TOGETHER WE ARE THE CHURCH

By Jeannie Stone

The Salvation Army Mission Statement:

The Salvation Army, an international movement,
is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church.

Its message is based on the Bible.
Its ministry is motivated by the love of God.

Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and
to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. 

For 20 years the Salvation Army located at 1004 Weir Rd. in Russellville has been a church home for those without a church, a food pantry for those who need food, a clothes pantry for those who need to be clothed, and a ministry for those needing solace.

During this holy season the organization, under the direction of Captains Michael and Trish Knott, makes extra effort through the Angel Tree program to reach those who are in need of love. Oh yes, and they ring the bells of Christmas.

When the Knotts joined the Salvation Army church in Shawnee, Okla., their son Mathew, only four years old at the time, shook hands with every person in attendance. “They looked different than us on the outside, but Mathew didn’t see that. It just touched my heart. I had been anxious about whether we’d fit in,” Trish said.

“But it became apparent to us that we were home.”

Michael and Trish met while in college at Southwest Oklahoma State University. He played trumpet, she played flute. Though he accepted a teaching position, and she accepted an accounting position in different towns, they married. Church was central to their relationship, and soon they were challenged by their pastor to practice their faith outside the church walls.

They were soon preparing and serving dinner at the local Salvation Army shelter.

“It was awkward,” Trish said. “I didn’t think I had anything in common with those folks.”

They moved on to other things after that encounter, but Trish’s heart was pricked and was never the same.

Capt. Trish became involved in Moms In Touch International, a prayer ministry encouraging mothers to pray daily for their children and the schools they attend. Trish became an area coordinator and began meeting with moms in prison.

Again, she wondered what she had in common with the women. The exchange furthered deepened a conviction she’d felt to pray for the lost.

“I was a mom, they were moms. That’s all we needed in common to go before the throne of God for our children,” she said.

Capt. Michael’s path might have looked a little different that his wife‘s, but it led to the same place.

“I was searching for my niche,” he said. “I was asking the hard questions. Why was I created? What did God want me to do?”

What he found surprised everybody. “I decided to go back to school, so I could go into the funeral business,” he said. “I am a certified embalmer in the state of Oklahoma, but I got disgusted with the business end of the funeral industry. There were so many folks who were desperate with no expendable income for the high cost of burying their loved ones.”

“I wanted more – not to serve an earthly master but rather my heavenly master. I wanted to be able to step out on faith where the Lord provides everything, and that’s where I live everyday now,” Michael said.

Today the Knotts are stewards over the souls who worship at the Russellville Salvation Army. Their days are long yet fulfilling. For the need is great, and though the resources seem to dwindle at times.

“We have an overabundance whenever we turn around,” Capt. Michael said.

The Salvation Army, formed by an evangelical preacher in England who believed in taking church to the streets in 1865, has a chapel on site. They offer Sunday school and worship every week with one Sunday reserved for fellowship and potluck.

“It makes a big difference if you have a church home,” Trish said. “We tell people to go back and talk to your pastor about your troubles. It makes the walk much easier. If you don’t have a church, well, we welcome you to join us.”

The first and third Sunday afternoons are nursing home visitation days, and they offer a program at one of five area nursing homes.

“The nurses recommend patients who have no family for inclusion in the Angel Tree program, but everyone receives a gift bag when we make monthly visits, and during our Christmas visit every patient will receive a gift.”

The SA partners with Hallmark on the national level and receives boxes of greeting cards, gift bags and other goods which help brighten the lives of the 400 patients in the nursing homes they minister.

The Salvation Army comes alive through programming. Parenting is a top priority. They sponsor Moms In Touch at First Baptist Church and offer a Bible-based parenting class to those who request the service and to those who are court-ordered to attend. They also offer children’s programming Monday evenings and on Tuesdays they operate an after school pickup service for children to participate in bible programs such as Core Cadets and Jr. Soldiers.

They operate a social services department several days a week which offers counseling and assistance with utilities. They also provide clothing and furniture vouchers.

“We get a lot of people who need clothes to go to work especially jeans and work boots,” Trish said. The thrift store located at 1801 S. Arkansas provides a service to folks who want to benefit their neighbors in need by donating their overabundance of clothes and goods, but it also operates as the clothes pantry for the clients.

“We are really in need of volunteers in the thrift store,” Capt Michael said. A full time manager and three part-time employees continually sort through clothes, tag and run the cash register

“We receive a lot of donations, but a lot of its trash.”

The majority of the clothes which are too soiled or torn to recycle are delivered to a warehouse for restitution, and the clothes are then shipped to third world countries for distribution. Nothing is wasted.

“The funds from the thrift store keep the pantry stocked and utilities paid,” Michael said. “It keeps us running.”

The Angel Tree program is supported by the banking industry, merchants and several beauty shops in Russellville. “We accept children 12 years and younger, and our emphasis is on providing toys and fun things the family is not able to afford,” Capt. Trish said.

“And we accept seniors, 62 and older, who have no family and have special needs.”

The kettle program is up and running. Much to the surprise of the general public, however, is the fact that most of the ringers are paid. “We haven’t had much success in Russellville securing the amount of volunteers we need,” Michael said. “We have 15-16 sites and eight paid bell ringers.”

All who come receive something according to Knott. “Last year the women’s ministry provided lap blankets for the nursing home patients. This year we are offering the women praying bears and the men skid-free socks.

“Everyone is so grateful even for the little things,” she said.

Late on Christmas eve last year, Capt. Trish took the angels off the tree that nobody had sponsored and went shopping with a very limited budget. “There was a nursing home gentlemen who had asked for a pair of overalls and a shirt. I chose a shirt, and I really thought that’s all I could do, but I felt the Lord urge me to buy him overalls,” she said.

“Oh, he was so proud of those overalls. He told everybody that his friends at the SA gave those to him, and when we went for our next program he was there in the front row wearing those overalls.”

“Here at the Salvation Army, we don’t really care why people get sent to us as long as we can minister to them,” Capt. Trish said. “People don’t stop being homeless or needy in the winter.”

Capt. Michael gives an update.

“We don’t have any turkeys or hams yet, but we are hopeful. God is touching people as we speak.”

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