by Michelle DeRusha
Envoys Joel and Ramona Arthur have a heart for ministry, which is why when they were assigned to plant a corps in Ottumwa, Iowa, they jumped at the chance.
“Our mission for helping people is driven by our love for Christ,” said the Arthurs. “So this opportunity is the perfect fit.”
“We are so grateful for the leadership of Envoys Joel and Ramona Arthur in Ottumwa,” said Major Greg Thompson, Western divisional commander. “They are learning daily about how to successfully plant a church and implementing mission-focused ministries to reach the community for Christ, and we know that God will bless their efforts.”
Planting a corps is no small task, especially when it entails a major identity shift. Prior to the Arthurs’ arrival, The Salvation Army had a service extension unit in Ottumwa.
“In our community, The Salvation Army was primarily known as a thrift store and a social services organization,” explained Envoy Joel. “We need a new identity here if we want a corps to grow and thrive.”
To help them build the identity of The Salvation Army in Ottumwa as a place of worship, the Arthurs meet weekly with a church planting coach from Converge Network. Over the last few months they’ve strategized how to recover the Army’s presence in the community, developed a local mission and a three-year vision, identified a target “audience,” and established six core values: outreach, discipleship, alliance, empowerment, compassion and restoration.
The Arthurs welcome Ottumwa residents to worship services on Sunday mornings, and they’ve also launched “Messy Church” on Monday evenings during which they pair Bible study with crafts, snacks and other activities for families.
The Arthurs accepted the assignment of leading the work in Ottumwa in September 2019 after serving five years in positions at Western Divisional Headquarters in Omaha, Neb., where Ramona was director of volunteer services and Joel was divisional disaster services and service extension director. Before that they were officers for 14 years.
Envoys Joel and Ramona know corps planting is a long process and not something that happens overnight, but they are determined to stay the course.
“It’s about relationship-building,” explained Envoy Ramona. “You have conversations, you begin to connect one-on-one with people, and over time you discover where they are spiritually.”
Envoys Joel and Ramona are grateful for the support from both divisional and territorial headquarters, and they are eager to share what they are learning with others.
The Arthurs are part of a new territorial task force charged with developing a strategy and establishing a corps planting culture in the territory.
“While the task force is still in its infancy, we are inspired by the bold, fresh ideas that are being discussed and the experiences that are being shared,” said Envoy Joel. “Momentum is building, and it’s exciting.”