Southern Spirit staff
In addition to their regular family, Majors Kenneth and Lee Ann Nelson
have many "adopted" sons. In fact, they stopped counting at
The Nelsons oversee
the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of the men, both graduate and
currently-enrolled, in the Houston Harbor Light Corps and rehabilitation
program. And yes, their role with these men is something akin to being a parent
- often dolling out discipline, along with a generous supply of
The Harbor Light
program has been in place in Houston for some time now, but the idea to
simultaneously conduct a corps program is relatively new.
"Salvation Army officers and
area pastors were already coming in to do Bible studies and Sunday worship
services. So we asked ourselves, ‘Why can't we have our own corps
program here?'" Major Kenneth Nelson said.
The concept was an instant success.
Men already in the program began to invite family members to join them for
worship. Some who graduate from the program continue to attend. Nelson calls it
a win-win situation.
"If they choose to keep attending the Harbor Light Corps, we win.
If they choose to go to another church or an Army corps, we still win!" he
With a high
turnover rate, a lot of men are in the program for only a few weeks rather than
months. But the longer a man stays, the more he learns that Harbor Light is a
net to help them achieve a successful rehabilitation, he said.
In many ways,
the Harbor Light Corps doesn't resemble the traditional corps program. But
the weekly schedule is just as full - perhaps moreso. Unlike an ARC program,
the men at Harbor Light are restricted to the facility. That also means the men
must be kept busy, making the Nelsons' job more intense.
"We absolutely love it,"
Major Lee Ann Nelson said. "It is unbelievable to be eye-witnesses to
men's lives being changed."
respect for "Major Lee Ann" is apparent, especially in the many
classes she conducts during the week - several literacy and GED classes, Bible
discussion groups and soldier preparation classes. Like a mother sternly
watching over her young doing their homework, she stays in control of her
class, the size of which easily rivals grade school numbers.
Other weekday activities are more
easily recognized. As the men progress in the program, they become involved in
League of Mercy visits and even a Men's Fellowship Club. But the most
sought-after privilege seems to be singing in the Houston Harbor Light
practices often during the week, is regularly featured on Sunday mornings and
often performs in the community for special events. The choir is becoming quite
famous in the Houston area, especially among non-profit agencies. The Nelsons
consider the choir to be a great public relations tool.
James Privette's incredible
journey to the Harbor Light Corps began in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C. A
seventh-grade dropout, Privette had no prospects for success and saw his life
spiraling downward into alcoholism and drug addiction. Wanting to turn his life
around, but not knowing how, Privette began to pray for guidance.
"I felt drawn to Houston for
some reason, even though I'd never been to Texas," Privette said. With
what little money he had, Privette bought an economy ticket on Amtrak to
Houston. Soon after stepping off the train, someone suggested The Salvation
Army Harbor Light.
Privette is now a soldier and has shown a remarkable interest in
teaching, often assisting Major Lee Ann with her classes. He has also
discovered a gift for solving mathematic equations.
"James is a good example of what
the Lord is doing here at Harbor Light," Major Kenneth said.
"What appointment could you have
where at every meeting, no less than four or five men come to the altar - not
just because the invitation is given after the sermon. But because they truly
want to bring their burdens to the Lord and give them to