In his youth, Gene Spence belonged to the Adventure Corps. Years later as a cadet at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) in Suffern, N.Y., Spence got a look into just how the Salvation Army boys program had grown since then.
“Members from the Suffern, N.Y., Temple Corps and Spring Valley, N.Y., Corps came to the CFOT to do the lessons for Adventure Corps,” remembers Spence. “The concept of earning badges for doing fun activities was one of the many ideas that was new to me. But I brought those same ideas I learned in New York’s Adventure Corps to my ministry in Ohio.”
Today as corps officer of the Salvation Army’s corps (church) in Salem, Ohio, Lieutenant Spence is also the Adventure Corps leader, of which his son, Drake, is a member. Made of two groups, Explorers and Rangers, the Adventure Corps introduces boys and young men to The Salvation Army and to the world around them. Trips to planetariums, pinewood derby races, and instructions on how to build model rockets are combined with Bible study, devotionals, and a deep appreciation for God’s daily miracles.
Adventure Corps participants are also welcomed to the Army’s ministries and resources, such as service projects for the community and visits to the Army’s Camp NEOSA. “It’s a way to introduce them to another aspect of the church that they would enjoy,” says Spence. “After visiting Camp NEOSA, they want to know how they can go to camp too.”
“Many of the boys in Adventure Corps are at–risk youth or have a learning disability,” says Spence. “We try to give them an opportunity to experience something or visit someplace where they may not have had a chance to go before.”
A trip to the Heritage Museum at Territorial Headquarters in West Nyack, N.Y., helped Spence create a unique activity for the Adventure Corps. “In the museum, I read through files and documents on the Army and brought back scans of what I discovered,” says Spence, an admitted history buff. “With that information, we incorporated an Adventure Corps badge for learning about the history of The Salvation Army.”
Salem’s Adventure Corps was also inspired by an idea from the Salvation Army’s Western Territory on how to share its history. They combined Flat Stanley, a paper–thin, two–dimensional children’s book character who travels the world seeking fun and adventure, with the persona of one of the Salvation Army’s most unique figures, Joseph Garabedian, widely known as “Joe the Turk.” “Flat Joe” traveled with the Adventure Corps to describe what The Salvation Army does and to tell the message of Jesus, as did the real Joe the Turk.
“Using nature and God’s creation to get closer to Him is the main goal of Adventure Corps,” says Spence. It’s something that has remained the same since his early days as a Ranger.
“There are members of the Salem Corps who own a farm with a pond on their property. Our next project is working with them to set up a whole Adventure Corps weekend of camping, fishing, and boating,” says Spence. “Since everything is close by, the parents don’t have to worry about their children being far from home.”
Events like this, says Spence, is what separates Adventure Corps from other youth groups. There are churches in the area that hold indoor events for the children, but they don’t focus on nature and the outdoors.
“The Salvation Army has always been an outdoors church,” says Spence.
by Hugo Bravo
Adventure Corps prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me to discover You as the Way, the Truth and the Life, and to find for myself that following You is the greatest adventure of all.