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Lieutenants Kelly and Tylar Melfi: The Army and us

Lieutenants Kelly and Tylar Melfi are corps officers at The Salvation Army Corps Community Center in Pittsburgh (North Boroughs), Pa.

Early in our relationship and years before we signed up for officer training or had heard of The Salvation Army, we concluded that it would be cool if we had a place of our own where we could guide people and help them; maybe even play guitar for them once in a while. We imagined having a coffeeshop. Today, we realize that God put those thoughts of service into our minds.

The College for Officer Training (CFOT) is a community that helped us develop our gifts. CFOT gave us confidence to believe we were good enough to serve God and be in His presence. There were times when we felt run down during our struggle with tests and classes. But when we had to pull away and ask for time to reconnect with each other as a family, rather than be punished and seen as failing, CFOT instructors commended us. One teacher said, “When you go out and run your own corps, people in your ministry will need to see you put your family first.”

Our corps was built from the ground up and we were honored that God called us to start something completely new for Him. Walking into this building as new officers in the middle of a pandemic was an awesome, overwhelming experience; it was like pressing a reset button. We couldn’t come in and say, “This is what we’re doing for you today,” but rather, we patiently waited to see where the Army could help. We had to listen to the community and mold the corps into what it needed to be for them. It was a process of trying new things, keeping what had worked in other corps, and changing what didn’t work.

There are some misconceptions about addiction. First, it can happen to anyone rather than only a certain type of person or those in a particular lifestyle. It happens to men and women, be they young, old, rich, or poor. Addiction also includes more than just drugs and alcohol. “Substance” abuse is a broad term that can be applied to anything in life, such as food. You can also be addicted to something that you can’t hold in your hand, such as a relationship or feelings like worry, control or power. Many of us are caught in terrible cycles that can create holes in our lives that need to be filled. In that way, we are all addicts to something. As a couple, we know this because we come from difficult childhoods; we were both affected by addictions. But we love to tell our story of recovery, because it shows that anyone can be pulled from darkness into God’s beautiful light.

No marriage is immune to strain, not even among Salvation Army officers. Years ago, we went to separate jobs, came home, and told each other about our day. Now, along with being parents, we’re also co-workers and learning how to run a church. The stress and sleepless nights can accumulate, but they ultimately strengthen our marriage. Relationships don’t grow when things are easy, but rather when spouses face hardship and adversity. Therapy has also been important in making our marriage stronger. We take part when we feel we need it, such as during stressful times or in the middle of a big life change. We want to encourage other couples to seek therapy and know that it’s okay to do so. It shouldn’t be a taboo, but rather an accepted part of our personal health care system.

Interview by Hugo Bravo

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