A ministry of music & art

interview by Hugo Bravo

Michelle Harris, volunteer coordinator and outreach worker at The Salvation Army York Citadel in Pennsylvania, talks about why she enjoys working with children at the corps, the ministry that her volunteers have requested to start, and practicing the hobby of coloring in the church’s women’s group.

Working with kids is my favorite type of ministry. It’s what brought me to The Salvation Army with my mother when I was only 4 years old; I’ve been here ever since. Today I’m the YPSM (Young People’s Sergeant–Major) for the York Citadel. We do Sunday school on both Sundays and Wednesday nights. For our after–school program, we welcome master gardeners from Penn State University and the Urban 4–H. They teach the children about nutrition and growing their own food. I also enjoy taking part in the corps’ learning center, where I help students with homework and get to know them personally.

My main role as outreach worker and volunteer coordinator at the York Citadel is to sign up volunteers for any activity or program that we host. We’re always looking for volunteers to help in the learning center, whether they have teaching and education experience or not. We also get adults and juvenile volunteers that come to us to complete community service hours. The juveniles are assigned to our after–school program, where they help prepare the dinners that we serve to the children each night. Many of our longtime, ongoing volunteers ask about how they can do outreach to help people experiencing homelessness. Hopefully, the York Citadel will soon have a canteen to get that ministry finally going. 

We recently began doing adult coloring in our women’s group. We can talk and pray to God, and at the same time, create art. Sometimes we’ll work with blank paper, or other times with a design containing a special verse from Scripture. For one project, we each wrote a name that we have for God in the center of a page. We colored and added names of people we care about around the name for God as we prayed for them. I remember one day when I caught myself drawing and coloring as I prayed and listened to our pastor preach. It’s become my new way to worship.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a very powerful verse to me. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” I’m a breast cancer survivor, and different verses of the Bible have defined me throughout my life, but that is the verse I claim now

Music, especially timbrel, has been a big part of my ministry. I’ve been both a player and teacher; some days I still take my tambourine out and play during praise and worship. Even though timbrels are still popular in the Army and featured in showcases like Star Search, our corps isn’t doing any programs with it right now. That saddens me; it’s such a big part of Salvation Army history, and I hope that children still have the same passion for it that I did when I was younger. 

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