saconnects, Volume 8, Number 3, 2022

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The Salvation Army’s ministry of presence is the right idea. p. 10

VOL. 8 NO. 3, 2022

Expand your mind with these Thrift Store finds. p. 25

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training offers emotional wellness. p. 30

mental health

matters These issues will affect one in five

adults and children this year. American Idol finalist Danny Gokey can relate. p. 16





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Leaving our home


The Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Ashland, Ohio, is keeping people cool year–round with its new addition. Plus: water park safety tips.

The Salvation Army has partnered with organizations across the U.S. to help resettle Afghan refugee families. Read what some have to say.

Kay Warren and her husband, pastor and author Rick Warren, know all about mental health challenges. Hear Kay Warren’s message to the Church.

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Thrift Store Finds

For Jen Forster, Camp Wonderland is not just a place to work. It’s a home that lives up to its name.

Buy a good book for as little as $1 each. Salvation Army thrift stores are filled with great titles!

Spiritual Life Development

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Emotional wellness and faith go hand in hand. A Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor explains how. page 30

History Through the Salvation Army’s ministry of presence, people who struggle to maintain their mental health find help and hope.


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Karen and Terry Weaver A volunteer power couple devote their time as retirees to the Army in Lebanon, Pa.

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Faith in Action

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in Laconia, N.H., three Salvation Army ministries work together to end the cycle of poverty. page 14

Instrumental is a word that Danny Gokey loves to use to describe the milestones in his spiritual life.

FEATURE Christian singer and songwriter Danny Gokey talks about his victory over depression following the untimely death of his first wife. page 16




Many children overseas are facing illness, gangs, trafficking, illiteracy, child labor, and undernutrition. With so many evils to overcome, your HELP IS VITAL. For just


per month

you can sponsor a Salvation Army


Children’s Home

After–school Program

One–time donations also welcome!

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Matter over mind?

CIRCULATION Doris Marasigan

THE SALVATION ARMY MISSION STATEMENT The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

Member since 2015 Award winner 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021

SACONNECTS is published by The Salvation Army USA’s Eastern Territory. Bulk rate is $12.00 per issue for 25–100 copies. Subscriptions are available. Write to: SACONNECTS, The Salvation Army, 440 West Nyack Road, West Nyack, NY 10994–1739. Vol. 8, No. 3, 2022. Printed in USA. Postmaster: Send all address changes to: SACONNECTS, 440 West Nyack Road, West Nyack, NY 10994–1739. SACONNECTS accepts advertising. Copyright ©2022 by The Salvation Army, USA Eastern Territory. Articles may be reprinted only with written permission. All scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV) unless indicated otherwise. | @saconnects

WARREN L. MAYE Editor in Chief

“What’s the matter? Are you OK?” are common questions asked by concerned friends when something appears to go wrong. The first question seeks to learn what’s happening. People who ask it want to know what the circumstances are. The second question is more personal, as it pursues an understanding of how these matters make one think about the world and feel about oneself. After many years of clinical trials, psychological research, and rigorous testing, mental health experts now conclude that, whatever “the matter” is, bettering the circumstances can literally transform one’s mental health. So, in this issue of SACONNECTS magazine, you’ll see how today and through the years The Salvation Army has provided a practical, spiritual, and emotional lifeline to help keep people mentally healthy. We begin with conceptual art on the magazine’s cover. It metaphorically illustrates how the layers of what matters can burden the mind, but how lifting those layers can improve it. For example, our summer camps provide enjoyable and recreational open–air adventures for kids that lift their spirits through an immediate, positive, and lasting influence. Read how the Army’s ministry of presence has elevated the hopes of men and women since its Founders, William and Catherine Booth, coined the phrase “Soup, Soap, and Salvation.” You’ll be moved by the revealing and heartfelt testimony shared by Christian singer and songwriter Danny Gokey. He describes how his faith and music has lifted him from depression following the untimely death of his first wife. Kay Warren, wife of pastor and author Rick Warren, will encourage you to play a significant role in your community and help raise the quality of life for your family and your neighbors. You’ll also hear from a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) expert! “What’s the matter? Are you OK?” These are important questions. So, please read on; perhaps you will finally find the answers that matter to you.





*Each summer:

9,600 campers 7,775

JUMP INTO SUMMER! The Salvation Army runs a host of summer camps all over the U.S. Ten camps are located in the Northeast.

nights sleeping under the stars The purpose of our camping program is to serve the following needs: PHYSICAL — Our aim is to help campers develop good health habits in cleanliness, proper rest, balanced diet, exercise, and care of the body. SOCIAL — We provide an opportunity for each camper to contribute to and receive from a group–living experience. The aim is to help them make good decisions, stimulate creativity, and foster independence. SPIRITUAL — The Salvation Army is a Christian organization. Its camping program integrates concern for the spiritual dimension of life. We believe in God, His word and what it teaches, and a pattern of living exemplified by Jesus Christ.

“Have Fun. Be Safe. Encounter God.” — camp motto

hours of swimming


Salvation Army T–shirts given

10,500 lives changed!

S’mores We also provide:

The Program Our camp days are filled with swimming, boating, arts & crafts, singing, dramatics, overnight camping, and many more recreational and skill–building activities. The campers will meet new friends, try new things that they can’t do anywhere else, sing silly songs around the campfire, make s’mores, learn about God’s love in “Morning Discovery,” and be wowed by the amazing staff who create a place the kids are going to love. Our program provides a change of pace and strives to enhance kids’ life experiences.


1,500 bags of marshmallows 500 boxes of graham crackers 400 boxes of Hershey bars

Check out a list of camps in the Northeast. *Data from The Salavation Army’s USA Eastern Territory




Making a SPLASH in Ashland by HUGO BRAVO

In 2009, The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, a 43,000–square– foot facility and place of worship, debuted in Ashland, Ohio, despite resistance by other well–known local Christian organizations. “Back in its early planning stages, there were concerns that our Kroc Center services would compete with other centers in the area,” says Major Annalise Francis, a pastor at the center. “The Kroc Center wasn’t even allowed to have a gym, which today, is common in other Kroc Centers, and even in much smaller Salvation Army buildings.” Still, the Kroc Center thrived in Ashland, and became a symbol of the Army’s presence and God’s love in the community. The center held the honor of being the first of its kind for the Salvation Army’s USA Eastern Territory. Other Kroc Centers later appeared in cities such as Philadelphia and Boston. Five years ago, word spread that the Ashland Kroc Center was in the process of adding a new indoor splash park to its facilities. “We have a good relationship with other organizations in Ashland, and we were able to explain that this water park is something different than what they have,” says Major Francis. “Our facility would be recreational, not a lap pool for swimming competitions and school tournaments like other community centers had.”

As the designs for the Kroc Center’s indoor splash park were created, everyone saw that it would meet a new need in the community. Also, it was not the first time the center had offered an original family attraction. Its outdoor water spray park, open to members and non–members, had been a big success. It was even used during summer food programs, when families could receive assistance and cool off from the heat. “The spray park is a beloved part of the Kroc Center, but it’s built for a younger, summer crowd,” says Francis. “Our goal for the indoor water park was something that would appeal to all ages, and throughout the year, not just in the summer.” During the process, the Kroc Center resembled a construction site. But Francis says that seeing the process go from 2D illustrations, to 3D renderings, and to seeing the first members of the community go down the center’s new water slides, was a rewarding experience. The indoor splash park also has kids’ play areas, nets and basketball hoops for water sports, and a lazy river. “Our original goal was met—to bring something that would appeal to all ages. Kids and teenagers love the water slides, and grandparents enjoy floating in the lazy river, although I have seen a few of them go down the slides themselves!” says Francis.

The Kroc Center has also added a state– of–the–art gym and fitness facility with locker rooms, which they were originally unable to include when the center debuted. These additions do more than make the center stand out; they provide a way to interact directly with every person who comes in. “Showing someone the light and love of Christ becomes a lot simpler when they’re inside our building,” says Francis. “It is easier and more natural to share what we have to offer after a workout or a few hours of swimming and playing. “To have these facilities is a gift from the Lord. The Kroc Center has grown into what it is now, and we’re excited to see how the vision grows from here.”

WATER PARK SAFETY TIPS Keep the kids in sight, whether they are new or experienced swimmers. Having them swim close together will make it easier to keep watch.

Have floaties for new or young swimmers. They can be especially useful for little ones who want to try their first water slide. Many water parks even provide them to use free of charge.

Stay hydrated. Swimming in the hot sun can leave you dehydrated, even when you don’t think you feel thirsty. Have fresh water on hand and avoid sugary drinks like soda or juice.

Don’t forget the sunscreen at outdoor parks. Reapply it every two hours, even if it has a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF) or is considered waterproof. Consider sun–protective hats and bathing suits for toddlers and infants too.

Use the showers. Some parks use chemicals to sanitize water on slides and pools. Always shower off after leaving the water, whether you’re eating, leaving the park, or just taking a break.


Volume 8 Number 3, 2022


A second home Interview by HUGO BRAVO

Jen Forster, camp director at Salvation Army Camp Wonderland in Sharon, Mass., talks about growing up as a twin, sharing her love of reading with campers, and how she stays connected to camp counselors when summer is over.

A lot of people in The Salvation Army have been involved in several of its camps, but I’ve experienced only Camp Wonderland. I grew up in a little town in Massachusetts called Athol and came to Wonderland at six years of age. It gave my siblings and me our first experience outside our hometown. I met kids my age who didn’t look like me and had different cultural backgrounds. When I turned 14, I started coming to Wonderland to work in the summer. Today, I’m the director of the camp, and I’ve also done just about every job there is to do here. That’s helpful when I train someone for the first time, and I can say that I was there myself. Wonderland has been a second home to me, my family, and my own children.


My twin sister Jodi is my closest confidant. Being a twin really influenced my childhood in a way that I didn’t notice until I had children of my own. Because I’ve always had my sister to interact with, making friends never felt difficult or full of the pressure that many kids feel. Though Jodi and I had lots of friends, we were blessed to know that our best friend would always be waiting at home, and nothing would change that.

Reading has been a crucial part of raising my children. When I was a child, no one read to me. But when I had children, I made sure to read to them and with them often, even as they grew older. I wanted to bring that reading experience to Wonderland. So, Elisabeth Evans, an 8 th grade teacher who is also our program director, wrote a grant to bring more books into camp. Now, libraries are in each of our cabins, so our campers have access to books during any down time. Every night after devotions, we encourage counselors to read aloud to kids as they go to sleep. We want to replicate that experience for our campers so they will realize the power of reading.

It’s important that The Salvation Army stays connected to young adults. That’s why working as a college ministries director means so much to me. I visit the camp counselors at their college, go out and eat with them, give them my full attention, and build a connection that goes beyond the work they do for Camp Wonderland. I love seeing that part of their lives as I get to know who they are when summer is over. They’re making an impact on their world. When they become adults, some come back to volunteer. I’ve been here long enough to see kids who came as campers, were staff members, and now send their own children to Wonderland. We’re still here to welcome them home.

When working with children, every summer and every day is completely different. But Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is consistent, and He never changes. When there is an issue in camp that weighs on my heart, I still say that I can’t wait to see how it will all work out. We know that this ministry is important to Him, and He will provide for it.


Changing lives every summer Salvation Army summer camps, like other summer camps, allow children to experience the outdoors and break away from their normal environment and “plugged–in” lifestyle. We strive to create an atmosphere for our campers to feel that they are part of something special. Every camp leader wants children to feel as if they belong and are valued. We also let campers know that in our camps, they stand on holy ground, where lives have been transformed and changed. We bring the message of Jesus Christ into everything that makes camp special. We want to unplug kids from their electrtonic devices and plug them into God’s creation. We help them understand that God made everything they see for them to enjoy, and they can find Him in every part of His creation. He’s in every sunset, every rainbow, and every animal in the woods. We also help kids understand that God has a greater purpose for them. Every new experience at camp, whether it’s learning to dribble a basketball, feed an animal, or go on a nature hike, is a way to build character and learn persistence. They can do things that seem new, difficult, or different, and that is a transferable skill that they can take with them and apply to their everyday lives. — Captain Joel Ashcraft Divisional Youth Secretary The Salvation Army Northeast Ohio Division


Volume 8 Number 3, 2022

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A ministry of PRESENCE by WARREN L. MAYE

The Salvation Army USA Eastern Territory (circa 1950)


Volume 8 Number 3, 2022

Daunting has been the task to find scientific treatments and strategies to combat the problems people face who struggle to maintain their mental health. Perhaps one day, a breakthrough in medicine will occur. But until then, The Salvation Army will continue to offer them food to eat, a place to sleep, someone to talk to, and hope for the future.


IN THE 1900s, famous scholars such as John Dewey, Francis Galton, and Sigmund Freud fostered intellectual debates at conventions on the topic of mental health. Their discussions and presentations led to new ideas on modern, scientific, and applied psychology. But over time, frequent and dramatic shifts in perspectives made it apparent that something more was needed to truly offer peace to distressed minds. Donald H. Blocher wrote in his book The Evolution of Counseling Psychology, “What seemed to be missing from this rather sketchy and scattered body of literature is some feeling for the people, the flesh and blood men and women, who in three brief generations have articulated the by many well–intentioned makers of intelideas, advocated for the ideals, and engaged ligence tests and behavioral studies of the in the conflicts, competition, and cooperaday. Booth instead focused on developing tion out of which has come what we presthe skills of empathy and compassion for ently call counseling psychology.” people, which, according to Blocher, seemed Blocher continued, “Noticeably absent to be missing from the conversation. also from most of our chronicles of events has Down through the years, The Salvation been any real appreciation or understanding Army continued Booth’s ministry to homeof the monumental social, economic, and less people, alcohol and drug misusers, and political forces that have shaped our lives victims of natural disasters. Even during and our century.” the most recent COVID–19 pandemic, Army In contrast with these emerging schools counselors, who were no longer allowed to of thought, William Booth, founder of The listen with their eyes in person, relied instead Salvation Army, took these matters to heart, on phone and Zoom conversations to stay in listened with his eyes as well as his ears, and touch. In each instance, the Army’s aim was advocated for a simple but reliable approach to help house, feed, socialize, educate, train, to care that was designed to meet troubled guide, and employ people, while allowing men and women at their obvious points of them to remain independent and active. need. He famously said, “You cannot warm the hearts of people with God’s love if they Emotional and spiritual care have an empty stomach and cold feet.” “When you go back through any of the disasSince its inception in 1880, rudiments such ters, you see that there has always been this as “food, shelter, work,” as well as, “soup, compassion for people that has set the Army soap, and salvation,” have been at the heart apart from other agencies that may have had of the Salvation Army’s holistic approach to more people on site, more equipment, and mental and spiritual health. other resources,” said Michael Orfitelli a So, from the outset, it was quite clear that former Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Booth’s perspective helped fill the void left director for The Salvation Army. “It’s not just about what we do; it’s about who we are in the process. We try to infuse and synthesize emotional and spiritual care into everything that we do. We’re not a drive–by service. We’re someone to talk to, someone who gets it, someone who cares.”


A ministry of presence At the essence of Chris Farrand’s EDS focus, is what he calls “a ministry of presence.” As a seminary graduate and mental health professional, his experience in working with people who have suffered mental illness, trauma, and loss has taught him valuable lessons. “Sometimes, there’s almost nothing else between this person and their grief or hurt except me,” he said. “Frequently, I’m in a role where I’m put into incredibly terrible situations, and yet I can be the presence and comfort of God and bring hope in a way that that changes lives; just being there can be life transforming. “When people have lost so much so suddenly, the first thing to do is show the community as fast as possible that they are not alone,” said Farrand. “The second thing is to remember that you are there to listen. It’s not about what you can say, it’s about the ministry of your presence. Being a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or a voice of prayer can be just as important as putting food in their mouth. You give hope to someone that they could not have had if they were dealing with this alone. “At that moment, you are the hands and feet of Christ. You become a conduit in which that broken person is connecting with God, whether they realize it or not.”

When your whole world changes In 2004, The Salvation Army teamed up with the International Bible Society (IBS) to help address the spiritual needs of people faced with trauma. Peter Bradley, then the president of IBS, said, “We have a partnership agreement with The Salvation Army so we can be on stand–by to supply them with Scripture for any emergency crisis that may happen, especially in the U.S.” Crisis counselors had learned that anger, frustration, doubt, and blame typically sets in after a disaster, and most of the time, depression follows. Bradley said, “People, after a crisis, are really in despair. They’re seeing their whole world change. They’re looking for hope and that’s what the Scriptures provide.” So a team of Salvation Army writers joined forces with IBS and created the booklets When Your Whole World Changes, and Where Is


Stanley Jackson (right), an Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) counselor, prays with a beneficiary in the program. Stanley was once a beneficiary himself.

God Now? There was also a special collection of Psalms and another booklet called Building a Mosaic which provided help to aid workers. When Your Whole World Changes was a 30–day devotional. Each reading was divided into sections. The first was a question or thought from a survivor. The next included Bible passages. Below each scripture was a reference showing its location in the Bible. At the end of each reading was a space to journal thoughts to work through the healing process.

Coping with life Ultimately, professional counseling based on the Salvation Army’s model, became a big part of the Army’s frontline ministry to promote abstinence and to facilitate rehabilitation and spiritual renewal. For instance, Don Coombs provides consultation for 29 of the Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) in the USA Eastern Territory. His services include guidance on how to minister to persons who often have a history of adversity, starting in their childhood and continuing into adulthood. His responsibility involves partnering with others to provide such care. In an exclusive interview with SACONNECTS magazine, he talked about his work as it relates to mental health. “Our goal in counseling is the same as in rehabilitation, which is to assist a person as he or she moves from being a victim of life’s adversities to becoming victorious,” said Coombs. “For many individuals, including those who participate in the ARC program,

they have found that the use of addictive substances hinders the growth of mature coping skills to deal with life’s adversities. Persons who enter the ARC find three empowering themes: freedom, maturity, and healthier relationships. “The ARC program is truly a residential church where people learn to live according to God’s holy design in the presence of community. They learn new coping skills consistent with the advice of Scripture. They find more power and freedom to live victoriously. The ARC ministry provides both the education and experience of learning to live with life’s challenges, but without the use of chemically addictive substances.” Today, after decades of research, leading professionals in the field of counseling and psychiatry still struggle to understand the human mind. Dr. Thomas P. Insel, 70, ran the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), for 13 years. It is the top research organization of its kind in the U.S. In Insel’s new book, Healing: Our Path From Mental Illness to Mental Health, he writes, “Nothing my colleagues and I were doing addressed the ever–increasing urgency or magnitude of the suffering millions of Americans were living through—and dying from.” This most respected neuroscientist of our time cited among the major failings: ineffective delivery of care, the gutting of community health services, and the reliance on police and jails for crisis intervention. So, The Salvation Army must continue its own brand of care, particularly during these tumultuous times.

Volume 8 Number 3, 2022




To hear from some of those children and how The Salvation Army has helped, scan this code. If you need HELP or more information, reach us at




A Ministry of Three by HUGO BRAVO


Lieutenant Brian Perks, assistant pastor at The Salvation Army in Laconia, N.H., knows that ending the cycle of poverty involves more than just providing a meal and a space to sleep for a night. “You can’t just give a homeless person an apartment with a bed and say, ‘case closed.’ I have met people who received help and even a place to live, but were back on the streets in a few months,” Perks says. “They needed the tools to rebuild their lives, reestablish their income, and become productive members of society. There was no infrastructure built to help them become successful.” Today, The Salvation Army in Laconia is made up of a church, thrift store, and the Carey House Homeless Shelter, which form the needed infrastructure. Shelter residents depend on the store and the church to support their progress toward self–sufficiency. Captains Scott and Nora McNeil served as pastors in Laconia from 2014–2020. Captain Nora says, “Some people like to call it the ‘Trifecta.’ But that’s a betting term, and The Salvation Army doesn’t gamble. I prefer calling it the ‘Three–Ring Circus;’ a lot of acts are going on at the same time to keep the show going.” The McNeils say that their years at Laconia have been some of their most special in ministry. Captain Scott says, “We worked hard to make sure the three entities all operated as one. In doing so, we saw William Booth’s mission come to life at Laconia.”




Volume 8 Number 3, 2022

Order in the house Every rule in the Carey House is in place to protect the children who live there with their families. Of all the residents at Carey, the children are the only ones who had absolutely no say in the decision to live there. “We need to always be considerate and flexible regarding these families, as we would any place where we are in charge of kids,” says Captain Nora. However, the Carey House is 100 percent drug and alcohol free and that rule stands. “When residents came to stay in the Carey House, I let them know that they might be used to living with no boundaries and doing what felt good to them,” says Captain Scott. “But if they’re in here doing something that feels good that can negatively affect others, then they cannot stay. “Some of the members of the Carey House who leave for other places, come back, and say, ‘I was better here because we had rules. Give me something that can help me be accountable for my actions,’” says Captain Scott. “We had a resident named Scotty who became a big part of the Laconia Corps. Scotty came to church, men’s groups, and bible study. He even became a Salvation Army adherent,” says Captain Nora. Scotty had lost his wife to cancer, and he had developed cancer too. As his own condition worsened, he said he did not want to die in a hospital and asked if he could stay at the Carey House. “We brought in hospice to make him comfortable, and he passed away among the people that he considered his family,” says Captain Nora. “He is one of many stories from here, and it would only take one to consider this work a blessing.”

Resources for the recovery The thrift store is located half a mile from the church and the Carey House. While other Salvation Army thrift stores help fund its Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs), Laconia’s store allocates funds to the shelter and its community programs. It also plays a crucial part in bringing residents of the Carey House back into structured personal and work life.


“When people come to us, sometimes they don’t believe that their life has any value, or that we would trust them to do any job,” says Captain Scott. “So, we start them with a simple task, like counting puzzle pieces and making sure the puzzle is complete and can be sold. Soon, they’re being put in charge of the toy room and preparing every toy to for the store. “Being part of the thrift store is a valuable resource for a resident’s future,” says Lieutenant Brian. “If they’re working or volunteering for us, they’re developing a work history. Now we can vouch for them and talk to an employer about their work experience. “The store helps shelter residents up to the day they move to a permanent home,” says Captain Nora. “They can get what they need in their new place from our store, and the money they save can help pay their rent.”

Building for the future The Laconia Corps welcomes members of the Carey House to participate in the services and ministries. The church also helps with the unique needs that come with sheltering a family. For example, corps volunteers help watch the children if their parents need to finish chores, see about a job, or take time for themselves. “When you talk about parents needing a sitter, you might think of caring for babies,” says Lieutenant Brian. “But we had a 17–year– old who had the day off from school and came to volunteer at the church while his mother went to work. He learned about the Army, but it was even more important to make sure that young man was not alone. We wanted to add some enrichment to his life, if only for a day.” Seeing the children from the Carey House get involved in the corps is a blessing that can end in sadness, says Lieutenant Brian. If that child’s parents find a place to live away from Laconia, it can feel

bittersweet seeing them leave. The Laconia Corps helps transport them to their new home, get set up with belongings, and introduce them to a local Salvation Army church. “Our loss will be that corps’ gain,” says Lieutenant Brian.

Open listening “This type of ministry can sometimes be hard and lonely,” admits Captain Scott. “I tell young officers that when you work with homeless people, you need a thick skin, because at times you will feel attacked and disappointed. But we must always try to look for the bright parts of the work we do and carry that brightness with us. “As long as you are loving Jesus’ people where they are, and where they need to be, He will protect and guide you,” says Captain Nora. The Salvation Army’s triple presence in Laconia has seen many success stories. But Lieutenant Brian says residents at the Carey House must be welcomed and heard before any recovery begins. “Listening is the most undervalued thing that we can do for anyone who comes to us,” says Lieutenant Brian. “Oftentimes, an individual doesn’t necessarily want you to swoop them up and fix every problem they have. They just want someone who will listen. No one has done that for them in years, even when they’ve tried to share their story and get everything out in the open.” This approach is what lets people, and even whole families, know that The Salvation Army has opened its heart to them. In turn, they become open to what the Army can do for them. “Listen to them, care about them, and then say, ‘Okay, so that’s where you’ve been. Now let’s talk about where you’re going,’” says Lieutenant Brian. “Those simple words have saved lives.”



Instrumental is a word Christian recording artist Danny Gokey loves to use when describing the moment when God lifted his soul from the depths of depression after the loss of his first wife to congenital heart disease. Now remarried and the father of four children, Gokey’s music ministry offers hope to people who are going through life’s disappointments.

WM: You’ve performed on TV’s “American Idol” while the world watched you sing your heart out. What does the day after such an amazing competition feel like? Danny Gokey: So, I get to the top three. I’d never been in the bottom three. But now, it’s the top three, and finally, I get voted off. I sing my exit song, “You Are So Beautiful.” A few tears roll from my eyes. Then, right away, I say “goodbye” to the judges, and then they sit me down in a room with a psychologist. We’re looking at each other, but not saying a thing. Then he asks, “How are you?” And I’m like, “What is this?” He says, “Well, the show is a lot of pressure, so we just want to make sure that mentally you’re in a good space because that was a whirlwind that you were just on.” I was like, “I think I’m in a good space.” But then the tears come out and I say, “You know what? Just a few months earlier, I lost my wife. Now, I’ve made it to the top three of ‘American Idol.’ This is a game changer.” After that, I get whisked away in a car with tinted windows to the hotel, which is a really nice hotel. But I’m told, “you have 15 minutes to grab all your stuff and get downstairs. Your ride will be here.” Soon, I’m in a 15–passenger old church van and being taken to a hotel on another side of town I don’t want to be on. I went from the lap of luxury to being basically on my own.

WM: Wow. It’s good to know that the Lord Jesus is in your music. How did you come to know Him? DG: Well, when my grandfather was 40 years old, he was diagnosed with a condition and left to die. He had five children. My grandma said he was a man of the world, but he got radically saved when he started reading the Gideon Bible at the hospital. He later got called to the ministry, and started a small church, and that’s what brought salvation to our family. So, my grandma got saved, my dad got saved, siblings got saved—so many people. It’s from that moment when my grandpa was left to die that changed his life. It was instrumental. I grew up in his church and I started learning about God at a young age and that made a big difference. WM: You learned music while at church? DG: For sure I did. I started singing. I didn’t always set out to be a professional singer. I just sang because at the beginning that’s what we were taught to do. You sing! WM: You’ve gone through some tough times, with the loss of your first wife and thoughts of ending your own life. How did the Lord intervene? DG: I remember when I walked through that season. I don’t know if I would have ended it, but I thought, maybe it’s better to just check out. But I knew that was wrong. So, I struggled. I knew that wasn’t the answer, but I knew living in pain wasn’t the answer either. The wound kept getting worse.


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Then He spoke to me. It was in the verse, “Be still and know that I’m God,” (Psalm 46:10). I’m like, OK, I know God is speaking to me ‘cause I can’t deny this verse— it’s everywhere. So, I finally sat down to read it. I remember sitting at the edge of my bed, thinking, alright, I’m gonna be still and know He’s God. But I also remember thinking, I still feel pain. I needed to stop fighting with God, stop striving with God and just surrender. When I saw that, I knew God was saying, “it’s time to let it go.” You know, it’s like Job. God allowed him to go through the pain. When God spoke to him, He didn’t answer questions, He gave Job instructions. It sounds kind of mean, but when I pictured myself back at the graveside where I said “goodbye,” I saw myself hanging out of a casket with one hand. I held a hammer in my other hand. I pictured myself hitting the opposite hand with the hammer with intensity and saying, “I refuse to allow this to poison me and bury me in bitterness!” So, that was instrumental. I thought, I am not going to grasp this thing that’s causing so much pain. That’s when the bitterness and anger began to leave. WM: You say that “life starts with how you think, feel, and act.” What drew you to that conclusion? DG: Thoughts can create feelings, those feelings create actions, and actions create destiny. If you think that you’re not going to make it, then you’re going to feel doubt and ask, “Am I OK? What’s going to happen?” Fear steps in, and when it does, there tends to be actions of self–preservation and we barricade and create walls with our rude behavior. But if we think that God works everything together for good, then in that moment we think, I can have joy. I’m going to have peace. I’m not going to put pressure on people around me to fill the void.




If we lack in this area, we’ll put pressure on our relationships. That leads to broken relationships. It’s a hard pill to swallow because we don’t realize that our thoughts are creating our feelings. WM: What role does music play in your spiritual life? DG: Music is worship. I was having a tough day and I turned on Alexa Worship. Then “Good, Good Father” came on. “You’re a good father and I’m loved by You.” For some reason, hearing those words was exactly what I needed in that moment. They allowed me to have a different thought than the one I was having and feeling. I took my mind and eyes off myself and put them somewhere else—on the Father. That’s what I love about music. When I’m in the car with my kids, I turn on a Disney or Veggie Tales song, and it changes the mood in the car. Music can change the atmosphere. I was in the urgent care last night with my son. While sitting there, I put on a song from the Disney movie “Encanto,” that he loves. So, we’re just hanging out, listening to music, and having fun. He’s my 2–year–old. WM: In your song, “Stand In Faith,” there’s a line that talks about escaping disappointment. What are your thoughts about that? DG: Currently, people will try to avoid disappointment. Instead of changing themselves, they expect everyone around them to change. I see a lot of people trying to do this on social media. This is where “Cancel Culture” comes in. But disappointment is going to come. I’m

reading a book right now called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and the thing I love about it most is that it says, “You are your biggest obstacle!” I love this point, because in society, we’re not talking anymore. We’re saying, “if you don’t like it, go fight back and get your rights,” whatever that means. But you’re only one person and there’s 7 billion people in the world. Imagine trying to get every person to do what you want so you’re never disappointed? That’s too big of a burden to bear. Change you, and watch everything around you change. We can’t control circumstances. So, what’s the answer? Control how you react. So, there’s two different ways; there’s a disposition of reacting or a disposition of responding. Everyone has a response–ability; an ability to respond. Responding to disappointment is the key to happiness. Today, I am focusing on my family, I create space, and give them what they need. I’m focusing on what my call is in life. I have a lot of ability to chase this down or chase that down. But I know that God has a specific plan for me, and I want that plan. WM: We’ll all be watching, because the Lord has put you in a great space.

Danny Gokey’s song “Better Than I Found It,” re-ignited his dream to make a difference by helping others. “I see my music as a movement, mixing hope and entertainment,” he says. For more information on how to support this cause, go to:

Volume 8 Number 3, 2022


Leaving our home by ROBERT MITCHELL

Massood still tears up when he recounts last year’s harrowing struggle to get his family out of Afghanistan and into the United States. “It is very emotional to leave your home country,” he says with profound sadness. Massood worked with U.S. and Afghan military forces in his homeland, which made him a prime target of the murderous Taliban. Last August, as bombings and shootings happened around him, Massood was able to get his wife, Aaina, and their four young boys, from Kandahar to the airport in Kabul, during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Due to his militar y status, Massood managed to get his family on a C–130 cargo plane with a few thousand other fleeing refugees, who sat shoulder–to–shoulder. Massood was worried the plane might be shot down, but once the craft left Afghan airspace, his thoughts turned to the fact that he was leaving Afghanistan for good. He hadn’t seen his parents and siblings for months and realized he may never see them again. The family first reached a sweltering Qatar, where they stayed in a hangar with a few thousand others. “It was very difficult that first day,” Massood told SACONNECTS, pausing several times to compose himself. “The food was limited, and it was not enough. I get emotional remembering everything.”

Reza/Getty Images

“… I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” —Matthew 25:35 (RSV)


On the second day, Massood heard an announcement about a plane going to Italy. He got his family aboard another cramped cargo plane. “I said, ‘Let’s go. The situation is very dire. The kids don’t have food, so let’s just go,’” he recalled telling his wife. The family arrived safely in Italy but had to undergo extensive interviews and paperwork. Massood didn’t sleep for three days, though his family had food and stayed for about 12 days in apartment–style housing.

America awaits Massood said the family then boarded a normal airliner bound for the United States and a new life. The family’s luggage was lost and they landed at a large east coast airport with only the clothes on their backs. Massood and Aaina are not exactly sure where the plane landed, but described the airport as large and not far from New Jersey. The family was detained briefly when Massood’s fingerprints were red–flagged from his work with the U.S.–Afghan military. While the background checks were being done, Massood and the family stayed in tents at an overflow facility where they were allowed to rest. From there, the family was transported to Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst outside Trenton, N.J., where they would spend the next four months living in tents. Massood said everyone there referred to the tent compound simply as “New Jersey Camp.” While in New Jersey, Massood learned that the Taliban had gone to his home looking for him. They took his cars and other property before beating up his parents and relatives. The Taliban also went to Aaina’s home and tortured her parents, demanding to know where the family fled. Aaina, who said the experience caused her to weep for many days, recalled another day when she stood in the rain and freezing temperatures to get children’s clothes at the camp. “I will never forget how I left my life, and here I am standing for a piece of cloth for my children,” Aaina said. “I feel ashamed.” After four months in New Jersey, the family was relocated to another Northeastern


state on Jan. 11, thanks to the Christian relief ministry Samaritan’s Purse and the Bruderhof, a communal Christian group. “Because of the love shown by everyone, we have felt like we are in a family,” Massood said. “We are all a creation of one God.” Two of the couple’s four children, ages 8, 6, 4, and 7 months, are now in school and the family is settling in nicely. While the adjustment is taking time, Aaina said she knows her husband would have been in grave danger if the family had stayed in Afghanistan. “I am happy to be here and very thankful, but I’m most thankful that my husband is alive,” she said. “I am thankful for the reception we have received. I want to do the same for others once we are established because I went through it. I also hope we can help our families in some way. “We understand it will take time to settle down and we pray to our God to take care of our family that’s left there to keep them alive with our faith.”

A new day dawns Massood, who found a job with a local landscaper, said his wife does the grocery shopping and has seen more of the United States than he has, but he also is thrilled to be safe. “I am happy, and we like it here, except for the cold temperatures,” he said. The family has met other Muslims, especially those from Pakistan who speak their language of Pashto. Masood and Aaina agreed their faith helped them survive the long ordeal. “They were difficult days, but they are over. We are just moving on and we thank God,” Massood said. His wife added, “I can’t imagine that I went through all this. It’s behind me, but I still think about these things.” The Salvation Army has partnered with several organizations throughout the country to help families like Massood’s and Aaina’s resettle refugees in a true display of Christian love. Most of the arriving refugees are Muslim and required relief organizations such as The Salvation Army to find culturally–appropriate food and clothing. “For us, it’s really no different than most of the disaster work we do,” says Bob Myers,

the emergency disaster services (EDS) coordinator in the Salvation Army’s USA Eastern Territory. “We work with all populations, regardless of their ethnic background. “It’s really a testament of what we do every day in The Salvation Army, of meeting people at their area of need. It just so happens that in this case, their need involved relocating to a foreign country and us trying to make that transition as smooth as possible for them, given the circumstances.”

Finding freedom Some of the initial refugees were flown into Philadelphia International Airport, where Myers said The Salvation Army’s Eastern Pennsylvania & Delaware Division provided “logistical support.” About 76,000 Afghan refugees were brought to the United States under a resettlement project called “Operation Allies Welcome.” Once the refugees were cleared, most were bussed for housing to Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst, the former Fort Dix. The population there reached 14,500 at one point, but that operation phased out in late February. “They’re sort of resettling the refugees all over the country,” Myers said. When there was a backlog in the initial stage at Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst, Myers said some of the refugees stopped at a temporary overflow facility in Camden, N.J., where The Salvation Army had personnel on site to provide food. Masood and Aaina may have passed through Camden, but they were not sure of the first location they were sent. Seth Ditmer, EDS director for The Salvation Army’s New Jersey Division, said his team was “very active” initially. They helped to establish feeding operations in Camden on very short notice. Through a network of local vendors, The Salvation Army provided 100–150 hot, culturally–appropriate meals before phasing out operations in late August to focus on Hurricane Ida. “We transferred oversight of the feeding operation to federal contractors working on–site, but did leave behind thousands of packaged snacks and hundreds of beverages,” Ditmer said.

Volume 8 Number 3, 2022

Evacuees from Kabul sit inside a military aircraft as they arrive at Tashkent Airport in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Massood and Aaina, interviewed by SACONNECTS, flew on a similar aircraft during their escape.

Handout/Bundeswehr via Getty Images

Afghanistan refugees walk through the airport terminal after arriving in the United States. The Salvation Army was among the relief organizations helping to relocate them to permanent housing.

Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Refugees from Afghanistan settle at a temporary housing camp set up by the U.S. Army. On the East Coast, many refugees were housed at Joint Base McGuire–Dix–Lakehurst in New Jersey. Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images




Joining forces to help Myers said two of the more active Salvation Army divisions were Western Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. WEPASA has relocated families and provided furniture, while Massachusetts issued care packages. In Pittsburgh, the Salvation Army’s Western Pennsylvania Division partnered with Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) and the Red Cross in welcoming more than 100 families. Sarah Siplak, volunteer coordinator for immigrant and refugee services for JFCS, said the alliance with The Salvation Army has been a “godsend.” JFCS organized a furniture drive for the arriving refugee families that included

“ It’s a difficult job and a lot of hours, but what’s important at the end of the day is that we’re helping these families. It’s always good to do something that is serving someone else. I know this work is having a direct effect.” — Sarah Siplak of the Jewish Federation

tables and chairs, dressers, home décor, appliances, tools, and kitchenware that were stored at a Salvation Army warehouse at divisional headquarters in Pittsburgh. “We got tons of furniture and donations,” Siplak said. “It was just insane with hundreds of packages arriving every day. Everyone there at the warehouse has been extremely helpful in bending over backwards to allow us to use the space.” Lauren Fair, director of social services in the Salvation Army’s Western Pennsylvania Division, said, “That’s where we stepped in and offered to be a receiving, sorting, and distribution point. This was basically us joining forces to prepare for the influx of those families.” The space includes bays and areas to


store furniture, personal items, housewares, clothing, coats, hygiene items, baby items, and frozen foods. Toys were also stored there at Christmas. JFCS also offered a culturally sensitive food pantry. Michael Shehand, the warehouse maintenance man, said he also saw appliances, beds, mattresses, blankets, vacuums, and child car seats stored in the bays.

Engaged partners JFCS was founded to resettle Jewish families who escaped World War II and the Holocaust, and now helps refugees from around the world transition to a better life. “Our goal is to be of service to others and to help welcome families to the Pittsburgh region,” she said. Siplak has even helped with airport pickups and said, “every arrival is different.” One family had 11 people. Another included a woman who gave birth on the military base. “We have many, many single males,” she said. “We also have large families. It ranges.” Siplak said language is definitely a barrier, but modern technology has been helpful. “Some of them speak English very well,” she said. “Some of them speak no English whatsoever. Google translate has been a good friend to me. Everyone is always saying thank you. The kids are always adorable.” She gives each child a toy to reassure them they are safe. Many are still traumatized and adjusting to a new culture and country, as well as an uncertain future. “Our role is to make them feel welcome and to make sure they have a safe place to live when they arrive,” Siplak said. Most of the refugees were living on U.S. military bases and had to pass COVID–19 protocols before traveling. They stayed in hotels, where they developed a sense of community, until permanent housing was available. “I think they’re very grateful for the work we’re doing,” she said. “Thanks to all of our amazing donors, they get all of their necessities and a little bit more when they arrive.” The Salvation Army in Massachusetts has provided resources to more than 500

refugee families in the Bay State and Connecticut, including large food boxes, some of which featured special halal food. The boxes also included hygiene products, toys, winter clothing, socks, and personal protective equipment (PPE), said Emily Mew, the EDS state coordinator for The Salvation Army’s Massachusetts Division. “The Salvation Army is also working with organizations in the central and western parts of the commonwealth to provide vouchers to our thrift stores for clothing or household items,” Mew said.

Meeting needs without discrimination The Salvation Army’s partners, the JFCS and Catholic Charities in western Massachusetts, and Worcester Together Refugee Response Coalition in the central part of the commonwealth, all identified clothing and household items as needs. In the early stages, The Salvation Army worked with other volunteer groups, including the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center, which welcomed the refugees at Boston’s Logan International Airport. The Salvation Army provided food boxes, blankets, PPE, diapers, hygiene kits, toiletries, and even backpacks full of school supplies. “When a family arrives from Afghanistan at midnight, they don’t want to be figuring out where to get food or soap,” explained Chris Farrand, the EDS director for The Salvation Army’s Massachusetts Division. Siplak said the work is “very fulfilling” when she sees a family helped, and she praised The Salvation Army’s role. “It’s a difficult job and a lot of hours, but what’s important at the end of the day is that we’re helping these families,” she said. “It’s always good to do something that is serving someone else. I know this work is having a direct effect. “It’s all about looking for the helpers and I feel so enveloped in a community of people who are wanting to help and doing what they can to help. In that way it’s fulfilling and makes it all worth it. We are in a crisis right now with these families and it feels wonderful to be part of a solution. We’re so thankful on so many levels for this partnership with The Salvation Army.”


Pick up a book! Every Salvation Army Thrift Store has lots of books to comb through. You never know what you are going to find. From classic novels, to children’s books, to your next vacation read, the stores have new titles coming in all the time. Most sell for $1 each. Go to to locate a store near you.

DID YOU KNOW? Every purchase you make at a Salvation Army Thrift Store helps change lives. Proceeds fund local Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) where people who struggle with drugs and alcohol find help and hope. Visit to learn more.





Volume 8 Number 3, 2022

People suffering from mental illness are often ostracized by the Church, but Kay Warren believes Christians are uniquely qualified to reach out with love, compassion, and support.


hey sit in the pew next to you every Sunday. You chat with them in the foyer after services. They’re just like you except they may quietly suffer from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar and eating disorders, or maybe even schizophrenia. Mental health issues will affect one in five adults and children this year and the Church has a role to play in helping to address this problem, says Kay Warren, the co–founder of Saddleback Church in California and the wife of best–selling author and Christian pastor Rick Warren. “I think the Church can step up to the plate and really acknowledge the reality of mental illness,” Warren told SACONNECTS magazine. “Everyone knows someone. It’s very common. It’s real. These are not folks who are weak or who don’t have faith or don’t love Jesus enough. These are people just like us who are experiencing a mental health challenge and they need the comfort and the support and the kindness of the Church.” Warren, who addressed the Evangelical Press Association (EPA) on the issue last year, said the stress caused by COVID–19 was hard on every American, but the uncertainty, lockdowns, and loneliness were tougher on people with mental challenges such as depression and anxiety. Where do these people go to find compassion, care, hope, and understanding?


“I really believe the Church needs to be that safe, compassionate, welcoming place for all who suffer,” said Warren, whose son Matthew suffered from mental illness and committed suicide in 2013. “When the Church recognizes that it has a significant role to play in offering comfort, support, and accurate information, and we make a commitment to walk alongside them in this crisis, we’re really going to demonstrate the love of God in a profound way.”

Bowed but not broken Warren said mental health issues will affect 43 million people this year amid a shortage of mental health professionals and treatment beds. She lamented that prisons have become the de facto mental health system in America. While government and non–profit advocacy groups do all they can, Warren said it’s time for the Church to step up and help. “While there are so many people trying to help, there is a desperate need for the Church to engage with individuals with mental health challenges and their families,” she said. “The Church is positioned to take strong leadership and to provide help



“I see it as a beautiful marriage of God working in our spirit and in our heart and our bodies. We’re whole beings and we need help in healing every part of ourselves.”

— Kay Warren

that others can’t or won’t.” Warren recalls a simple prayer from her husband eight years ago for people living with depression. Standing in the pulpit of Saddleback Church, he reminded them that they were special to God and asked Him to comfort those suffering. “Afterward, several people came up to him on the patio and said, ‘Thank you for mentioning depression, for saying the word aloud in our church. It made me feel less alone.’ Simple things like talking about it or hearing stories or testimonies from people who are living with depression or anxiety and where they are getting help from God … normalizes mental health challenges," Warren said. “It puts a face on them.” After the death of their son, the Warrens founded Saddleback’s Hope for Mental Health Initiative. According to the church’s description, it is “designed to encourage individuals living with a mental illness, educate and support their families, and equip church leaders for compassionate and effective mental health ministry.” “In the nearly nine years since he died, we have been devasted, but not destroyed,” Warren said. Warren said nearly 80 percent of Americans have a religious affiliation and there are 350,000 faith congregations. At the same time, 25 percent of those


suffering from mental health issues will go to a religious leader before they’ll go a mental health professional. The Church, Warren said, has opportunities to serve and care in unique ways and "make a significant dent in the mental health crisis." She specifically mentioned filling in the gaps left by the government and public and private sectors. And, of course, sharing the love of Christ with hurting people. "We, as the Church, can provide what no one else is providing," she said.

All are welcome Warren talked about visiting Kalighat in Calcutta, the Home of the Pure Heart (formerly Mother Teresa’s Kalighat Home for the Dying Destitute). While there, Warren prayed for and comforted people in their last moments of life. Warren was struck that others from local churches were not there. “Where were the believers in that city who would pick up the broken bodies from the gutters? Where were the families who would open their homes to the outcasts, so they don’t die alone? It’s not primarily the job of a charity like Mother Teresa’s. It’s not even the job of the government, per se. It’s the job of the Church,” Warren said. “If we don’t do it, it’s not going to be done. It’s going to be messy. The Church

is the only vehicle that God has chosen to spread His message of compassion and mercy. At the center of it all is Christ and His body, the Church. You can’t say you love Jesus and hate His Church or have no use for it or ignore it. It is His body … and in His Church, in His body, there is a place for everyone, absolutely everyone.” The solutions include a combination of Scripture and professional mental health services, Warren said. She rejected the notion that it’s exclusively one or the other, calling that idea a “false dichotomy.” She sees “no competition between faith and psychology, and I think they both have something to say” on the issue. “It’s a cooperative,” she says. “All truth is God’s truth and God has blessed some wonderful people with an understanding of how our minds and our bodies work, and combined with our faith, I think we can get the best results. When we can take the best of both, I think that’s when we’re the healthiest people that we can be. “I see it as a beautiful marriage of God working in our spirit and in our heart and our bodies. We’re whole beings and we need help in healing every part of ourselves. God is the one who created us, who put breath in our lungs, and we belong to Him.” Warren said the Bible includes examples of depression, such as David’s downcast

Volume 8 Number 3, 2022

spirit regarding his sin. Warren, in her speech to EPA, quoted Luke 4, when Jesus read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue and revealed that the Messiah would stand with people who suffer. “If we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are going to fulfill our mission, if we’re going to do the same things that Jesus did, we’re going to need to stand with those who suffer,” Warren said. “Some of those who suffer the most intensely in our world are those who suffer severe mental health challenges.”

C.H.U.R.C.H. Warren offers a C.H.U.R.C.H., acrostic that outlines practical steps churches can take to battle mental illness: C—Care for and support individuals and families (Psalm 69:20). Warren said churches should be intentional about showing love and compassion toward those with mental issues and it costs no money or special training to befriend them. Many are “aching to be wanted,” loved, and accepted, she said. “It’s in our DNA to love,” she said. “If God is love, then this is what we should excel at—loving people.” H—Help with practical needs (1 John 3:17). Warren suggested starting support groups at your church or helping people find them. Warren said when she was recovering from breast cancer, people from her church helped with meals, housecleaning, babysitting, grocery shopping, and transportation to the doctor. U—Unleash trained volunteers (1 Peter 4:10). Warren said the church should teach volunteers to counsel and pray with those with mental issues and help them find professional help. “In your congregation are kindhearted people who are looking for something to do,” she said. Warren said her dream is that every church in America would be “mental health literate” and understand that it’s common and help is available. “I don’t think we have to remain in that ignorant state, but the bottom shelf action that every single church should take is to change their mindset and come from this place of caring and compassion. You don’t

have to be trained in any program to have a heart of compassion. If we came from that place of compassion, that would change the face of mental illness in the United States.” R—Remove the stigma (Ezekiel 34:4). Warren said many people don’t get help for this reason. “Probably the most powerful thing that you can do as a faith community is to remove the debilitating stigma and rejection those living with a mental illness encounter,” she said. “The most powerful thing we can do is to bring it up and talk about it; people in leadership saying, ‘Hey, I live with depression’ or ‘I live with anxiety’ or ‘I have suicidal thoughts.’ All of those things can remove the stigma and put a face on a diagnosis.” Warren said the attitude toward people with mental health challenges “seems to be changing” and she is optimistic. “I’ve seen real progress in the last few years of the faith community understanding that mental health challenges are real and that they’re not automatically attributed to people who aren’t doing well spiritually,” she said. “When we recognize that it’s not a sin to be sick either in your body or your mind, we can look at each other with compassion.” C—Collaborate with the community. Warren said churches can work to augment the work already being done by the mental health community, hold seminars, and bring in professional speakers to educate congregations. “I think we can do some basic training,” she said. H—Hope (Hosea 2:15). “The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers hope to everybody that

this life is not all there is. We do have a God who cares, we have a God who sees us, we have a God who knows us, and a God who wants to comfort us in our pain. Jesus has overcome and lives inside of us. There is so much hope in our faith and we should continually offer that. “We may not be able to cure someone’s mental illness, but the Church can offer hope that over time, a person can learn to manage their chronic illness,” Warren said. “Hope is the most valuable commodity we have in the Church to offer people in profound pain.” Warren said Christians would never turn their backs on someone with cancer or other life–threatening illnesses and the same should be true of mental illness. "Why do we think it’s OK to treat people with serious mental illness or a substance abuse disorder or addiction that way? “We should walk with them to the end if that’s what’s needed,” she said. “The message must be, ‘We will be with you when you’re doing well, we will be with you when you’re going through a crisis, we will be with you when the wheels fall off the bus completely. We will be with you to the end.’ “When people are seriously mentally ill, they might burn through all their family relational bridges, but if they lose the family of God as well, where are they supposed to go? It’s not only unkind, it’s potentially lethal. The Church is to offer hope at every stage and phase of life. That’s what makes us different from every other organization trying to offer help in this space. We’re here to stay and to continue to hold out hope.”

C.H.U.R.C.H. Practical steps churches can take to battle mental illness: Care for and support individuals and families (Psalm 69:20) Help with practical needs (1 John 3:17) Unleash trained volunteers (1 Peter 4:10) Remove the stigma (Ezekiel 34:4) Collaborate with the community Hope offered to everyone (Hosea 2:15)

For more information, go to Kay Warren’s website at or the National Alliance on Mental Illness at



Emotional Wellness and Faith by RICHARD VERNON

As both a certified Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor and a person living with mental health issues, I can vouch for the importance of more of us understanding the realities and prevalence of mental health struggles. As a human with an active faith, I can attest to the truth that approaching emotional wellness kindly and bravely is, spiritually speaking, good and Godly care of self and neighbor. Research says that about half of all adults in the United States will experience diagnosable anxiety in their lifetimes. I’m one of them. Depression is also common. I am putting my hand up for that one too. When I train MHFA, I drill the five–fold action plan, ALGEE (see sidebar), because it’s integral to the course. But I also take a liturgical approach with these assertions: mental health is real, recovery is possible, and suicide is preventable. Mental health is as real as physical or spiritual health. Jesus certainly treated it as such during his incarnate ministry. Recovery is possible, that’s the gospel, really, and you have to believe it to offer hope of it. Suicide is one of the leading


causes of death in this country. We need to talk about it. We need to learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicidality. We need to be brave enough to address it with whomever we’re concerned for because that’s how it’s prevented.

Courage to ask the questions Take the day–long MHFA training, begin your afternoon with the uncomfortable and potentially life–saving exercise of asking someone else in your class if they’re planning to kill themselves. I’ve never used the CPR I also teach, but I have done suicide interventions. I train MHFA because I know it works. If perfect love casts out fear, learning to be unafraid (enough) to ask awkward

questions and broach thorny topics is more perfectly loving. Centering the importance of holistic wellness is essential in any case, but more so during this COVID era. We are all going through this prolonged, collective trauma of a global pandemic, from which there is no physical escape. Unlike finding respite by driving away from the coast after a big hurricane and reaching somewhere untouched by wind, rain, and storm surge (if you have the means and privilege for the luxury of escape), there is no inhabited part of the planet that is not in COVID–19’s disaster zone. It’s true that we are all in the same pandemic ocean, but we are categorically not all in the same boat. COVID–19 is a spiritual and emotional health crisis as much as a crisis of public health. Building and maintaining community, learning more and better ways to love our neighbors well, combating systemic injustices (including those around race, language, and sexuality), learning to listen with a trauma–informed ear; are life– enhancing and perhaps life–saving qualities. We may not all be in the same boat, but

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ALGEE the Mental Health First Aid action plan It’s not a sequence of steps. It’s a helpful set of principles and guides to hold in mind and heart when you’re with someone in a crisis or in one yourself. ASSESS for risk of suicide or harm: listed first because it’s the thing you may not even notice you did. Did something tingle your Spidey–sense? That was your assessment–meter tipping into the red. It’s time now to be brave enough include another “A” (Approach). LISTEN nonjudgmentally: it can be bitterly hard for those raised in the Church to do it, even though we also crave it from others. Nonjudgmental listening is always essential while engaging with someone in a crisis. Hardest to learn, but the most broadly applicable life–upgrade.

Caring for the temple Self–care honors the fact that we are part of the body of Christ and that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Self–care often requires some radical examination and work. But you know what? Sometimes you have to do the work, babe. And occasionally, it can, indeed, be cold ice cream in a hot bath—just saying. If we believe God sees our neighbors as having unsurpassable worth—the cross is testament to that­­—we can accept our own


value. We are not special exceptions to the “so loved the world” rule. Don’t we each, then, deserve our own love and respect, concern, and care? We learn our value in two other vital ways, loving others, and accepting their love for us. Loving and serving other humans is one of the most immediate ways to serve the Lord. Love for others is hard– wired into whom we are called and created, so acting on it feels vocational and right. Faithful pursuit of calling is inherently rewarding and makes us feel loved. Letting ourselves be loved by others is the most tangible way we can be loved and served by God. Don’t say no to Jesus with his basin of water and a clean towel, just because today he looks like a trusted co–worker asking if you’re sure you’re okay because you were so quiet at lunch. Take the class. Be brave and kind. ichard Vernon was born in London, raised in R Scotland, and has spent 18 years living and writing in Brooklyn. He is also deputy director for partnerships for The Salvation Army’s Emergency Services team in New York City.

GIVE reassurance and information: Here’s where you offer hope of recovery. Please, get to know mental health resources available online and by phone. Learn about what’s near where you live and where you work since those are where you encounter most other people, including folks in crisis. ENCOURAGE appropriate professional help: Appropriate is doing much work in this sentence. You wouldn’t send someone with a broken leg to the dentist, would you? ENCOURAGE self–help and other support strategies: It’s always worth asking what’s worked in the past. It may be worth trying again. Anything life–enhancing when times are good is life–sustaining when times are bad. This action plan component is where faith communities should really come into their own. If a weekly chess club can help keep someone alive, imagine what a small faith group could do.

Aleksei Morozov/iStock

something as simple as an eight–hour MHFA training can better equip you to upgrade the craft in your flotilla. That includes your own lifeboat (or luxury yacht, depending on your history and circumstances). When there is nowhere to go geographically to escape a disaster zone, our journey is relational; ideally, deepening knowledge of self, neighbor, and God. Self–care is not egocentric self–indulgence. It is honoring that we are made in God’s image and hoping that his Spirit makes us more like Jesus every day.



Seven years after graduating from the same high school, Terry and Karen Weaver reconnected and began their relationship through volunteering at a local kayaking club. The couple eventually married, but their busy careers kept them from volunteering as much as they would have liked. Karen worked as a teacher, and Terry was a U.S. Air Force Reserve veteran and a podiatrist at a local Veterans Association of America medical center. “When Terry retired, a friend of ours who was involved in The Salvation Army asked if we would like to help in Lebanon, Pa.,” says Karen. Having donated and worked as a bell ringer for the Army before, the Weavers were familiar with the Army’s mission. Terry and Karen were welcomed, and quickly found ways to help that went beyond anything they had done before as volunteers. For a Salvation Army 5K run, Karen organized the bags for every runner at the start of the race. “At a lot of these runs, charities just give bags with flyers and advertisements for the sponsor companies. If we wanted to stand out, we couldn’t do what everyone was doing,” says Karen. “So, we included things that runners actually might need, such as water, granola bars, and mints in the colors of The Salvation Army.” Runners also got a raffle ticket in their bag for a chance to win certificates and prizes donated by local businesses. “We made sure to let them know that the raffle would be done after the run, so they would want to stick around when they were finished,” says Karen. When Pope Francis came to visit Philadelphia in 2015, Terry volunteered to go with the Army and make meals for the public officials who were working during the event. Terry was familiar with the area, having attended podiatry school in Philadelphia. “Everything was shut down for the Pope’s visit. But the Army helped feed all the extra police and FBI officers


“ We all have gifts and abilities, and they are there to be shared.” — Karen Weaver

who were dispatched. We brought emergency vehicles, and I drove around the city and delivered food to the people who needed it,” says Terry. “It was a fun three days of service.” When meeting other local groups, the Weavers bring with them a Powerpoint presentation that describes the work The Salvation Army does in the community. At the end, they ask if anyone would be interested in volunteering. This has brought businesses, banks, and the local Lions Club chapter to The Salvation Army. “We even had a motorcycle club volunteer. Everyone wanted to take pictures with them and their bikes. Another time, a lady wanted to ring the bell with her therapy pet—a small miniature horse called Grasshopper,” says Karen, laughing. “Local organizations are always curious about what other orgs are doing in the community,” says Terry. “Volunteering creates connections that opens your eyes to your surroundings. That’s why it’s so important, and why more people should do it. Volunteer work gives you a better understanding of people and how you can help them.” “Volunteering isn’t just something to do to make yourself feel good. I don’t ever want to be involved in something when the first thing I consider is What will I get out of this?” That’s not a good reason to do anything; that’s corrosive to me. A good reason is to take our talents, expand them to help others, and show them love and respect,” says Karen. “We all have gifts and abilities, and they are there to be shared.”

Volume 8 Number 3, 2022

The re s’ so mu ch ha ppe ning. Come and be a part of it ! DANCE - THEATE R - MUSIC - CONCERTS - EVENTS The Salvation Army offers programs in music and arts to teach people of all ages how to sing, play instruments, dance, and act. Whether you’re on the stage performing or in the audience worshipping, you can be part of a lifetime of fulfillment and spiritual purpose.

Go to SACONNECTS.ORG to see all we have to offer.

THRIFT STORE Donation Center

When you donate and shop at The Salvation Army, your contributions fund our Adult Rehabilitation Centers, where people whose lives have been turned upside–down find hope and a second chance. Call 800‑SA‑TRUCK or visit to learn more.

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