Salvation Army Superheroes Host Vacation Bible Study in Cleveland
By Hugo Bravo
Everywhere you look, you can find superheroes saving the day in movies, television, video games, and comic books. But the Salvation Army Miles Park Corps in Cleveland, OH is sending superheroes on a new mission of ministry.
The Brigade, a superhero team created by Captain Steven Thomas, corps officer at Miles Park, was the subject of a week-long Vacation Bible Study earlier this month, introducing children to the work of The Salvation Army and how God empowers all of us in our own unique ways.
The idea for The Brigade came to Captain Steven, a comic book fan, while serving in St. Croix during the Covid-19 pandemic. He used his spare time to design superheroes using Salvation Army symbols, colors, and inspiration. He called his team of six ‘The Brigade’, made up of Bellboy, Double Edge, the Guardian, Uproar, Kinetic, and Brightest Day.
“I asked myself, what would superheroes that used the symbols of The Salvation Army look like?” says Captain Steven, “From there, ideas started flowing. I gave them background stories, unique powers, and specific ways they connected to the Army.”
“Each character would represent a section of our social services. For example, the Guardian had been helped through the ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Center), which was where he met the Lord. Another hero, Kinetic, grew up in the foster system and joined Pathway of Hope to help families and children like her.”
Years later, Captain Steven was encouraged to turn his superhero team and ideas into a program for the Miles Park corps. Though he wasn’t sure how to incorporate Bible study with The Brigade, he teamed up with Major Nora Ramos, corps officer at Miles Park. For three months, this ‘dynamic duo’ planned out a Vacation Bible Study program, complete with activities, lessons, superhero-themed meal ideas (named Snack Attacks), and a ‘Battle Royale’ outdoor arena, where children in the program could get exercise and play.
“I’m more of a big idea person, but Major Nora was the one who went over every detail, suggesting ideas for VBS that I would never think of. Some days, I would just ask her, what are we planning today, and we went to work,” says Captain Steven.
“Something I really wanted was for The Brigade to talk in Spanish as well as English,” says Major Nora. “Heroes speak in all languages, and I wanted the children to see that.”
In July, Superhero Academy VBS debuted at the Miles Park Corps. The children participating, named ‘the cadets’, walked into the corps chapel to see pictures of each Brigade member and a piece of their costume on display. From there, the cadets learned about each superhero, their own favorite Bible stories, and the Salvation Army ministries that inspired them to become members of The Brigade.
Throughout the week, other members of the Miles Park corps even ‘cosplayed’ as members of the Brigade, giving the cadets a chance to meet the heroes that they had been learning about in person.
“On our biggest day, we had 14 children, as well as 10 adults who also wanted to participate,” says Major Nora.
“One of the grandparents told me that on the way home, her grandchild was repeating everything they had learned, what parts of the program they enjoyed the most, and their favorite heroes,” says Captain Steven.
He and Major Nora also have their own favorite members of The Brigade.
“Mine is Double Edge, an ancient samurai who traveled to our time. Though she couldn’t speak our language at first, she was given the ability by God to understand any language in only minutes,” says Major Nora.
“I really like Bellboy, who connected to The Salvation Army through the red kettles,” says Captain Steven. “He’s young, so the children at VBS really related to him. Bellboy sometimes gets in trouble because he has a different mindset than the older members of the Brigade, but he’s always encouraging others, and he always wants to do good.”
Captain Steven and Major Nora say that there have been talks to bring the VBS Superhero Academy back next year, and maybe even introduce it to Salvation Army summer camps and other corps. Like Superman flying across the sky, or Spider-Man swinging through your neighborhood, you never know where the superheroes of The Brigade will appear next.