Salvationist Service Corps Members Return from a Summer of Serving Abroad
By: Laura Poff
While many young Salvationists spent their summer days working at camps to earn extra money for savings and school, 29 young adults from across the Southern Territory traveled across the United States and around the world serving, learning and discipling others as members of the 2017 Salvationist Service Corps.
While visiting Italy, Greece, Cuba, Romania, the Caribbean and the eastern U.S., team members learned how to handle interpersonal conflict, communicate across cultural barriers and rely on God and each other for support. They spent several challenging weeks cleaning crack vials off the streets of Camden, New Jersey, using a machete to chip paint off a corps building in Holguin, Cuba, and distributing local produce and food vouchers to nursing mothers at a refugee day center in Athens, Greece. The Romanian team traveled to the territory’s five corps, leading day camps and afterschool programs with the help of a translator. SSC members said that they had returned with a renewed appreciation of the comforts of home and a deeper understanding of what it means to truly rely on God.
“It was a life-changing experience, but not in the way that I thought it would be,” said Tim Nelson, a member of the Italy/Greece team. Nelson spent his summer painting an art gallery in Torre Pellice, Italy, leading an open-air in a Roman piazza and serving on Athenian streets. But it was the story of a young software engineer turned refugee from Iran that impacted him the most.
“He did everything right and still lost everything, through no fault of his own,” he said, adding that the encounter showed him how privileged he is in comparison.
Twenty-year-old Juan Hernandez had a similar experience while serving in Cuba when he and his teammates decided to walk a Cuban corps member home after a day of sightseeing.
“We walked through neighborhoods and saw that she lived almost in a sewer; there was waste on her front porch,” he said, adding that when he entered, the home was the size of a small office. He was moved by her strong faith and commitment to the Army despite her circumstances.
“When I signed up to go, I thought we were going there to change lives every day. I thought we were going to help others, to teach them, but they taught us.”