The Salvation Army has established a place where hope lives in Lakeland, Florida
In the formative days of The Salvation Army when the methodology of William Booth’s work in East London was beginning to take shape, one thing became abundantly clear: Ministry at its holistic best was compelled to address not only the saving of souls, but the complete transformation of a life’s direction. Thus began the enduring legacy of Salvation Army social services.
From those unseasoned days until now, the ministry of The Salvation Army continues to live out the mandate of comprehensive salvation. It is, as Booth discovered, our biblical, spiritual and moral responsibility to pragmatically attend to the universal needs of those who seek our services. We are to walk beside our friends through their individual fires, through the storms, and back into the sunlight of restoration. This is God’s way.
In 2015, The Salvation Army in Lakeland, Florida, dedicated the George Jenkins Community of Hope. It is community in its truest sense. Built in neighborhood fashion, the 49-acre property is the culmination of a $13 million campaign meant to address the housing needs of families with children. The patrons of the community live on streets named for familiar Salvation Army pioneers. Driving through the neighborhood, you will cross William Booth Way, Brengle Drive, Eliza Shirley Lane and Christmas Lane. These names are constant reminders that the Army’s purpose in 2019 remains unchanged and consistent with the historical mission and vision of the founder.
Majors Barry and Cindy Corbitt, Lakeland Corps officers, understand and embrace the unique opportunities afforded by the proximity of The Community of Hope. In many ways, the ministry mirrors that of the early church, when all shared together the material and spiritual blessings of God.
“We all, despite backgrounds or circumstances, need one another in these days so divisive in nature,” Major Barry said. “Loving ministry is a natural occurrence, as natural as breathing, for those who have experienced the grace and love of Jesus … It is real love that compels us, nothing more and certainly nothing less.”
Understanding that mission is meant to be a social engagement, the corps soldiers are enthusiastically involved in ministry at The Community of Hope. Under the leadership of the Pastoral Care Council, an active program of chaplaincy was initiated to help meet the spiritual needs of Community of Hope residents.
The Lakeland Corps is blessed to have among its soldiery a cadre of retired Salvation Army officers, some 36 strong, many of whom volunteer in the chaplaincy program. With plans to build a new corps community center on the property, opportunities for engagement will increase over time. As a best practice, social service programming and corps programming are meant to be undivided. A united campus will ensure cohesion of mission, providing unique opportunities for service and fellowship within the COH neighborhood family.
Currently, corps programs active on the campus include Sunday school, youth character-building activities and life skills classes. Each October, the corps oversees a Community of Hope block party/truck or treat event that draws over 200 participants. Food and candy are supplied by the corps soldiery. This Christmas, the corps will provide a live nativity for the campus, complete with animals. These events are purposefully planned to include those we care for, ensuring the awareness that they are part of the Army family and welcome among the fellowship of believers.