When Salvation Army Lieutenant John Morrow arrived in June 2011 at the Roseville, Calif., Corps (church), he found that the corps already had a thriving ministry to the needy. Two soldiers (members) with a vision to reach out and meet the needs of homeless people had started the Friday morning program about 15 years earlier. Faithful volunteers had kept the program going strong by donating time and money.
Homeless people begin arriving at the corps at 7 a.m. They can take what they need from a table arrayed with clean socks, deodorant, soap, razors, and other products. Clean changes of clothes are also available in storage bins along the wall. Clients put their name on a list for a shower (there are two, and men and women are kept separate), and while they wait, they can have a cup of coffee. Their dirty clothes go into a barrel, and volunteers take them home to be washed and returned the next week. After clients shower, lunch is served at 11 a.m., and a chapel service follows.
John loved what he saw.
“I was amazed by the wonderful volunteers in our kitchen cooking food and by the wonderful people who help manage shower ministry,” John says. He had an idea for expanding the ministry.
“I wanted to give more than soup and soap. I wanted to ensure that, in addition to the physical needs, we were also meeting the spiritual needs [of the people].”
But when John thought about that need, he began to wonder how he could personally provide pastoral attention to so many clients.
“I can’t do it,” he realized.
“My prayer began to be that God would stir in people’s hearts to come and just be a ministering presence for people,” John says. “I thought, ‘Maybe one good prayer or a listening ear could be very beneficial for the spiritual and emotional well–being of our clients.’ ”
Just about that time, John received a request from a group of students in a “Beautiful Feet” ministry at the local Christian college, William Jessup University. The students wanted to know about opportunities for serving the homeless.
John told the students the corps didn’t need help with the shower or feeding ministry. But, he said, we do “need people to come and spend time listening to clients and providing a ministry of presence.”
The students gladly agreed.
“Now the students come and they mingle with our clients while they wait for their showers and their hot lunch,” John says. “The students grab food and sit with clients during the feeding program, listen to their stories, share the love of Christ, build relationships, and pray with them. They are an answer to prayer.”
John would love to have pastors and counselors come as well to spend time with the people. With the volunteer who leads the program, he would like to see clients stablize their situations, whether it be finding a job or breaking free from the bondage of drugs and alcohol.
“We build a relationship with our clients so that we have opportunities to invite them to other ministries,” John says.
He also hopes that clients will see Christ in the ministry and find salvation for themselves. Like Salvation Army Founder William Booth, you might say his slogan is “soap, soup, and salvation.”
For more information, visit the corps website,www.salarmyroseville.org.