Located on Minneapolis’ Lake Street, the Minneapolis Temple, Minn., Corps is at the center of where peaceful protests gave way to rioting in late May and early June, leaving behind a path of smoldering buildings, broken glass and shaken residents.
For Majors Roberto and Melissa Viquez, the riots were not a reason to shutter the building and hunker down, but a new opportunity to reach out to a hurting community with the love of Christ.
“We are at the heart of Lake Street,” said Major Roberto. “We are here to be light. We have worked hard to clean up and improve our community, and we are not giving up.”
The morning after rioters tore through the neighborhood, Salvationists joined with hundreds of others to begin picking up the pieces. Soldiers of the Temple Corps arrived ready to serve by making sandwiches, handing out bottles of water and offering words of comfort and prayer to residents and volunteers as they began the process of cleaning up.
“Without the congregation, we would not have been able to assist the community during the protests and rioting,” said the major. “We have a group of soldiers who came to help and serve the community even though there is still fear over the coronavirus. But they came, put on their masks and gloves, and worked because the need was there.”
As the community began to heal and rebuild, the Viquezes connected with corps members and the community by leveraging their location to hold outdoor worship while handing out food, water and cleanup supplies and maintaining their relationship with a local radio station to keep people informed. In addition, the majors modified the drive through food pantry they’d set up to cope with coronavirus restrictions to become a sort of outdoor market, making it more accessible to those without vehicles. On pantry days the majors and soldiers spend time connecting with people as they wait to choose their items, lending a listening ear, offering prayer and welcoming them to join virtual and in-person corps activities.
“It’s an opportunity to reach out and share the love of Christ,” said the major. They also plan to continue outdoor worship as long as weather permits to maintain a strong presence, share the gospel and give people a sense of inclusion and belonging.
Though they are slowly beginning to meet in person for worship, following safety precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Majors Viquez also recognize the value in continuing to reach out in other ways to keep people connected and growing in their faith. For example, virtual youth activities, Sunday school, women’s and men’s ministries and adult Bible study continue to keep children and parents engaged several times a week through social media.
Major Roberto concluded, “The need is great. We cannot stop serving. We stay positive, look for the good and focus on God. These are our people, this is our community and we are so happy God put us here.”