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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 board chairman.

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."

LaLanne said 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 life."

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. Cuellar

Photo, above:

Major Steve Hedgren, Florida divisional commander, said the renovated Miami Edison Corps represented The Salvation Army's investment in the neighborhood.

NCV soldier rallies lift Jesus higher

Division's soldiery celebrate Christ in seven simultaneous meetings

By 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 Higher."

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.

NCV 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 again!"

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 Jesus higher.

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.




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