Magazine Features

Living a Legacy

Video created and produced by The Salvation Army, Greater New York Division.

 

Anita Mohammed and her sister, Alene, were always close and shared a special bond. As children in Westbury, N.Y., on Long Island, they accepted Christ together and were baptized on the same day.

Last year, Alene’s battle with cancer and her subsequent death left Anita devastated. However, she soon received a card from one of Alene’s friends, Felicia, who wrote that Alene had taught her how to be kind. The card helped relieve some of the sting.

“I think about my sister’s legacy and I say, ‘Wow.’ I hope people would say that about me when I pass away,” Anita said through tears.

For the past 15 years, Anita has built her own legacy as the women’s ministry secretary at the New York Temple Corps in Manhattan. A retired day care teacher from the Bronx, Anita, 69, is also a widow and mother of  Azikiwe, her adult son. That leaves her plenty of time for ministry.

“I really didn’t think I was any more qualified than any of the other ladies to lead the group,” Anita said. “But we all work together to carry out the activities we do. I enjoyed coming to women’s ministry before I became the leader. It’s fun. That’s really what motivated me.”

Anita said the women’s ministry at the corps focuses on service, fellowship, education, and worship.

“Within those four areas, we’re quite active and do many things for the corps, the church, and for individuals,” Anita says.

Women helping women

Anita said the women have engaged in several service projects, including making blankets for the homeless, many of whom wander 14th Street in Manhattan right outside the doors of the corps and come to the daily soup kitchen.

One of the group’s signature projects is making heart–shaped pillows for recovering breast cancer patients at local hospitals, including the Mount Sinai Dubin Breast Cancer Center near the corps. Patients tuck the pillows under their arm after breast or node surgery.

This ministry is important to Anita, who had a non–cancerous tumor removed from her breast at Mount Sinai. She wants to continue making pillows for the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where her sister was treated.

“I know how uncomfortable that is after breast surgery,” Anita said. “I actually bought a sewing machine so I could do some more sewing.”

Anita said the women also engage in fellowship to just talk or sometimes take a short trip.  The group recently visited New York City’s Chinatown to mark the Lunar New Year.

“Our times of fellowship are really a lot of fun and very enjoyable,” Anita says. “It’s a way for all the women to interact with each other and to have some time to ourselves. Some of the other ladies may not have time for themselves. This is a time just for them.”

Sharing and caring

Some of the women who work and have children occasionally need a break, Anita said.

“It’s important because sometimes these ladies don’t have people who are close to them,” she said. “When they come here, we’re like a bridge from their home. It’s a chance for them to say something to our group, who they feel comfortable with. It’s a chance to share something that they haven’t said to anyone else or they don’t have the opportunity to say to anyone else.

“Just the camaraderie, the acceptance, the encouragement, the caring, and the compassion of the other ladies will uplift you and that’s just the Holy Spirit speaking through them to whomever in the group.”

Anita says she has become more attuned to the Holy Spirit’s promptings in her life as she reads the Bible and prays. That includes her decision to take the position as women’s ministry secretary and a greeting card ministry to the sick and people who she hasn’t seen in church for a while.

“I think most people like to get other things in the mail besides bills and advertisements. It’s nice to get a card,” Anita says. “The Holy Spirit will prompt me to give them a call or send them a card. The card ministry shows that someone cares. I hope the people who get the card know that someone cares. It’s me, at least, along with other people who are praying for them.

“When you get a card in the mail, it’s different. Most people aren’t writing cards anymore. They text. That’s not the same as writing. I think it’s really something special. I think people enjoy getting cards and I really enjoy sending them to people.”

That still, small voice

A former day care teacher in the Connecticut and New York City public schools, Anita also makes sure education is an important part of the women’s ministry. The group invites speakers to talk about breast cancer, Black History Month, cake decorating, and many other subjects.

“You learn about yourself at our meetings,” Anita said. “You learn more about your abilities. You learn about trying to be in touch with the Lord Jesus and His will for our lives.”

The women also take part in the worship at the New York Temple Corps, including reading Scripture during the Advent season.

Anita prepares by reading a women’s devotional Bible daily. She also uses The Salvation Army Songbook in her devotions and makes use of the popular devotional coloring books on the market.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned more about the Lord and I’m trying to meditate and just be quiet and give the Lord a chance to talk to me, not just me talking to Him,” said Anita. “That’s not easy to do with all the distractions we have in our lives.

“I read the Word in the morning and think about the day. I write about the things that come to mind for the day. I let Him order my steps.”

Anita is also normally at the corps three days a week—Sunday for church, Tuesday for women’s ministry, and Wednesday for Bible study and prayer meeting.

Born in Harlem, Anita’s family moved to Westbury when she was in 3rd grade and she often attended a Baptist church with Leona, her grandmother.

Passing the trials

Coming to The Salvation Army meant getting used to the different worship style, the uniforms and epaulets, and ranks such as “major” and “colonel.”

“I didn’t understand any of that,” she said. “It took me a while. The music certainly was different, but the songs were similar. Many of them were songs that I already knew.”

Anita was also in an 18–year, mixed–faith marriage. Her husband, Salim, was a Muslim for most of his life, but he didn’t interfere with her Christian faith and allowed their son to go to the corps. Anita’s husband died 15 years ago.

“We had a very good relationship so our difference in religions didn’t affect what we did,” she said. “He went to a mosque. I came here to The Salvation Army.”

Anita said Salim accepted Christ after listening to a televangelist shortly before his death.

“It made me very happy because I know that one day, I’ll see him in heaven,” Anita said.

Lieutenant Miguel Aguilera, corps officer at the New York Temple Corps, said Anita’s sister died shortly after he arrived, but he was impressed with how she handled the trial.

“Through the pain, I saw her strong faith,” he said. “I saw the love of Jesus through her. That is holiness; when you can reflect Jesus in your life.”

Aguilera said while Anita exudes a quiet spirit, she manages to have an influence on the other women at the corps, where she also serves as corps sergeant major and teaches Sunday school.

“She is very faithful and humble and always looking to learn more and more about God and improve her relationship with Jesus,” he said. “She’s been very faithful in her job as women’s ministry secretary. She expresses kindness and mercy to others.”

Leaving a mark

Retired Major Edith Shepherd said she remembers the first time Anita walked into the corps with her young son in 1986. Anita, who lived in Manhattan at the time, had attended family camp at Star Lake. Impressed with The Salvation Army, she asked for the nearest corps and was referred to the New York Temple Corps.

“It’s been wonderful to watch her grow spiritually,” Shepherd said. “She’s been great. She loves women’s ministries and she loves working with the women.”

Through the years, Shepherd has helped Anita with women’s ministry at the corps and watched her deal with several deaths, including her husband, mother, brother, and sister.

“She’s had to handle bereavement and she’s handled that well,” Shepherd said. “She’s learning and growing spiritually and doing very well.”

The deaths have led Anita to think deeply about her own legacy and living up to her sister’s acts of kindness. Anita paused when asked what she hopes people would say about her someday.

“I hope they would say I’m kind, thoughtful, and prayerful,” she said.

by Robert Mitchell

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