Volunteer Service was Adkins’ Point of Entry Into Army Officership
By: David Ibata
It wasn’t quite as historically momentous as the encounter on the Road to Damascus, but the realization hit Salvation Army Lieutenant Allen Adkins like a flash of light as he drove down a North Carolina highway in October to assist victims of Hurricane Matthew.
“I’m driving down the road and realized, oh my gosh, I’m driving the same canteen truck that brought me to the Army!” said Adkins, commanding officer of the Morgantown, West Virginia, Corps. “I would never have imagined 10 years ago, standing on the outside of the window, I’d be inside that window someday, ministering to people.”
The Morgantown Corps had borrowed the Huntington, West Virginia, canteen for the relief effort. In a two-week period, Adkins and his crew served more than 10,000 meals to hurricane victims and emergency responders.
Adkins had once been a responder, a fire department captain in Huntington. His plan had been to eventually retire and possibly begin a second career as a private investigator for an insurance company. “If you would have told me seven years ago that I’d be doing what I’m doing now, I would have laughed. I had no idea.”
The seed was planted a little over 10 years ago. Huntington’s corps officer at the time, Captain Bob Mullins, had started a canteen ministry to responders at structure fires.
“They would come out and bring coffee and water and snacks, plus of course, they’d be there to help the families,” Adkins said. One day, Mullins “asked me about volunteering to do a presentation about the fire service with youth. So I did.”
“I found out about some other volunteer opportunities so I started to do that – sporadically, at the beginning, then more and more and my wife joined me, and we became regular volunteers.”
Adkins had attended a Bible college, and when he wasn’t fighting fires, he was co-pastor of a nondenominational church. He and his wife Patricia “were thinking about missions and praying and looking to God for what direction he had for our lives. All of a sudden, The Salvation Army happened.”
Before, the husband said, he and his wife knew nothing about the Army beyond Angel Tree and Red Kettles. “I didn’t even know it was a church. But after we started volunteering, my wife and I fell in love with The Salvation Army. The way I’d explain it to people, I feel The Salvation Army is the emergency services of the church.”
Eventually, they made the decision. For a couple seemingly settled in their ways – Adkins is 51, and he and his wife will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day – it was a dramatic mid-life change.
“We sold our house, sold our cars, went to training, and here we are,” he said. “Volunteering is dangerous. It will change your life.”
The Adkins graduated from Evangeline Booth College in Atlanta in 2014 and got their marching orders to Morgantown. Allen Adkins said they will minister wherever God leads them in the future.
“I love the story in the Gospel of John where Jesus meets the woman at the well, and how he takes a physical need and shows her a much deeper spiritual need,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing here. That’s what we’ll be doing where the Army puts us.”