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Birmingham Citadel Corps influences many:

The 614 rolls up its sleeves to serve the urban community

By Brooke Turbyfill

Southern Spirit staff

Within the first 10 minutes of visiting the Birmingham 614 Corps in Birmingham, Ala., it's clear that dependence on the Lord is everything. One particular Thursday morning started with a time of intercessory prayer in the sanctuary. Two handfuls of people sat, kneeled and paced the floor crying out to God.

It was an hour before some of the members of the 614 (known as the Citadel) and the newly developed Battle School were about to do a neighborhood clean-up and door-to-door evangelism in one of Birmingham's most dangerous neighborhoods, Norwood Villas.

This type of service, with the help of SAMS Andy Bailey and Firecrest missioner Shimei Hewitt, under the leadership of Majors Matt and Kathy Riley, has grown the 614 to include many in its fellowship - and many in its discipleship.

Through the shelter ministry, new believers are invited to join the Battle School. A total of 23 beds in the shelter are designated for Battle School students, who are supervised by Hewitt (the women) and corps member Leon Jackson (the men). Battle School students sign a covenant committing to one year of incarnational living and ministry with the corps.

The Battle School began in August 2005 when corps officer Major Matt Riley noticed that some shelter residents who committed their hearts to Jesus wanted long-term discipleship. A typical day would find the Battle School students at the shelter engaged in a devotional time from 7 to 8 a.m. Next, they're off to the Birmingham 614 to clean it. After that, they have prayer time before eating lunch and sharing the gospel with other shelter residents. Sometime during the day, students find time to attend classes taught by Bailey and Majors Riley. They learn about the character of God and study the Bible together; on alternate days, they attend discipleship small groups. Students are also involved in all the 614 ministries, reaching out to homeless in the park, prisoners, nursing home residents and youth in a Birmingham apartment complex.

Whether you speak to Major Matt Riley or to SAMS Andy Bailey, you get the impression that the 614 runs a very grassroots ministry. From the newest convert to the senior leadership, everyone is involved in hands-on ministry, in learning together about following Jesus and in serving each other in love.

The corps regularly conducts open-air meetings in the park and takes the gospel to the streets by holding up yellow signs that read, "Need prayer?" Many passersby in the business district of Birmingham have stopped to solicit prayer.

Bailey credits the leadership for the corps' ability to reach such a wide spectrum of people. "God has given us great leadership here. Majors Mark and Susan Brown are the greatest supporters of this ministry. Majors Riley are very mission-minded. They encourage us and help us and get out in the middle of it with us."

Sometimes, "getting out in the middle of it" means knocking on the doors of residents at Norwood Villas, and telling people like Ashley about the love of Jesus. Ashley, 13, lives next door to drug dealers and gang members. Having been led to the Lord through the friendship of Bailey and others who visited her neighborhood frequently, she recently came to the corps for Wednesday night Bible study and confessed her sins at the altar.

Ashley's journey seems to depict the method behind the message at the Birmingham 614 - intercede together, befriend people, share the gospel, lead others to Jesus, learn together about how to live out their faith. It sounds similar to a familiar Scripture passage, They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. ...Many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles...And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

Photos, top to bottom:Top: Firecrest missioner Shimei Hewitt, SAMS Andy Bailey and other members of the 614 pray for a woman at the altar. Middle: Students in the Battle School, accompanied by Hewitt and Bailey, join neighborhood residents of Norwood Villas for a photo after picking up garbage. Above, near: Battle School students sign one-year covenants, committing to attend classes and ministries with the 614.

South venue again for Urban Forum

Next month, the Southern Territory will host the 3rd Urban Forum. Majors John Needham and Geoff Ryan of the Canadian Territory feel that this year's forum features the best cadre of speakers and presenters yet. Among the special guests are:

Robert Lupton - Lupton will be the keynote speaker and is the founder of FCS Urban Ministries, which began in 1976 as Family Consultation Service (FCS), a nonprofit counseling agency for low-income individuals. Originally serving children and families referred by Atlanta area juvenile courts, it eventually broadened its mission to pursue lasting solutions to some of the underlying causes of poverty. FCS is a Christian community development organization that partners with declining inner city neighborhoods to bring about social, economic and spiritual rebirth. Lupton is the author of many books, including Theirs is the Kingdom, Renewing the City and So You Call Yourself a Christian: Towards Responsible Charity. Detailed information about FCS and Lupton can be found at http://www.fcsministries.org/.

Sh ane Claiborne - Claiborne is the author of Irresistible Revolution and will conclude the forum. A founding member of "The Simple Way" community of faith, he is a true radical for Christ as he lives what he speaks about. He has been mentored by Tony and Bart Campolo. You can read excerpts of Irresistible Revolution at http://www.thesimpleway.org/shane. This dynamic individual will put a fire in your heart and renew your passion for Christ.

Ray Eldred - Ray Eldred is a Native American of Cree decent and a member of the Swan River Cree Band, located in northern Alberta, Canada. Eldred was ordained to the ministry in 1995 and is now devoting time to the development of family ministry programs for struggling native families with www.mypeopleinternational.com. Eldred is a gifted speaker and writer and delivers seminars and workshops on issues in the life of the Native church. For more detailed information about the Native Church please access their website.

Marty Mikles from the Salvation Army Southern Territory will host the worship sessions at the Urban Forum. You can listen to clips of his music at http://www.martymikles.com/music.html. Download his song, "Running in Circles" at iTunes.

Other presenters will be Major Bruce Powers of Canada, Kevin Metcalf, Andrew Morgan, Gabriela Elias and Jason Pope. Kelly Pope will lead a session on "Faith and Culture" each evening.

Register now! Join us for an inspiring time of worship and interaction. Registration forms are located at www.theurbanforum.com. Or contact the Office of Urban Mission at (404) 728-1300, ext. 476.

 

Salvation Army

Mission Specialist:

Andy Bailey

Name: Andy Bailey

From: Dothan, Ala.

Deployment site: Birmingham, Ala.

Why SAMS? He felt God calling him into a SAMS position because of his strong evangelistic gifting, so he left Fort Smith, Ark., and accepted Major Matt Riley's invitation to be a SAMS at the Birmingham 614 Corps.

What he does: Initiates many evangelism opportunities for the 614 corps and helps with the Battle School that the 614 operates.

Ministry highlight: Upon moving to Birmingham, Bailey said that the Lord told him an apartment at Norwood Villas (one of the worst sections of town) would be available to the corps for an evangelistic ministry. So Bailey called the landlord, and the landlord offered the 614 a lease for $0 for the duration of time described as "until Jesus returns."

On partnership: Bailey explained the complimentary roles of SAMS and Firecrest missioners by saying, "When we [the SAMS] go and plant something, they [the Firecrest missioners] dig their heels in. Once it's established, Shimei (Firecrest missioner to Birmingham) comes in and builds relationships. She knows their kids' names."

 






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