Love Is Surrender: Lieutenants Rashad & Melissa Poole
By: Major Frank Duracher
The two paths for Rashad Poole and Melissa Melching could not have been more opposite during their teen years. Melissa was heavily involved in her Church of God youth group, drawn to mission trips overseas which resulted in her strong desire to serve someday as a missionary. Unfortunately for Rashad, his downward spiral into drug and alcohol addiction nearly resulted in his ruin.
But God brought both youths to an understanding of what it means to submit to His will. The results of their individual surrenders were unforeseen, but now greatly embraced.
Melissa’s walk with the Lord began early, and her strong urge to become a missionary was confirmed at age 18 during a mission trip. She then enrolled at Lee University in Cleveland, TN to eventually earn a Master of Arts in Christian Ministries Worship. Her accreditation in TESOL (Teaching English Online & Abroad) prepared her for service overseas—but a sudden detour altered her plans dramatically.
“While at university in Cleveland, I hung out at the Inman Coffee Shop operated by The Salvation Army,” Melissa explains. She loved listening to live music and often performed at open mic nights. That is where she met Sergeant Ruthie Forgey, and that summer she performed as the opening act for the corps concert series in the park.
“I learned a bit more about The Army and decided to attend one of their worship services. I was hooked.” But joining The Army meant giving up her dream of overseas service—at least that is what she thought.
“I was heartbroken. But I had to surrender to what I knew was becoming God’s will for my life.” Disappointment turned to joy when she learned that The Army operates in over 130 countries!
Meanwhile, Rashad was desperate to be free from his sinful urges, and first tried The Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Birmingham, AL.
“It didn’t last long,” he admits. “…but my officers arranged for me to be accepted into the ARC in Atlanta.”
There he met Major Steve Justice, who pulled absolutely no punches with him about turning his life around.
“Steve promised to journey alongside me if I was truly serious. And he certainly has! I quickly learned the significance in ARCs about the Surrender flag. Steve took me through the long process of surrender to Christ and His will—along with the struggles my body would endure as I achieved sobriety.”
Melissa and Rashad were by then on parallel tracks to fulfilling their call to Salvation Army officership by entering the Evangeline Booth College. Melissa was commissioned in 2021 with the Messengers of Grace session—her first appointment being to the Sevierville Corps in Tennessee. Rashad was commissioned one year later with the Messengers of Reconciliation.
During the training process, they fell in love. But yet another surrender for them emerged.
“We both wanted to be intentional about a possible marriage,” Melissa clarifies. “If we were to be together, it had to be because God willed it and was preparing us for a joint ministry as officers. So, we fasted and prayed for a week for the answer—even if the results were negative and we would have to walk away from each other.”
At the end of the week, they felt affirmed as they concluded that Salvation Army service as spouses is exactly what God willed for them.
Rashad’s heritage is Jordanian, and he became impressed with the idea of leading people to Christ in the Middle East. This perfectly fit with Melissa’s original calling.
One of Melissa’s assignments during her training experience was to the Atlanta ARC, where Major Mike Vincent influenced her pastoral approach, and where later she saw the impact of Major Donna Justice’s motherly care among the men. “I watched them closely,” Melissa says, “and what I came away with in my spirit was what I call seeing (eye contact), hearing (closely listening), valuing (confirming their concerns), and knowing (praying with the person). It is very intentional, and I want to apply that to my own relationships with others throughout my career.”
Upon Rashad’s commissioning, the two were wed, and he was sent to serve alongside his bride in Sevierville. In addition to growing the corps in eastern Tennessee, they have come upon an avenue of service among ARCs in Orlando and West Palm Beach, FL. Rashad connects with the men because of their shared struggle, and Melissa wows them with her singing and guitar playing while explaining how her surrender has brought her to a glorious life in Christ alongside her husband. The result is often an altar lined with seekers. And at the Southern Bible Conference in 2022, Lieutenant Rashad shared his story with the congregation during ARC Night.
That brings us to their present appointment in Sevierville. The long officership before them may or may not include missions overseas, but they are gaining valuable experience in their corps while making inroads for the Kingdom of God.
“While I was here in my first year, while Rashad was still in training, I began a monthly after school youth program,” Melissa says. Rashad’s arrival enabled them to go to a weekly schedule, and this draws families into the corps. In connection with the state of Tennessee’s Pathway of Hope-Families First program, an impressive curriculum (mostly concerning agriculture, understandable for the region) has been developed for the kids—Gardening 101, Poultry 101, and Art 101. They teach about raising crops that eventually go to their family dinner tables.
“For instance, in poultry, the kids are raising ten hens, and they are feeding, watering, and cleaning the coop whenever they come to the corps—even on Sundays,” Lieutenant Rashad says. “Every course connects with the Word of God, and the things they are learning gives them ownership.”
In fact, the couple had to cut off enrollment at 30 because the two pickup routes they drive prohibits more.
Parents, community leaders, and other agencies are noticing what is going on at the Sevierville Corps. From a corps membership of five when they arrived, they now have 12 senior soldiers and five junior soldiers. Average Sunday worship attendance has increased to 35.
Wearing uniforms in public is a priority practice, and their social service outreach for Sevier and Cocke counties has transformed from what they call a “toxic charity” to real stories of case management.
The capitulations to God’s will for Rashad & Melissa prove that as far as things spiritual, surrender is a good thing.
“When God ends one segment of your story, even in heartache, He always give you something better!” Rashad exclaims. “We are beyond blessed. We get to make an impact through The Salvation Army in this community.”