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Upon arriving in Jacksonville, N.C., Captains Charles and Kristina Nkanza were faced with a big decision about the corps youth program - there was none.

"On our first Sunday we had three people in the congregation and no kids," Captain Charles said. "We both felt that we needed a youth program, but struggled with whether we should start a program with no kids or wait until we know of some kids before starting anything."

The young couple decided to at least have something in place so that they could advertise youth programs - otherwise corps activities for children and teens might never materialize.

"On the first Thursday night, Charles, myself, and two other leaders showed up at the corps in our freshly ironed-on youth t-shirts and waited. That night, no one came," said Captain Kristy. "But a family of a single navy mother with three children began coming to the corps for a couple Sundays, and on the next Thursday, two of those children came to youth night."

For several Thursdays, those two children were the youth group. Soon they invited friends from their neighborhood, who in turn brought their brothers and sisters.

By December 2005, the two original children comprising the youth group were moved to Virginia - but they left behind 15 children and teens who were now regularly attending.

"In March, we enrolled the first six junior soldiers at our annual dinner meeting," she said. "Others have been enrolled since, including several senior soldiers."

In August, one boy was at home when he discovered that his 15 year-old brother had committed suicide in their bedroom. "This is when we really realized how the young people had come to depend on their church. Everyone in our youth group was deeply affected by this tragedy," Captain Charles explained.

Through the ministry among these young people and their families, the youth group now membership now stands at 30. They attend meetings on Sundays and are very active in League of Mercy. They love to volunteer whenever possible, he said.

 Photos, top left: Captain Charles Nkanza enrolls seven new senior soldiers at the Jacksonville Corps, reflecting the growth that has also been taking place in the junior ranks at the corps. Near left: Youth of the corps participate in a presentation on Easter Sunday.

"This is an exciting time for the corps here in Jacksonville," Captain Kristy added. "We now have Adventure Corps, Sunbeams, Junior Soldiers, Corps Cadets, a youth choir and other activities," she said. "On Christmas Eve, the youth group will be offering a cantata during the morning service."

"One couple has already expressed an interest in Salvation Army officership. We can clearly see God working among our young people."Major Frank Duracher

 

Photos,  above left: Enrollments among the youth of the corps have steadily increased the numbers in the junior ranks over the last year and a half. About 30 youngsters are active - none were involved in the youth program 18 months ago. Above right: Captains Charles and Kristina Nkanza stand proudly with seven new senior soldiers.

Roger Millhouse, attached to the 1st Battalion 8th Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., is also a newly-enrolled soldier of The Salvation Army in nearby Jacksonville. His upcoming redeployment to Iraq in January 2007 will be different, he believes, now that he is a born-again Christian with a whole new direction in life.

"I ran away from home, and soon became very angry and bitter against God," said Millhouse, a petty officer, third class in the U.S. Navy. "I was into excessive drinking, drugs, partying and writing bad checks with no money in the bank. My life was a wreck!"

Though he didn't know it at the time, joining the Navy was one of best decisions to start getting his act together. "God was using this to prepare me for His purpose," Millhouse said.

His first taste of war came when his company was attacked in the Battle of Fallujah. With bombs and bullets all around, Millhouse survived the encounter. After his tour was over, he returned stateside, and he and his wife, Lily, were invited to attend church at the Salvation Army Jacksonville Corps.

Left: Roger Millhouse serves in the U.S. Navy now, but hopes to someday become an officer in an army fighting a different kind of war.

"Coming to this corps brought my life full-circle," he said. "I've surrendered completely to Him, and I hope to become a Salvation Army officer someday."

But first he has another deployment to Iraq.

"This time I have the most powerful Force in the universe - He will watch my family and take care of me."

"Right now, God needs me here with these troops, sharing the gospel, and giving hope to people with it. If Christ can use someone like me, a jobless drunkard, then He can surely use anyone!"

Major Frank Duracher

 






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