Magazine Features

The Pier Ministry

Bigger than ‘us’

I had visited the United States three times, but never this far north. To meet so many Salvationists from the northeast and from Canada shows me how big The Salvation Army is in the world. It’s one thing to see a webcast or a video of an Army event, but it’s an experience to be a part of one.

In 2015, I made the art of beat boxing my full–time job. Today, I teach it in schools and in music programs.

The genre has gained popularity in Puerto Rico in recent years. I want artists there to embrace it as they have in New York and in Los Angeles.

I am grateful to the Salvation Army’s Eastern Territory for this ministry platform. OOB is a great opportunity to enrich people’s lives.

Many artists get caught up in music’s material benefits. They forget the impact they have on someone who hears the music or sees them on stage. When the artist is gone, his or her influence will remain. It’s bigger than any of us.

— Black Rhythm, a.k.a Edgar Garcia (above), is a soldier from the San Juan, P.R. Corps.

Balloons, joy, and happiness!

Since 2008, Shelia and Alfredo Lucero, Salvationists from the Queens (Temple), N.Y., Corps, have assisted the Old Orchard Beach (OOB) Pier Ministry.

“When we started coming to OOB, we had one truck, and few people to help. So, we set the tables, put up a few lights, and provided the supplies,” remembers Shelia Lucero. “If it rained, we covered everything with bags.”

Today, many Salvationists help. They erect tents, displays, and a professional stage seen from blocks away.

Ken and Maria Sanoguet, soldiers from the Bronx (Tremont), N.Y., Corps, said 10 years ago they could not have imagined OOB as a showcase for such diverse talent, all in the name of God.

“It was all done at the ground level,” said Ken Sanoguet. “Dancers and performers were on the sidewalk. Now, it’s a real concert, like you would pay to see. The sidewalks are still used, but they’re packed with people listening to the Lord’s message.”

The Luceros and Sanoguets are artists who delight the children at the Pier. They make free balloon animals, glitter tattoos, and paint beautiful designs on little faces. This popular street ministry began with Envoys Doug and Hélène Kornwolf and was continued by Captains Angelo and Viriginia Bermeo.

“The balloons attract them,” says Maria Sanoguet. “When you attract a child, you bring in that child’s family. Eventually, they all hear the Word of God in music or in dance.”

“Ministries that attract children always grow,” says Shelia Lucero. “Those children persuade other children to enjoy a balloon or wear a temporary tattoo. They realize that being a Christian brings God’s joy and happiness.”

The Holy Spirit is doing something here’

A team of the Army’s finest artists, singers, dancers, musicians, and illusionists entertained a huge crowd that congregated for the pyrotechnic finale on Thursday. The audio/visual spectacle was matched only by the performers’ heartfelt passion for evangelism.

“This is a church without walls,” said Envoy Steven Bussey. “People are stumbling into the sanctuary. This is the cathedral of the open air. This is our birthright as Salvationists.”

Bussey and his wife, Envoy Sharon Bussey, co–directors of Salvation Factory, were in charge of the Pier Ministry again this year. They held it each night from 6–10 P.M., which coincided with camp meetings at the Pavilion.

“In the past, we built an incredible crowd for a performance, but when it was over, we lost people while setting up for the next act,” Steve says. The solution came from mimicking a concert at a music festival. We built separate stages for acts that require less space and preparation, such as sand art, juggling, and personal testimonies. We set up a projection screen so that every performance could be seen as if it were on the main stage.

“While these smaller, equally exciting performances hold the crowd’s attention, the main stage is prepared for DJs, rappers, and aerial modern dance performances,” Steve said.

Kathryn Higgins performs under the spotlight on silks.

Kathryn Higgins performs under the spotlight on silks.

Among the performers were the Creative Arts Services Team (CAST); Summer Brass; Crossfire Brass; DJ Morph and Rell; Zaney Janie and Mr. B. Loon; “Juggler for Jesus” David Cain; Resurgo, a musical group from Quebec; move.meant, a dance group; illusionist Bryan Drake; sand artist Lt. Colonel Carole Voisey; Unbound, a Christian evangelistic rock group; illusionist Eli Morgan; beatboxer Black Rhythm; and Kathryn Higgins, Kroc Center Arts liaison/dance specialist who presented a spectacular aerial modern dance on silks (right).

Steve noted that he was particularly glad to bring the Gospel to New England, recently documented as the most “biblically illiterate” (least biblically–minded) part of the country.*

“It’s a sign of the tried–and–tested principles of The Salvation Army historically. The Holy Spirit is doing something here,” Steve said.

“We’re blessed to be a part of the Army, which believes in getting the Gospel out to ‘the whosoever.’ ”

Steve said he had talked with some police officers from Old Orchard Beach, who told him The Salvation Army brought a “positive spirit” to the Pier.

“People outside of here often live lives that are hell in many ways,” he said. “But here, they walk up to an environment like heaven and they realize there’s something different going on. As a result, they want to stay.

“We’ve had people come back multiple times to engage with our evangelists, listen to our acts, and just absorb these things.

“They don’t realize that where they’ve come is—to church.”

Warren L. Maye, Robert Mitchell, and Hugo Bravo contributed to this story. Photography by Ryan Love.

*Based upon telephone and online interviews with nationwide random samples of 42,655 adults conducted over a seven–year period, ending in May 2012. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is 0.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Respondents who reported reading the Bible within the past seven days and who agreed strongly in the accuracy of the Bible were classified as “Bible–Minded.” — Barna Group Cities database

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