Priority!

Mission: Intentional

Q: What happens when a church and a rehab center set out to work together?

A: Greater numbers of people come to the Lord, grow in their spiritual lives, and become involved in the community.

Three years ago, the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Tampa, Fla., and the local Salvation Army church, the Tampa Corps, began an intentional effort to bring the people of the two entitites together.

“We arranged an ARC day at the corps,” says Major Paul McFarland, administrator at the residential program for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. “We rented buses to transport our residents and some of their families. I think we had about 400 people altogether on that Sunday.”

As a result of that event, Fernando Parson, an ARC graduate, and his wife, Amy, became involved in the corps. Eventually, the whole family were enrolled as members (soldiers).

“That was a breakthrough,” says Paul.

“Based on the success of that first effort,” says Kathy Tedford (see sidebar), the Tampa corps ministries director, “we determined to try it again.”

The second year, planners took advantage of the corps’ location directly across from the Lowry Park Zoo. The ARC obtained admission tickets for everyone who attended the morning service.

“That strong incentive, plus the presence of our [Southern Territory] leaders, Commissioners David and Barbara Jefffrey, increased attendance to more than 600,” says Paul.

The third annual event was in March 2013. On that day, 832 people came to the morning holiness meeting and 10 soldiers, three junior soldiers, and six adherent members (people who believe in Jesus and make the Army their church home) were welcomed and enrolled.

Each year, the ARC’s kitchen staff provided a noon meal for everyone.

“Our guys put in some serious hours, working several days in advance as well as on celebration day,” Paul says.

Building the Kingdom

Those big events are just part of the story. Throughout the year, the corps and the ARC work together, with the intentional goal of building God’s Kingdom in Tampa.

“There’s no doubt that our Tampa Corps/ARC Family Day last March was the most visible and exciting evidence of God’s blessing,” says Kathy. “But the involvement of people leading up to that day—and since—has been both deep and wide. …

“While the corps/ARC day originally was proposed by Major McFarland, building a bridge between the ARC and the corps was something we had envisioned for a long time. Over several years, our corps goals have included strengthening the ties between the corps and ARC.”

She says that of the 200 people in the congregation on a Sunday morning at the corps, about 20 percent have an ARC connection.

For McFarland and his wife, Major Dawn McFarland, that connection is an important part of their program.

“Our goal, at the ARC, is to get men sober, keep them sober, get them saved, and get them connected to a local church,” says Paul. “Some have spiritual roots and return to the churches of their youth. But the others we encourage to become active in the corps. It’s a natural.”

A number of corps members have also become involved in ongoing ARC programs.

Steve Vick, for example, is a longtime Salvationist who teaches the young adult Sunday school class at the corps. But before that, he’s at the ARC, leading praise and worship.

“Then he hurries back to the corps to teach his class,” Paul says.

Other soldiers, including retired officers, have an impact on the ARC. Major David Waite, for example, serves as the center’s chaplain.

The members of the Tampa Corps are also looking outside the doors of the church and ARC.

“We have been actively working at outreach to the community,” says Kathy. “We do doorknob hangers advertising our fall outreach festival as well as summer day camp and DVBS [Daily Vacation Bible School].” A women’s group, Naomi’s Daughters, does outreach to families the corps helps during the Christmas season.

“We now have people regularly attending whose initial contact with The Salvation Army was the ARC, Naomi’s Daughters, youth programs, and neighborhood visitation,” says Kathy.

Visiting ‘dancers’

Soldier Jill Penhale heads two other ministries to the community.

One was sparked by concern for victims of human trafficking. Eight young adult women conducted a prayer walk through an area where, within a one–fifth mile radius, four “gentlemen’s clubs” operate.

A year later came another prayer walk, but this time two of the young women wanted to do something more. So, at Christmastime, they received permission from the clubs’ management to visit with the dancers and present them with small gifts.

“When I called the mangers to find out how many gifts we would need, I was amazed to discover that the four clubs employed more than 500 girls,” says Jill.

“We feared that the girls would not be accepting of our friendship, but the opposite was true. They were really excited to see us, and the managers were welcoming as well.”

The team continues to do monthly prayer walks. But because they discovered that other Christian groups do a similar ministry, they now visit only one of the clubs on a monthly basis. Women from the St. Petersburg and Clearwater Salvation Army corps have joined the effort. They carry New Testaments and Gospel tracts for dancers who ask for them. Occasionally, a woman will ask for prayer, and the Army women are always happy to oblige.

“We call it friendship evangelism,” Jill says. “We’re planting seeds and trusting God to make them sprout.”

‘The Garden’

Literal seeds are sprouting in The Garden, another corps ministry. Early in 2013, young adults were challenged to become more involved in stewardship of the environment. They decided, under Jill’s leadership, to develop a community garden on the Army’s two–acre plot adjacent to the corps.

Jill explains that Tampa Bay Harvest, a nonprofit organization, had received a $50,000 startup grant from Chase Bank for a garden. The grant allowed Harvest to hire a gardener, prepare the ground, and purchase seeds and fertilizer.

“We are partners with them, and the contract requires us to supply the land, water, and volunteers,” Penhale says.

The Garden was launched on Earth Day, April 22, 2013. Within two months, volunteers harvested 900 pounds of produce, including lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and green beans.

“One hundred percent of the food raised in The Garden goes to the community,” Jill says. “Eighty percent goes to Tampa Bay Harvest for their food banks and feeding programs. The other 20 percent is kept by the Army for use in its transitional housing program or for donation to local families.”

About 20 percent of the Salvation Army’s land is now under cultivation. But if the pilot program is successful—as it seems to be—the land use will be substantially increased in future years.

Currently, 40 volunteers work in The Garden. On average, Jill says, 10 volunteers each week contribute a couple of hours each.

Even here, outreach is intentional.

“We have eight supervisors, half of whom are Salvationists,” Jill says. “Whenever The Garden is open for volunteers to work, a supervisor is present to answer questions about the Army and the Lord.”

She says that she thinks William Booth, the Army’s Founder, would approve. In the last quarter of the 19th century, he started many “out–of–the–box” programs to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the poor.

Already, plans are underway for the fourth annual ARC/corps celebration day. That event began when Majors Danny and Dawn Heard were the Tampa corps officers (pastors) and the new officers, Majors Brian and Loretta Gilliam, enthusiastically support it.

“The committee is considering erecting a tent to hold the 1,000 people they’re expecting, and we eagerly look forward to seeing what God will do,” says Brian.

by Robert E. Thomson

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