Women of the Army
Three women carry on The Salvation Army’s rich tradition of service, compassion, and holiness. Here are their compelling stories.
Back to her roots
Retired Major Joan Sayer grew up at the Findlay, Ohio, Corps, where she heard the call to a lifetime of service.
“I left Findlay and served 43 years as an active officer,” Sayer said.
Sayer and her husband, Major James Sayer, served throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“We were called to be corps officers,” she said. “We wanted to be at a corps.”
By the time the Sayers retired in 2010, all three of their children had moved to Findlay. The children loved Major Joan’s parents and wanted to be close to them.
Now, the Sayers are back in Findlay too. Now, they’re one big happy family.
The Sayers are also back doing what they love—serving in a corps. While they could kick back and just enjoy retired life, slowing down is definitely not their style.
Major James heads up kettles during Christmas.
Major Joan volunteers three or four days a week in the corps office and more during kettle season. She can also be found helping with food assistance, serving as Home League secretary, and leading a women’s Bible study.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of Bible studies,” she said. “I feel I need to be regularly in the Word. I’ve been studying. My husband and I both keep active.”
The couple, who met at officer training 40 years ago, recently served in post-retirement at the Lexington, Ky., Corps
“I want to be able to serve the Lord,” Major Joan said. “I want to help people. My passion is people and leading them to Jesus.”
Excitement reigns in Cleveland
When Major Cheryl Wirth arrived at the Adult Rehabilitation Center in Cleveland, Ohio, last year, she immediately saw an unmet need.
She wanted to start a children’s program during church hours to minister to the families at the ARC.
“On top of all the events she has, she still has a spot in her heart and understands the need in taking care of our nation’s most precious resource,” said the Rev. Louis Woolley, the senior counselor at the Cleveland ARC.
“If she can reach even just one child with the Gospel, that could mean countless souls who might come to the saving knowledge of Christ and enjoy a better life through that one child.”
Woolley said the program started out with about six kids, but is now up to 10 or 11 regulars each week. Major Cheryl sings in the choir during worship each Sunday, but then takes the children out for their own church.
“It’s everything from flannel-board discussion to homework and a snack time,” Woolley said. “It’s coming out really nice and she just has a really powerful heart for that ministry.
“I’ve seen the results of this kind of ministry be very positive.”
Giving the children their own church service allows the parents, many of whom are in recovery, the opportunity to focus on the Gospel–based sermon with no distractions,” Woolley said.
“They get to develop their relationship with Christ and the children have their own personal time,” he said.
Woolley said the Cleveland ARC ministry is seeing steady growth and one couple is seeking to heal their marriage. The couple’s son attends the children’s church, which has allowed his parents to seek God.
“There’s a spirit of excitement and refreshment here,” he said. “We’re packing out our sanctuary a couple of times a month. It’s very exciting to see all that takes place. God is just pouring out blessings over blessings here. It’s a wonderful time to be here right now.
“There are some absolutely beautiful things happening. The children’s church is another piece to reach the inner city and the people who got caught up in the opiate problems, the drug addiction, and the alcohol. It’s fabulous to see reconciliation taking place.”
The real deal
Margie McLaughlin says from the first day Martha Gelnett began working at the Camden, N.J., Kroc Center, she realized there was something special about her.
“She truly exemplified what the meaning of being a Christian is all about,” said McLaughlin, the human resources manager at the Kroc Center. “She is the model of an outstanding example of a faithful Christian—excited to share the joy of God’s love with everyone she meets.”
Gelnett is the Kroc Center’s adult ministries coordinator. She develops and implements programs where adults and seniors are “introduced to Jesus and discipleship” at the Kroc Center and also Camden’s Mission House, McLaughlin said.
The goal is “spiritual maturity, while providing an environment in which prayer, worship, and the study of Scripture are shared with all who attend our program,” McLaughlin said.
Gelnett also has the human touch. McLaughlin said when a new member joined adult ministries a few months ago, Gelnett warmly embraced the woman, but did not make a loud announcement to the group.
“Instead, she slowly, carefully introduced our new member to one person and then another,” she said.
Today, the woman, a former shut-in, is active in adult ministries.
Gelnett, an original hire of the Kroc Center in 2014, also plans a large Christmas luncheon each year.
“She has worked tirelessly over the past three years to build a strong community of adults and seniors who are welcomed with unconditional acceptance and care in an environment that facilitates commitment, not only to one another, but to God through the love of Jesus Christ,” McLaughlin said.
“There are tons of people today in Camden whose lives have been significantly changed as they now accept our Lord as their God and Savior thanks to Martha.”
by Robert Mitchell