Blessings and Perseverance with Seniors Amid COVID-19

Coined “Baskets of Blessings,” baskets filled with gloves, masks, sanitizer, a Bible study book, and chocolates were delivered to the homes of seniors and members of The Salvation Army Shreveport Corps’ Women’s Ministry. Distributing the baskets was the Army’s way of staying in touch with church members and reassuring them that they are cared for and loved while also practicing social distancing.

Virginia Fernandez-Schalewski, a member of the women’s ministry for over ten years, appreciates the basket of goods and says it helps her to feel more protected while running errands.

“I would like to thank The Salvation Army for the gloves, face mask, and candy. I carry the sanitizer with me everywhere I go,” shared Fernandez-Schalewski.

Retired Salvation Army officer, Major Patricia Johnson, was also one of the women who received a “basket of blessings” and was grateful for the added resources to her and her family.

Major Patricia Johnson, former Salvation Army Corps Officer

“I appreciate the gifts and The Salvation Army for thinking of me. You can’t always find these things when you need them, so I’m grateful for the tissues and hand sanitizer,” Major Johnson stated.

“I enjoy the Army’s programs. I was raised in the Army. My parents were very active at the Corps. I plan to join the Shreveport Corps in assisting the Boys and Girls Club once the pandemic is more under control,” Major Johnson added.

Major Johnson and Lieutenant Tamarique Ellis know each other from previous appointments in Atlanta. Major Johnson offered advice to Lieutenant Ellis early in her career as a Salvation Army officer. Nearly 20 years later, they live in Shreveport, Louisiana, and are still involved with the Army.

“Time is one circle. It comes back around. Major Johnson blessed me as a young soldier in Atlanta, and now we’re both in Shreveport and keep in touch,” Lieutenant Ellis shared.

“I just love my Army and want to give back, despite my losses and time of mourning.”

Although the Army is continuing to serve members of its community during the coronavirus pandemic, the past few months of self-isolation have been hard for some and even harder for others. Patsy Wallace, a member of the Shreveport Corps’ senior’s ministry, lost both of her daughters during self-isolation due to ongoing health issues and the coronavirus. Through all of this, she has still kept the Army in mind and has donated what she can to assist the Shreveport Corps. She regularly visits the Corps for the senior’s ministry and weekly meals, which has only been offered drive-thru style since the start of COVID-19. Due to the loss of her daughters, Wallace has been unable to travel, so Lieutenants Ellis brought lunch, flowers, a handmade vase, and a handmade necklace designed by the Ellis’ children to Ms. Wallace at her home. While receiving her gifts, Wallace offered a gift of her own to the Army.

“Ms. Patsy has given us a financial donation from her heart. In all her suffering, she says she has meant to bless us. Her love and care for others and the ministry in her time of bereavement is so wonderful. Ms. Patsy is a blessing to the Army. The Lord is with her,” Lieutenant Ellis stated.

Wallace has been a member of The Salvation Army Women’s Ministry for over 20 years and also participates in the senior’s ministry. She goes above and beyond for the Army. Just last December, she took the initiative to volunteer to help organize Angel Tree and tended the tables throughout the fundraiser’s duration.

“I just love my Army and want to give back, despite my losses and time of mourning,” Patsy Wallace shared.

Lieutenant Ellis says members of the senior’s ministry keep in touch with one another via phone calls. The Corps checks in with Wallace and other seniors weekly to see how they are doing, whether it be a phone call or driving by their homes to wave and chat from a safe distance.

“We are a family. We see that family spirit in our corps, from mothers taking care of kids, to the senior’s ministry checking in on each other through coronavirus. It’s beautiful,” Lieutenant Ellis shared.

“Seniors would come and sit and encourage each other daily before the pandemic, so we are staying in touch with them to let them know that we are thinking of them and praying for them. They are praying for us as well. We like to encourage seniors and remind them that they have a presence and a place in this world. If society takes time to lift both of our vulnerable populations, the children and the seniors, we can learn so much from them,” added Lieutenant Ellis.

The Heralds of Grace: Experiencing Ordination and Commissioning

As an employee of The Salvation Army with a grand total of thirteen months experience, I set out to Atlanta (Southern Territorial Headquarter of The Salvation Army) with my wife to take in the Ordination and Commissioning of 66 soon-to-be officers.

Let me first say, I love working for The Salvation Army, it is by far the best place I have worked in my career. I was honored to be invited to the ceremonies. So as a communications professional, I felt it was my duty to experience something that gives me an idea of what The Salvation Army is. I want to understand why someone would sign up for two years of “college”, receive an appointment that changes every three years and join the forces that serves the hungry, homeless, and poor across the world.

I mean it has to be a true calling, right?

I know the officers I have met are true men and women of God, many with several years of experience, but how did they get to this point? It all started with THE CALLING.

Let me be perfectly upfront about what I mean by a calling. A calling means God has spoken directly into your life about what he wants for you. Some choose to ignore His call and waste years trying to avoid what will happen while others step right out on their faith in Him and move forward.

In this session of cadets, the Heralds of Grace, there were some who ignored Him for a time and some who accepted His call immediately.

As my wife and I entered the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center (awesome place, by the way), we didn’t know what to expect. For many of the 66 cadets, this was a true culmination of what they had waited their whole life to become. It was their last night as cadets. They were about to step over the threshold into officership in The Salvation Army!

We saw beautiful presentations, heard magnificent songs, and witnessed life changing testimonies. What I found out is many of these cadets before me were once just like everybody else…just like me for that matter.

One cadet, a former police officer, felt the call of God as he lay bloody and injured after being run over by a gang member. Another felt the call after refusing to join her husband a church for the empteenth time.  These cadets are husbands and wives, men and women, young and not so young, families and singles stepping out on the grace and love of God. I wish I had time to tell you in great detail all the testimonies I heard, but I could never do them justice.

We witnessed cadets and officers alike worshipping God and praising the name of Jesus Christ even though they’ve yet to find out what their next step was to be or even where they may be in a year.

What struck us the most? They were accepting “the call” blindfolded and full speed ahead.

It’s not a life for the faint of heart. Notice I said life, not job. This is more than a job. A job you get up in the morning and drive to an office, and work for eight plus hours then go home. For Salvation Army officers, it is 24 seven, 365 days a year.

As you can tell, I respect these men and women for what they do. I could never do it.

So, we sat and watched as one after another walked out to center stage to find out where this calling would take them first. I tracked each one that received their assignment to this division.

I will be here should they need help in their life’s journey. Maybe that’s my calling.

One thing I know for sure, The Salvation Army, it’s officers, soldiers and employees stand ready to Do The Most Good because we stand on the love of the one who died for you and for us, Jesus Christ.

So, 66 new officers are moving to their new appointments throughout the Southern Territory, and as their name suggests, they are heralds of God’s magnificent work in their lives, heralds of God’s grace.