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Growing with the changes

Sherman Ave. Corps adapts to new look

of D.C. neighborhood

By Major Frank Duracher

Southern Spirit staff

Located nearly due north of the White House, and adjacent to the "yuppie" section of Georgetown, is a corridor in Washington known to locals as Petworth/Georgia Avenue. The majority of inhabitants here are of Caribbean descent, although growing numbers of Hispanics are evident to the corps council of the Washington Sherman Avenue Corps. The local officers of this corps are making evangelistic outreach a priority for the continued growth of their corps family.

  

Commanding the corps is Major Denny Hewitt, a single officer who gladly relies on a strong slate of local officers to help run a diverse and effective outreach ministry in the nation's capital.

"The soldiers here are great. They take their job seriously and are faithful to the Army's mission here," Hewitt said. "The people here make the difference! We refer to everyone as ‘Brother' or ‘Sister' because we are truly a part of the family of God."

Hewitt's ancestry is in the Caribbean, and his accent proves it - even his guitar style has a distinct Jamaican rhythm which gets the congregation caught up in lively rhythmic singing. Much of the congregation also have connections to a Caribbean island, for many years a reflection of the neighborhood. But that is slowly changing and the Sherman Avenue soldiers are reaching out as they believe Jesus would have them do.

In addition to a clothing and feeding ministry promoted throughout the Petworth/Georgia Avenue Corridor, the soldiers hold an annual Super Weekend in the autumn to allow their neighbors to join in a three-day worship experience, including a prayer breakfast, outdoor services and family activities.

"We literally open our doors for everyone to see that The Salvation Army is a church," Hewitt said. "Really, we do that all year long, but for Super Weekend we pull out all the stops, and it has proven very successful for the growth of our corps family."

Hewitt said the success of the corps is a result of the commitment made by its soldiers long ago. He points to the "easy transition" recently experienced when the old Washington Ninth Street Corps had to be closed and its corps family merged with Sherman Avenue Corps.

"Both corps families embraced each other from the outset. That doesn't always happen," he said. The new congregation set their sights on fulfilling the Army's mission to continue building God's Kingdom.

CSM Howard Campbell is one of the soldiers coming over from Ninth Street to Sherman Avenue. His position as the leading local officer is indicative of the positive spirit practiced by the corps family.

"This is a diverse ministry," Campbell said. "We have after school activities for the children, programs for older adults, and we are working to attract entire families.

"My role as a Salvationist is to be a servant of Christ," he said. "Once you are, you are compelled to reach out to those who need Him."

Cadlena Dunwell is another Ninth Street transplant who has become a key local officer at Sherman Avenue. Her commitment as junior soldier sergeant has already touched the lives of scores of children attending Sherman Avenue Corps. Another corps council member described her as "the most faithful, reliable and dependable soldier we have here at Sherman Avenue."

Linval Crosdale was a soldier for many years in the Kintyre Corps in Jamaica. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1985 and brought his soldiership with him. He quickly settled into the Sherman Avenue Corps, identifying with the Caribbean connection - which he considers an advantage in relating to the unchurched in the area.

"The corps has gone through many cultural changes, but we need change in order to grow sometimes," Crosdale said. "This corps offers hope. Mention The Salvation Army in this neighborhood, and they know who we are: a church, a place of refuge and a ministry that meets their social needs while drawing them into our worship experience."

J. Virginia Murray is a "home grown soldier," who came to the corps about 10 years ago and immediately fell in love with the Salvation Army mission. She has a passion for youth ministry and left a lucrative career with the U.S. State Department to come to work at the corps (see related story).

"Our corps is in a transition stage," Murray said. "God is doing some wonderful things through our corps family in this community - I get the feeling that something new and marvelous is in the air!"

Photos (above): Top, Bonita Johnson greets Alice Haywood, a fellow member of the congregation, before the morning worship service. Middle, Major Denny Hewitt welcomes help from local soldiers. Bottom, Sherman Avenue Corps youth pose outside their corps building in a rock garden that depicts the Beatitudes.

Hagerstown, Md., Corps invites all the neighbors in for a party

Since 1949, The Salvation Army's Hagerstown, Md., Corps Community Center has been nestled in the middle of the West End residential community. With a rich history of being an integral part of the neighborhood, the corps wanted to keep the tradition alive.

On Halloween, 40 corps members, eight advisory board volunteers and Majors Robert and Karen Lyle, corps officers, decided to get reacquainted personally with their neighbors.

Two weeks prior to their block party, the corps cadets and men's fellowship canvassed the area with flyers letting their neighbors know about the upcoming event. The effort was an excellent way for them to meet some of the corps congregation and become better acquainted.

The fenced playground beside the corps building was transformed into a "Hallelujah Carnival" to give an alternative idea to trick-or-treating to corps neighbors. Major Robert Lyle brought a new twist to this idea and asked the corps council what they thought about incorporating a "Meet Your Neighbor" block party. Registration/ticket tables were set up at the gate and everyone who entered was asked to give their name, address and phone number.

"We also asked if they had any prayer requests," said Major Karen Lyle, "and 210 families shared prayer concerns with us. We will use the information to send flyers and letters of the services and fellowship opportunities that we offer and to let them know we are continuing to pray with them about their concerns."

The ticket volunteers lost count of people entering the carnival at 475. That total did not include the 48 volunteers and a host of people who got past the registration area without being counted.

"Many children dressed up for the evening but the only ghost we were able to identify was the promised presence of the Holy Ghost," Karen Lyle said. "Our corps family has been praying to be of practical use to folks in the community, and I believe God just opened the door for us to walk through."

Photo, above: Hagerstown's 'Hallelujah Carnival' offered residents in the surrounding West End community food, fun and fellowship on Halloween.

Replacing weapons with the Word

This report by Bola Noho was published in the Lae Daily News on Nov. 13, 2006

Youths of Four Mile settlement, Papua New Guinea, considered a notorious breeding ground for criminals, yesterday exchanged their weapons for Bibles. Their surrendering of the dangerous weapons was at the urging and encouragement of The Salvation Army.

The weapons included homemade guns, live ammunition, slingshots, bush knives and pieces of iron used by the youths for armed holdups and road blocks.

The weapons were ceded to the Salvation Army leaders at a small ceremony.

The weapons surrender program, initiated by the youths themselves and The Salvation Army from Lae, saw more than 30 youths hand their weapons to The Salvation Army's divisional commander, Major Sere Kala, in front of the settlement leaders, people and an Australian television crew.

As each youth from the settlement surrendered his weapon, Major Kala issued each of them a Bible and assured them of a better life of Christianity.

Kala said the Four Mile area was considered a crime hot spot. Road blocks and armed holdups are common occurrences. He said he was himself a victim once when he was held up while traveling in a bus from Nadzab airport to Lae.

Kala's relationship with the youths in that settlement grew after meeting with the youth leaders.

The Salvation Army came to their aid in starting up a coffee shop that proved to be a money-making enterprise. The Salvation Army also assisted with the training of youths in baking scones and selling them.

Kala welcomed the youths' positive thinking and attitudes by deciding to surrender their arms. "This is a change for the better," he said.

He also challenged the business community to give the youths a second chance to prove themselves.

"If we can show compassion and a little bit of care, we will be creating the leeway for these youths to follow and change to become better persons," he said. He said the surrendered arms would be handed over to the police for disposal.

 

 

 

 

 






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