Missions trip opens cadets’ eyes to international needs
By: Cadet Juliana Mason
In an unprecedented spring missions trip, the Messengers of the Gospel session traveled to Greece to serve alongside The Salvation Army corps in Athens and Thessaloniki this March.
The cadets held open airs on city streets and ministered to refugees and the homeless during their 10-day trip.
“It was a beautiful sight to behold as God’s Army was loving and building relationships with the lost, lonely, homeless and country-less within this first European nation to receive the Good News of Jesus Christ during Paul’s second missionary journey,” Cadet Carmen Owens said.
The cadets were divided into four brigades, each with a different focus. Two of the groups had the opportunity to do a combined 10 open airs in five different city squares across the city of Athens.
“Open airs gave us the opportunity to take the gospel to the people, where they were in their daily lives,” Cadet Amber Smith said.
The open airs included Scripture presentations, dramas, object lessons, testimonies, devotionals, brass music, praise and worship songs and timbrel performances.
“Even though the predominant language was Greek, there were multiple interpreters helping us to share the good news of the Jesus Christ in multiple languages, so that hundreds, if not thousands, of lives had the opportunity to hear the gospel,” Smith said.
One brigade was assigned to serve at The Salvation Army’s day center in Athens, which helps more than 100 refugee families on a regular basis. Cadets helped give out fresh produce and groceries as well as clothes and hygiene kits with items like baby shampoo and soap. They also packaged boxes of donated diapers into bags to be distributed to families.
The cadets hosted two special programs for refugee families at the day center: A carnival for the children, which included games, music and activities; and a ministry to mothers with infants, taking care of their children while the mothers were offered manicures, tea, snacks and encouragement.
“The days that we were able to spend time ministering to them were memories that would never be forgotten,” Cadet Kelsey Meredith said.
The three Athens brigades participated in a nighttime ministry walk led by a man named Artur Cipllaka, whose ministry brings sandwiches, hot tea, clothing and shoes to people living on the streets in Athens. The several-mile walk took cadets through the darkest parts of the city, where Cipllaka has faithfully served the least and the lost three days a week for more than a year and a half.
“If there was ever a metaphor to show a group of aspiring officers what it means to let your light shine to the dark world, this ministry walk was it,” Cadet Austin Sturdivant said.
The fourth brigade traveled to Thessaloniki, where they hosted the first open air in the city. They served refugees and immigrants through the city’s day center and homeless during a homeless midnight feeding.
“As people from the Middle East seek asylum, God’s Army is there providing love and basic human necessities,” Owens said. “As people struggle under the strain of economic hardships, God’s Salvation Army is there. As the hurting break free from the chains of bondage, God’s Salvation Army is there.”
The cadets also ministered to corps members through worship services and teen events, even leading a local officer training seminar that ended with a rousing soldier’s meeting.
“We walked, talked, ate and shared in the daily lives of those we encountered,” Owens said.
Cadets Kelsey Meredith, Carmen Owens, Amber Smith and Austin Sturdivant contributed to this report.