I am constantly amazed by the people I get to meet and the stories they tell me. Working at the Divisional Headquarters for The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, I work with 32 local corps to try and bring the most attention to their work together with local and divisional resources. On my last visit, to the Dothan, Alabama Corps, I realized I sometimes make this job more difficult than it has to be.
The Dothan Corps is the farthest trip time-wise and mileage-wise from the Divisional Headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi. This means those officers and their employees have to be really good at what they do. Don’t misunderstand however, any employee at DHQ would gladly make the trip to help in any way we can, but again, it sure is a long way to Dothan.
Long story short, the communication team, Daphne Nabors, our creative specialist, and myself, drove to Dothan to meet the officers on their home turf for the first time and found out more than we bargained for. This is why I am writing this story.
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Captains Christopher and Kelly Bryant have served the Lord in The Salvation Army for eight years. Their current appointment, in Dothan, is their first outside the state of Texas. Captain Christopher Bryant’s family was helped by The Salvation Army.
“We received food, clothes, lived in the shelter. My mom even got a job at The Salvation Army,” said Christopher Bryant.
But despite the help and attending church, his parents’ lifestyle never changed.
“We went to church, but that was only a couple hours a week. The drinking and parties…that was our entire life.”
Christopher first met Kelly at Salvation Army summer camp when they were twelve. Kelly’s parents are Salvation Army officers. From that moment, however, their lives took dramatically different paths. Captain Christopher Bryant’s mother was an alcoholic, his step-father was an abusive alcoholic, and his birth father was a biker who dealt drugs. This is not the background you expect a Salvation Army officer to have.
At fifteen, Captain Bryant’s mother died. He was on his own, officially emancipated at sixteen. His younger sister went to live with their grandparents in Anderson, South Carolina. This will play an important part in the Bryant’s lives.
Christopher’s life went downhill from there. He dropped out of high school, and almost went to prison.
“I found myself in a bad situation after I was arrested on a drug possession charge and facing serious jail time,” said Bryant
The judged ruled the drugs were seized through illegal search and seizure, the first break that would begin to change Christopher’s life.
He then turned to his grandparents.
“I asked them if I could stay with them for a few weeks to get things back in order.”
They took him in, although, still seen as a problem by his grandmother, his time was limited. Still, this was break number two. Christopher knew he had to make the most of this chance.
“I gotta make a change. I’m either going to be dead or in jail for the rest of my life.”
Turns out, break number three was a big one. His sister attended The Salvation Army church in Anderson, South Carolina. The officers in Anderson at the time Christopher went to stay with his grandparents? Kelly’s parents, Majors Mike and Nettie Morton .
You might say the rest is history, but the Bryants did not move straight into officership. Kelly earned her culinary degree while Christopher worked as an industrial electrician, but it was during this time he learned to play the guitar. Several years later after moving from South Carolina to Oregon, they felt the call to do more with their lives.
I can’t help but think about Jeremiah 29:11 when it comes to the Bryants and specifically Captain Christopher Bryant:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
No matter your situation, no matter your problem, no matter where you come from, The Salvation Army is there to help because we aren’t perfect either. We are forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.