Embracing diversity in Rockford

“It was a great day of celebration,” said Major Mark Martsolf who enrolled 20 soldiers at the Rockford, Ill., Corps recently. “A particularly sacred moment occurred when they all lined up along each side of the altar and knelt to sign their covenants, testifying to the rest of the congregation they’ve chosen to become soldiers.”

Major Mark says recruitment and corps growth have been driven by soldiers who cherish the Rockford Temple Corps, particularly Colonel Thomas Lewis, a retired officer who’s been teaching soldiership classes, and Abraham and Miriam Leka, Congolese Salvationists now living in Rockford.

Over the last decade, more and more French-speaking refugees from Central Africa have settled in the area. Abraham and his family have been instrumental not only in offering them practical assistance but in helping them find a home in the Army. Of the 20 new soldiers, 14 are from Central Africa.

“Many people fled from the wars in their countries to the U.N. refugee camps established in Chad, Tanzania and Uganda. With help from the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees office and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, people were selected and given an opportunity to settle in this country,” said Abraham. “Most needed time to feel safe and secure in their host country and wouldn’t take part in any public forum or activity. But now they’re happy and confident to be part of the mission of The Salvation Army.”

The ethnically and culturally diverse corps also enrolled a Hispanic mother and daughter who’d been attending the corps for less than eight months, a black woman who’d been attending for years, two Hispanic young adults who’d grown up in the corps and a Caucasian woman who’d been coming to Rockford Temple for a few months.

“This amazing corps family welcomes all newcomers with open arms to love them into the Kingdom, and Colonel Lewis teaches the most amazing recruits’ classes I’ve ever seen,” said Major Mark. Abraham translates for the French speakers.

The major concluded, “Something truly amazing is happening at this corps; God is moving and people are coming into His Kingdom. I really believe these people chose to be enrolled as soldiers because our people were interested and invested in them. Our soldiers made a place at the table for more folks to join this glorious fellowship of believers.”





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