by Craig Dirkes
Every couple of weeks, like clockwork, a man who lives with schizophrenia comes to The Salvation Army in Rochester, Minn., needing prayer. But he doesn’t ask to meet with corps officer. He’s looking for Dave Kruger, the maintenance guy.
“We pray about simple things, that God would help get him a new shirt or a new pair of socks,” said Dave, 58, who’s been working at the corps for a quarter of a century. “The man keeps me humble.”
After Dave prays for the man, the man prays for him.
“He is so sincere,” Dave added. “He shows me how God takes care of our littlest needs. The man is a blessing to me.”
Dave prays with many others. During weekday business hours, he’s the go-to prayer-giver any time officers aren’t available.
“Some people want prayer when they’re having a bad day, and some just need to know there’s someone out there who cares for them,” said Dave.
Every weekday, right before the hot lunch program begins at 11:30 a.m., Dave leads dozens of guests in prayer before the home-cooked meal prepared by staff and volunteers is served. He’s been doing this for 12 years. In addition, Dave regularly prays with men from a local halfway house who come to the corps to satisfy their community service requirements through janitorial work a few hours a day for weeks or months at a time.
“I talk and pray with them to help keep them on the right track,” Dave said.
Dave knows from experience what it’s like to need prayer and a helping hand. He was raised in Rochester, poor, with 16 brothers and sisters! His father worked as a farmhand, while his mother stayed home and took care of the children.
“We slept three or four kids to a bedroom—sometimes three or four to a bed,” Dave said. “We raised farm animals and also ate out of our garden: potatoes, beans, cucumbers. My mom canned vegetables all summer long.”
He was introduced to The Salvation Army at age 7 or 8, when his mother took him and his siblings to the thrift store to buy clothes. There, they met a Salvationist.
“He invited us to church,” Dave said, fighting back tears. “When Sunday came along, he drove to our house and picked us up.”
Fifty years later, Dave hasn’t stopped attending the corps. He was hired there in 1991, about 10 years after he graduated from vocational school with a degree in building maintenance. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Dave has been married for 31 years and has three grown children.
“Dave Kruger embodies the idea that together, we are one Army,” said Major James Frye, formerly corps officer in Rochester. “The combined efforts of Salvation Army officers, staff members, volunteers, and donors become a groundswell of love and compassion that touches countless lives.”
Dave is happy to do his part. “I can’t reach all the people,” he said. “But if I can reach a few of them, that’s what it’s all about.”