‘Club 316 in a Box’ closes distancing gap in Johnson City
By: David Ibata
One of the tougher things Lieutenants Antwann and Bethany Yocum encountered when the COVID-19 outbreak forced the temporary closing of The Salvation Army corps building in Johnson City, Tennessee, was the disappointment of the Club 316 children.
“Our kids in Club 316 work so hard on their badges,” said Lieutenant Bethany. “We didn’t want them to miss out earning those badges we already had planned. So we created these ‘Club 316 in a Box’ kits as a way from them to continue to be engaged.”
The kits, assembled and delivered by Lieutenant Bethany and a soldier, Jennifer Gaillard, went to the families of 23 children, ages preschool through 11th grade. Each box had six weeks of material to take the youngsters through the end of March and the month of April, in the hope schools reopen and corps meetings can resume in May.
Contents include a Bible lesson, daily devotions and a science project – building mini-catapults, for example, or making balloon rockets and Zip Rock candy bombs.
“You want your child to have something productive to do, something that will engage their minds, and of course, in The Salvation Army, we also want to engage their souls and their hearts and their spirit,” Lieutenant Bethany said.
“And we’re sharing the gospel not just with the children. Many of them can’t read yet, so their parents will have to share the Bible verse with them. It’s an opportunity for the family to get into the word together and for us to potentially reach parents with the word of God.”
To stay in touch, the corps texts and talks to parents weekly, seeing how their offspring are getting along and if they have any questions.
“Parents have been excited to send me messages showing their kids engaging with the materials,” Lieutenant Bethany said. “For example, we’re starting to receive videos and photos of children with their science projects. I’ve got a number of photos of kids with their catapults. One mom just sent me a video of her daughter with a balloon rocket. It’s really been encouraging and affirming.”
As for matters scriptural, the memory verse for April is Philippians 2:3: “Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves.” (New International Reader’s Version)
“We’re covering the theme of humility and different ways of showing humility – putting other people first, doing acts of kinds, and being humble and putting other people before ourselves,” Lieutenant Bethany said.
Each box also addresses an increasingly pressing need: Many breadwinners, suddenly jobless, are struggling to make ends meet and feed their families.
“We don’t want any child to be hungry,” Lieutenant Bethany said. “Thankfully, our schools continue to meet the need for children’s lunches, but we know families could use even more support. So we included six snacks for each child and a family food bag. Our hope was to alleviate some of that extra financial burden for our families beyond just lunch, to breakfast, dinner and snacks in between.”
The Yocums hope to have a big Club 316 party in May when everyone gets back together. But if that’s not possible, Lieutenant Bethany said, “we’re definitely thinking about this being an ongoing ministry for however long this coronavirus lasts.
“We’re not going to give up on our families. We want them to know we haven’t forgotten them, and that God hasn’t forgotten them.”