In Uncertain Times
I had always wanted to play drums, and it was at The Salvation Army where I first held a bass drum mallet in my hands. I saved $150 and bought my first drum set. It was an old, low–end Pearl set from a yard sale, but I quickly learned to play it. I kept that set for 12 years and bought new pieces and gear to make it sound better. Over time, I’ve played in Salvation Army bands and even taught professionally in inner city schools. Teaching music is powerful; seeing children learn to play instruments brings out an emotional and spiritual feeling in me.
My first real job was doing maintenance at The Salvation Army’s Camp NEOSA when I was 15 years old. That’s when I learned how much I enjoyed working with young people, one on one. I came back to camp almost every summer after that. I eventually became the camp’s caretaker. I also became a Sunday school teacher and a corps community center helper. I know how important it is for young people to have someone to believe in them and to invest in their lives.
I grew up in Akron, Ohio, where I had a friend who lived with his grandmother. Dwayne’s family was one of the few white families I knew in Akron. Every weekend in the fall, a van would pick him up and take him to The Boys’ Club. He’d be gone for about three hours. I asked my mom for permission to go too. The next week, Lieutenant Phil Engle, an Army officer, took Dwayne and me to a building where we and other young men played football, baseball, indoor hockey, and video games. We also participated in a prayer devotional. After three months, Dwayne asked me to come to church with him. When the van pulled into the corps parking lot, I recognized the building; my mother and I had been there to get help with paying our bills and to pick up Christmas gifts. On those days, I always waited in the lobby. But on that day we walked into the chapel, and I was embraced and welcomed by old, young, black, and white Salvationists. That day, my life changed, and I made the Akron Temple Corps (which was later absorbed into Akron Citadel) my church home.
If basketball is being taught somewhere in the Eastern Territory, I need to be a part of it! Sports helps you develop a sense of identity and form bonds with others. I loved to run the community centers and to introduce kids and adults to sports through pick–up games and tournaments. It pointed me toward my own ministry. When I discovered what I was good at, I couldn’t run from that. It became a part of me.
I believe that where God places us, God always has us. In these difficult times, we need to remember that fact. I had felt nervous after my appointment in Connecticut. I thought, Where would God direct me? Would I be able to serve and do my best? I didn’t want to walk into uncertainty, but I trusted that God was listening to me. Now, that I’m in Newark, N.J., I look forward to another chance to serve. Even this Christmas, we’re trying to find new ways to raise money for the Army, in case it becomes harder to do kettles in our current situation. I’ve learned to trust God’s plan and to be in His presence, wherever He places me.
by Hugo Bravo
*Major Jonathan Jackson is the divisional secretary for The Salvation Army’s New Jersey Division.