The Bunn Family
Music & Service
Like many people who walk into The Salvation Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Philadelphia, Pa., Tracy Bunn looked for a gym, rather than a church. That day, Major Dennis Young, corps officer, invited her and anyone taking a tour of the center to also attend a scheduled worship service in the chapel.
“When I met with Pastor Dennis, he suggested that I bring my children next time, and gave me a list of programs that they could participate in,” said Bunn.
Tracy and her husband Keith are parents to 15-year old Tyler Jackson (TJ), and 13-year-old triplets Kameryn, Keith, Jr., and Kaleb. When they arrived at the Kroc Center, the music program was something they were eager to try, although playing musical instruments was totally new to them.
“At our old church, there wasn’t much outreach to young people,” remembers Tracy. “Most of the congregation had been there for over 30 years. There were few kids. For them, Sunday meant going to church, sitting down, and staying quiet.”
“But The Salvation Army had programs in place for the children on Sunday, and for their specific age groups,” says Keith, Sr., “I recall going to church with my mother when I was younger, and always being among grown–ups. I never felt as motivated to participate as I would have been if I was worshiping with other children my age.”
Musicians in the family
Today, the Bunns and their children are well known at the center.
“I suppose it’s a novelty to see a group of musicians walk on stage who look alike, and are the same age, and height” said Tracy.
Their father home schools the children, but their music education, which was something that Tracy and Keith Sr. were in search of for their family, comes from The Salvation Army. Keith Jr., and his sister Kameryn play the cornet, while Kaleb plays percussion. Older brother, TJ, plays cornet. They all started in the Youth Band, and now sing in the choir and are members of the more advanced Senior Band, despite including the younger–aged triplets.
Captain Kevin Zanders, associate administrator for the center, said the Bunns make up more than half the band.
“Technically, the senior band is for children older than the triplets,” said Zanders. “It’s a lot to ask of children their age to act like seniors. But they’ve shown great maturity and have exceled in preparing for each Sunday performance.”
Zanders also notes the impact they’ve had on their music teachers, such as Ronda Atwater, who started the Joyful Noise music program at the Kroc. Ronda had been there since the first day the Bunns began taking lessons. By 2016, the Youth Band was participating in Star Search.
“She had tears in her eyes watching them get ready. Ronda was the one that put instruments in their hands through the Joyful Noise music program, and now they were representing us in Star Search,” says Zanders.
Scripture in the home
Tracy credits the people she has met through the Army for teaching music to her children. They’ve enjoyed a world of fellowship, mentoring, and interaction with the teachers and other young people at the center.
“The Salvation Army has gone beyond a Sunday activity for us,” says Tracy. “Everything from my own women’s group to the music teachers and staff of the Kroc has created a community here. We get to be around folks who love the Lord as much as we do.”
Tracy sees the children’s knowledge of Scripture as proof that The Salvation Army has awakened something in her family.
“They can’t wait to get to the Kroc every Sunday. And when we come home, I never have to remind them to read their Bibles. They do it on their own. They can quote passages and verses from Scripture. It’s brought them closer to the Lord, and it’s brought us closer as a family,” says Tracy.
“That’s something I had always hoped to see in my household—lively discussions on the Word of God.”
“I can’t get over how much the children love going to the Kroc center,” beams Keith, Sr. “Four days a week, they’re there. I could never imagine being in church so often when I was a child, but I also never saw so many extracurricular activities within a church either. We feel lucky and blessed to be part of The Salvation Army.”
Even though they continue to play important roles as musicians for their corps, the four Bunn children have begun to take on interests beyond performing.
Kameryn and Keith Jr. would like to one day be music and Sunday school teachers. Tracy taught Sunday school for three years at the Kroc.
Kaleb has noticed the Army’s community outreach and food banks. “It’s great to play music,” he says. “But I also like knowing that, when my performing is done, I can also donate my time to help others in His name.”
As the oldest sibling, TJ, has already forged a path to serve the Lord, inspired by Major Dennis Young. Two years ago, Young chose Tyler to deliver a Sunday sermon. He practiced for weeks, studying verses, notes, and Scripture with his mother. After Tyler had delivered his sermon, the congregation gave him a standing ovation. Major Young nicknamed him “The Preacherman.”
TJ was one of 25 Senior Soldiers to be enrolled by Commissioner William A. Bamford, territorial commander, last December. Soon after, TJ told his parents that he would like to be an officer one day.
“Pastor Dennis showed me that you can be funny, down-to-earth, and still preach the Word of God,” says Tyler. “Now, I’m thinking of one day becoming a pastor too.”
by Hugo Bravo