Ministry Beyond Walls

“As a whole, troops programs are on the decline in the Eastern Territory,” said Major Susan M. Kelly, associate area coordinator for Northwest Ohio Area Services. “I have a very real concern for the amount of time kids spend indoors and on electronics.”

Kelly also points out how such habits are a danger to a child’s overall health. “There’s a continual rise in childhood obesity, so I strive to do everything possible to help get kids outside, as well as interested in and active in nature.”

Brittany Parks, the Children’s Outreach Ministries Coordinator at Territorial Headquarters, said, “I’m in the process of promoting outdoor programs in our territory through troop ministries. I just think there is a lot of value about getting outside, for our physical health, and for seeing God’s creation.” Last August, both Parks and Kelly received full scholarships to participate in an outdoor leadership training in Jackson, Wyoming. Trainees took content–relevant field trips to Pinedale, Wyoming Gas Fields, National Elk Refuge, and Teton Park Visitor Center. They also attended meetings with Wyoming Game & Fish biologists and with the Bureau of Land Management land managers who provided real–world experiences they could take back and share with young people in the troops.

Kelly and Parks absorbed the AWLS training in anticipation of using it in their outreach ministry to children and to young adults in the Eastern Territory. Kelly said, “We want to teach and encourage camps and corps to get kids out into nature. Many of the emblems kids can earn in our troops programs have to do with nature, ecology, conservation, and camping.”

In 2016, The Salvation Army held a National Jamboree at Huzzah Valley in Steeleville, Missouri. This event was for boys and girls involved in these troop programs. Parks and Kelly attended. “I was pleased to be able to help Brittany promote and encourage participation by corps in our territory, and also plan and implement programs while at the Jamboree,” said Kelly.

“Additionally, I brought a group of 11 delegates from Toledo, Ohio. It was an amazing experience for our kids.” That experience led to their AWLS training last August. “My experience at the American Wilderness Leadership School was absolutely life–changing for me and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned,” said Kelly.

The camping conference opened the door to training Kelly and Parks who will now minister to boys and girls in inspiring open–air venues. In doing so, they will reach far beyond the four walls of Salvation Army corps buildings.

Indeed, their ministry will be one beyond walls; ministry where God’s creation can be felt, seen, smelled, heard, and appreciated alongside Scripture; where tree leaves will be read as carefully as the pages of a Bible, revealing the Creator’s mastery in real time and in the real world, rather than in a virtual, electronic one.

Said, Parks, “When you’re out there in nature, you have a better understanding and respect for it. Then, you’re more likely to want to listen to how we can continue to keep things in the world okay.

“There’s a connection between understanding, caring, and doing.”

by Warren L. Maye