Character-building makes a comeback

“I like coming to The Salvation Army because I know that they love me, and God does too!” said Lyle, who at 8 had a history of being bullied and a hard time making friends until he came to explorers at the corps and found a place where he belongs.

When Lts. Brian and Amanda Hoscheit first arrived at the Kirksville, Mo., Corps, the character-building programs were a distant memory. At one time Kirksville had the largest sunbeam troop in the division, but the sashes and uniforms had long been put away.

The idea to restart programs came during the adult Bible study. Families were coming for dinner, and seven boys were in the mix. Lt. Amanda saw an explorer book on the shelf and decided to fill the boys’ time while their parents attended the Bible study.

From these initial seven children, more and more came until the kids’ group outnumbered the adults, and a decision was made to officially relaunch character-building programs on its own night. Leaders were trained, and that first year (2019) there were 15 enrolled. In 2020 the number grew to 30, and in 2021 that number jumped to 53!

“We have seen children of various economic backgrounds, family structures, cognitive abilities and specialized needs and skills come together in a troop to learn more about God while growing in confidence,” said Lt. Amanda.

She shared the corps’ excitement in the fall of 2021 to provide a camping experience at a nearby national park. While the park is only 20 minutes away, most of the children had never slept in a tent or made s’mores over a campfire. Many of those who attended said it was the highlight of their year.

The character-building programs also have served as a bridge to Sunday. Many youth now look forward to attending Sunday worship and call to be picked up so they can attend. In the past two years, the Kirksville Corps has enrolled 10 junior soldiers and has adopted a new style of Sunday service that incorporates a multigenerational structure where all ages worship together.

This year the corps is partnering with a local university’s student group of future pediatricians who will serve as meal preppers and classroom helpers, assisting children with badge work as well as bringing energy to the recreation time.

Lt. Amanda concluded, “While for some, character-building programs may seem antiquated, God is doing a good work in and through them in our little niche of the Kingdom.”

 

 

 

 

 

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