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Hitting all Strikepoints

They bag groceries at local supermarkets, serve free coffee from their front porch, and distribute food boxes in the neighborhood they now call “home.”

Meet the new “Strikepoint” urban mission team based at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Dayton, Ohio. The initiative, which began in October, meets all four “Strikepoints” unveiled last year by Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, territorial commander, which include “Integrated Urban Mission,” “Deeper Discipleship,” “Skilled Leadership,” and “Young Adult Empowerment.”

Salvationists Zach Smith and Thomas Eller, the 2–person college–aged team, rent an apartment near the Kroc center. Thomas-EllerMajor Thomas Duperree, center administrator, said that, in today’s church, “We typically ask people to come to us. But this church goes to the people.

“That’s exactly what Jesus did,” he said. “He ministered to the people right where they were. That’s what the urban missions team is about. It’s about taking the worship and the service right to the very streets and homes where the people live.”

The mission team is the brainchild of Major Larry Ashcraft, divisional commander in SWONEKY. Ashcraft said as far back as the Project 1:17 program he had started at the College for Officer Training, his vision was to move the concept to a more urban setting.

“This [Dayton urban mission team] takes it a step further to expose them to the totality of ministry that The Salvation Army offers, especially in these really tough neighborhoods,” Ashcraft said.

“These guys went into neighborhoods with about 200 boxes of prepared food. As they walked in and started distributing, some of the people said, ‘We didn’t know tonight where our meal was going to come from.’ ”

“A similar ‘Strikepoint’ mission team operates in a tough neighborhood near the Cincinnati Westside Corps,” Ashcraft said.

Smith and Eller both grew up in The Salvation Army and understand its mission. Eller also is a Dayton native.

Major Barbara Duperree, the corps officer at the Dayton Kroc center, said the two have gone door to door to introduce themselves and to serve free hot chocolate and coffee from their front porch in an effort they call “Grounds for Grace.”

“It’s just an opportunity to draw people toward them and kind of get to know the neighbors they’re working with,” she said. “The goal eventually is to befriend them and tell them about the Lord.

“We’re hoping to plant a Sunday school and a young adult worship in the neighborhood.”Zach

Smith, who traveled with the Creative Arts Service Team (CAST) last summer, called the urban mission team another “perfect” opportunity to share God’s love.

“It’s unique to be in a situation where your job is just to go and minister to people,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about doing anything else and you can really put your ministry first.”

Smith said when people saw them move into the neighborhood, “That definitely takes off some of the edge or some of the reserve that they might have.”

Eller, who is attending community college while on the mission team, said he wants to “get people into the church who don’t even know what The Salvation Army is.”

“I’ve always been told to follow what Jesus has planned for you and to obey what He has for you,” Eller said. “When they asked me to do this ministry, I thought that this is what God wants me to do right now.

“The people are seeing us around more and more. We’re starting to build relationships.”

The initiative clearly meets the urban mission and young adult empowerment priorities of “Strikepoint,” but Major Thomas says you can’t leave out deeper discipleship since Smith and Eller meet weekly with a mentor from the corps.

“While they minister, they are being ministered to,” he said. “We have several people in the corps who have the responsibility of caring for these young men as they care for other people.”

Major Barbara said the congregation has come alongside the team.

“Serving is such an important part of discipleship,” she said. “Getting your people from a place of sitting in a pew on Sunday morning to going and serving, that’s a challenge for any corps officer.

“This idea of inspiring our corps people on to greater service … that’s discipleship. We’re meeting all of these Strikepoint initiatives through the urban mission team.”

Major Barbara said she leads Smith and Eller in a weekly Bible study and thus trains them to be leaders, fulfilling yet another “Strikepoint.”

“They’re developing their own leadership skills through this ministry and maybe one day they will become Salvation Army officers or great local officers,” she said.

Smith, who draws people to Christ through the Gospel arts, said he wants to touch lives through the stage—or urban mission.

“Any way possible,” he said. “I love acting and I love being able to reach out to people and make friends. What we’re doing is what The Salvation Army is all about.”

Ashcraft said he has always believed that the Millennial Generation (people born from 1982 through 2004) will “buy The Salvation Army mission of service ‘hook, line, and sinker.’

“I see this step of urban mission teams as the first stop in engaging Millennials in the ‘nitty-gritty’ of The Salvation Army,” Ashcraft says. “I think in the future it will be a different–looking Army. I think it will look more like it did back in William Booth’s day.”

by Robert Mitchell

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