Jacksonville Corps Partners with Yesha Ministries to Offer Tae Kwon Do Classes

It started as an off-the-cuff comment as Yesha Ministries’ Nick Swanda and The Salvation Army’s Robert Devers sat next to one another at a nonprofit event. Wouldn’t it be neat to offer Yesha’s Christian-based Tae Kwon Do classes to the kids living at The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Lodge shelter? The idea had merit – Yesha Ministries had the desire and ability to offer classes, and The Salvation Army had families at the shelter and members of the downtown corps who could benefit from the physical, mental and spiritual training of the program and provide a gym where classes could be held. So the two organizations discussed it, and finally that little “what if” became a reality.

In mid-February classes began at The Salvation Army’s Citadel Corps in downtown Jacksonville. Through a grant Yesha Ministries received through the Community Foundation, residents of The Salvation Army’s Towers Center of Hope and members of the Citadel Corps are able to take the classes free of charge. Open to all ages and physical abilities, students learn not only the foundations of Tae Kwon Do but also discipline, persistence and respect for themselves and others. Overcoming challenges is no new concept for these students, particularly for the residents at the Towers, many of whom are working to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. But the skills acquired from the practice of meeting mental and physical challenges in the gym transfers to daily life.

“Yesha’s Salvation Army class is a diverse and extraordinary group of talent in-the-makings,” said Swanda, operations manager for Yesha Ministries. “Their steadfastness and determination are their key tools in helping them overcome the obstacles that stand in their way, be it in everyday personal life or inside the Tae Kwon Do dojang [classroom]. The energy level in this group is nothing short of palpable- as they give their all physically, mentally, and spiritually. The students are learning that they are far more capable than they ever dreamed. They are setting lofty goals and meeting them. Their desire to learn discipline and confidence increases every day!”

Dr. Charles Coker, founder of Yesha Ministries, commented, “Having the Salvation Army as a partner is very reaffirming as I know their quest to bring the gospel of Christ to all people is just as passionate as mine – I love that fact that Christ will use whatever talent we have for His glory!”

Major Rob Vincent, area commander for The Salvation Army of Northeast Florida agreed. He said he was moved by a visit to the class on the day participants received their uniforms, a reward for sticking with the program for a month. “I was impressed not only with the physical skills and mental tenacity I observed in the students, but also by the care and compassion of Yesha’s instructors,” Major Vincent said. “This partnership is a wonderful blessing, and we are very happy to be able to work with them to offer these classes to our clients and corps members.”