General Cox. At the time, she thought her appeal was quite reasonable.
But instead of seeing the General, this time, she was allowed inside to pray.
“That was a breakthrough for me from that day forward,” she says. “I started coming here every day. I was really kind of struggling and trying to renew my relationship with the Lord.
“I was trying to get ahold of ‘the hem of His garment.’ I was thirsty for Jesus. I was looking for a place to pray. I was looking for spiritual development.”
The first thing she noticed when she entered the sanctuary was the phrase “Holiness to the Lord” on the front table.
“That spoke to me,” she says. “God was telling me, ‘I’m going to sanctify you for my work. I’m going to set you apart for my work. I’m going to do the work in you if you will just continue to seek me and submit.’
“For the first couple of weeks, it was amazing at that altar. I felt great.”
Shanique kept coming. Today, she is the director of volunteers at the Trenton, N.J. (Citadel) Corps, but her spiritual journey has had many twists and turns.
Shanique, now 33, was raised in a secular home and, at 16, had her first child, Briana. Five years later, she had a son, Jalen.
Despite being surrounded by broken homes, single parents, and the lure of drugs, she graduated high school. And in 2003, she became a retail sales manager at New York and Co.
“I always had that drive,” she says. “I was making a lot of money, but I was really empty. I really couldn’t understand why.”
Shanique earned a lot of bonuses and her bosses put her on the fast track to even more promotions.
“Everything in my career was going great, but I wasn’t happy,” she says. “I remember crying out. To be honest, I really didn’t have any purpose for living at that time. But you could look at me and not be able to tell.
“I said a little prayer and asked God if He was real and to reveal His purpose for my life. I don’t even know how I knew to pray.”
God grabs her
Soon after her prayer, Shanique was surprised when a group of Christians visited her home. One knocked on her door and asked, “Do you know Jesus?”
“I was really rude with them the whole time, not realizing that the prayer I had prayed had something to do with why they were here,” Shanique says.
Sometime later when Briana asked to go to church, Shanique relented. She came late and sat in the back of the Pentecostal church, but that night, God was speaking through the pastor.
“Everything the preacher was saying that day resonated with me,” she says. “I thought somebody had told him something about me. I just began to cry.”
The pastor called Shanique forward and the congregation prayed for her. That night in 2004, she accepted Christ.
“I got baptized that same night,” she says. “I was just never the same after that. I started to go to church all the time.
A new creation
“It was like when God touched me, it was a miracle. It was like I was a new person. I was excited. Jesus was real. At that time I had such zeal and I wanted to give Jesus to my friends and my neighbors and my family.”
Shanique also had a new worldview—one that didn’t involve materialism. While she had a car and a home and a good job, “When I got saved, that stuff didn’t matter,” she says.
“It was a whole new way of thinking,” she says. “I wanted to get involved with my children. I wanted them to know me.”
God impressed on her that while she was successful in the eyes of the world, her children needed her.
“God opened my eyes to a whole new level of parenting,” she says.
She quit her job and got on the board at her children’s school and more involved in the city of Trenton. However, the lack of money became a problem. She eventually secured another job with a foundation.
A lesson learned
“I went through a lot of valleys,” she says, including losing her house and car, “but the things I lost materially do not compare to the things God has given me in the lives of my children and the things He’s allowed me to do to help other people.”
Shanique served God faithfully until 2011 when a high school friend came into her life and she had another daughter, Amlya. She faced further financial problems when she was forced to resign from her job at the foundation.
“I was backsliding,” she says. “I thought my life was over. I thought I had failed God. I didn’t think God could love me anymore. I just didn’t think He could use me.”
Shanique eventually repented and left her boyfriend, and his financial support. Money was again an issue.
“I went through a period of depression,” she says. “Sometimes I considered ‘spiritual suicide’ because the old life just seemed easier.
A new start
“Something came into my spirit and I said, ‘God can still restore me. He’s mightier than those things.’ ”
In October 2014, she contemplated taking a job with Amazon, but God had other plans.
It was then she rang the Trenton Citadel Corps’ doorbell. As she left the church one day after praying in the sanctuary, she was offered a job, a temporary kettle position.
“Based on my prayer, I really felt God wanted me to go in this direction,” she says. “I created a prayer strategy for kettles.”
Shanique is now the director of volunteers at the corps. She also has helped organize a prayer room similar to the ones in the movie “War Room.”
“God gave me this vision before the movie,” she says. “Even in my house, I have that exact room.”
Going to war
Captain Moises Rivera, the divisional youth secretary in New Jersey, said Shanique reignited a feeding program in Trenton and the prayer she put into it was “unmatched.”
“She is a prayer warrior,” he says. “She loves the Lord so much and has a desire to serve the people of Trenton. Everyone she meets sees the passion she has.”
Shanique says she realizes we are in a spiritual battle, and she wants to break the cycle of dysfunction she experienced as a child in Trenton.
“We’re up against way more than the eye can see,” she says. “Our children are dying. This prayer room is a place to cry out for God to help. I want to see some generational chains broken.”
She has been asked to serve on committees of the Trenton City Council, which fits her “War Room” strategy. On the wall of the prayer room are hand written prayers for her city.
“My ultimate goal is to implement some prayer strategies in the city,” she says.
The corps “War Room” includes an area to kneel and pray, a spiritual reflection mirror, and pillows upon which to rest in the Lord. People can even leave a phone number and someone will call and pray with them over the phone.
“Now that I’m here, I think if someone came to the door and wanted a place to pray, I think there would be a place to pray,” Shanique says with a laugh.
by Robert Mitchell