Salvation Army ready to begin new
stories in Miami's ‘Little Haiti'
In the shadow of Interstate 95, on an overcast south Florida day,
friends and supporters of The Salvation Army gathered to reintroduce a
"beacon" of light to a neighborhood known as Little Haiti.
Major Victor Valdes, Miami Area commander, led the ceremony and
ribbon-cutting as the Miami Edison Corps and Community Center was rededicated.
Also participating were Major Steve Hedgren, Florida divisional commander,
Captain Serge LaLanne, Edison corps officer, and Albert E. Dodson, advisory
Renovations to the 16,000-square-foot
center began in July 2004, but construction was halted several times because of
storms and hurricanes. The renovation includes a new indoor gym, expanded
chapel, computer lab, kitchen, music room, classrooms and offices.
The center serves more than 200 children every day, most from the
neighborhood. The renovations couldn't have come at a better time, LaLanne
said. "It was crowded and we couldn't use it anymore."
During construction, LaLanne said, his congregation moved several
places, including the Miami Adult Rehabilitation Center and the Hialeah Corps.
"It was a heavy burden and a big responsibility,"
he said. "We'd go all over Miami to pick up the kids (for church and
youth activities); they were so faithful."
the renovated center will be "the light in a neighborhood that is dark. We
think of ourselves as a refuge," LaLanne said. "This is a good place
for The Salvation Army to develop its ministries."
Residents said the Edison neighborhood is historically low-income
and crime-ridden. "This is where The Salvation Army should be,"
Hedgren said during the rededication ceremony. "We are investing in a
neighborhood and saying ‘You are important.'"
Hedgren added that the center will provide residents a spiritual
haven. "We're investing in this place, and investing in its people and
in its purpose," he said. "And helping them find a new meaning in
Dodson called the new center a "beacon
light for the entire community. We now need to go out and tell The Salvation
Army story," he said.
One of the corps stories
involves Yvon Riviere. As a boy growing up in the neighborhood, he smashed
windows, destroyed property and got kicked out of the Miami Edison community
center more times than he'd like to admit.
But each time
the officers told him to leave, he was always welcomed back.
That was nine years ago. Today, Yvon, 20, works at the center.
He said his life changed because of The Salvation Army.
"My friends started coming here," the Bahamas native said. "They
stopped, but I kept going."
He said he's enjoyed the youth
programs and going camping. "I was a bad little boy," he recalled.
"But The Salvation Army Edison Corps changed me into a productive,
well-mannered man." Dulcinea N. CuellarPhoto, above:
Major Steve Hedgren,
Florida divisional commander, said the renovated Miami Edison Corps represented
The Salvation Army's investment in the
soldier rallies lift Jesus higher
soldiery celebrate Christ in seven simultaneous
Major Frank Duracher
Southern Spirit staff
Seven rallies conducted simultaneously across the National
Capital-Virginia Division attracted hundreds of Salvationists to each regional
meeting - all extolling the territorial call to "Lift Jesus
The rallies were conducted in Alexandria,
Roanoke, Norfolk, Winchester, Richmond and Charlottesville, Va., and at the
Sherman Avenue Corps in Washington. The meetings were led by a member of the
divisional staff, and members of the territorial cabinet were among the
featured speakers for the evening.
Each gathering also
promoted the four priorities set before soldiers and officers of the USA
Southern Territory: prayer, worship, Sunday school and visitation.
"We must be true to the mandate God has given us,"
Commissioner Max Feener told the congregation gathered in Alexandria.
"Holiness is the mission. We are a people in love with Jesus and
everything we do presents the opportunity to proclaim that Christ makes a
difference in people's lives!"
Salvationists in the
Southland must lift Jesus ever higher so the world can see Him and come to know
Him as Savior and Lord, Feener preached.
soldiers joined their affirmation with spontaneous applause and shouts of
"Hallelujah!" and "Glory to God!" while the sermon
presented the truths that Jesus is the message, there's power in the
message, and that The Salvation Army has been raised by God for the purpose of
preaching this message.
"Don't let the devil scare you into
being silent about Jesus," Feener said. "As we preach Jesus and lift
Him higher, the Army will grow and advance as we take our rightful role as a
Priesthood of Believers who proclaim Christ crucified, resurrected and coming
Photos, above: NCV soldiers
punctuate shouts of praise during the singing of the old Army standard,
‘I Want to Tell You What the Lord Has Done for Me!' Left:
Commissioner Max Feener admonishes NCV soldiers and officers to always lift
On a Sunday morning in Monrovia, Liberia, I woke up and
saw a man dressed in a blue suit standing at my front door, talking to my
mother. The man was a Salvation Army officer who came to evangelize in my
neighborhood. My mother, a Muslim, accepted his invitation to visit the
Salvation Army corps. After a few visits and involvement with The Salvation
Army in my community, she was satisfied with the opportunity God had given her
to serve others. She decided to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior
after being a Muslim
her entire life.
I saw many changes in my mother's daily
life after that. She had never gone a day without reading the Quran and
reciting prayers to Allah, but she replaced these disciplines with reading the
Bible and praying to God.
I noticed a strange and unusual
joy in my mother's life. People in my town would fight and even kill each
other just for something to eat. Sickness was everywhere. There were no medical
supplies or physicians. Our quaint two-bedroom home was riddled with bullet
holes from the 14-year civil war being fought around us. My mother couldn't
do much because she had extreme
arthritis, but her love and passion for God and the change that He had made in
her life kept us going.
Seeing the change in my mother, I
decided that I too would accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. I started attending
The Salvation Army corps in Monrovia. I became a solider and considered
becoming an evangelist or minister, but Salvation Army officership had never
crossed my mind. In 2002, I was forced to flee Liberia to the United States due
to the civil unrest. I put my ministerial ideas on hold.
After arriving in the United States, I continued to serve God at
the corps in Prince George's County, Md. My community needed to know Jesus,
so every Thursday I evangelized and preached the Word of God at train stations
and bus stops. I shared the many blessings the Lord had given me and told about
my conversion from Islam to Christianity. I constantly kept the people in
prayer and maintained communication with a few. It was then that I saw a great
improvement in my spiritual walk with Christ.
At a youth
councils, I met Captain Roni Robbins, the territorial candidates secretary.
During the call to officership, the Spirit of the Lord told me to join the
others on the stage who had answered the call. I felt at peace because I knew
that I had obeyed God and that officership was what He had planned for my life.
A few months later, I encountered a major obstacle in the
processing of my paperwork. I knew that the battle was not mine but God's.
After waiting three years, I received a call from my corps officer. He told me
that divisional headquarters was about to resume the processing of my
paperwork. I believed that God had answered my prayer since I had waited
patiently and kept the faith. After a few weeks, I received another phone call
- this time, it was my divisional youth secretary congratulating me on my
acceptance to the Evangeline Booth College. The next chapter of my life had
finally begun. I am anticipating becoming an officer in full-time ministry.
This will give me a greater opportunity to evangelize, help the needy and
comfort the brokenhearted. I hope that one day I will be appointed to an
African country with a large Muslim population so that I can share the
liberating gospel of Christ. In doing this, my prayer is that I will be
remembered as a man that contributed towards the expansion of the kingdom
through my steadfast obedience.