By the SLD Staff
Upon entry into The Salvation Army International Corps in Atlanta you cannot help but notice the rack packed full of information in seven languages. The myriad of posters and signs were also reflective of the diversity that is found among these corps members and partners in ministry.
A recent demographic shift in the community surrounding the corps has brought greater diversity and increased numbers in the corps membership. However, the change in demographics also brought new challenges. The Salvation Army found itself at a very different crossroad that was not geographical in nature. Meeting needs began to include helping to get work permits, finding translators to go with immigrants to court appointments and doctor visits, as well as helping new people find affordable childcare or enrolling children in local schools. The meaning of social services and ministry had taken on new meaning.
However, taking on a new meaning for the Army did not mean changing its mission. “The Salvation Army is an international movement that 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.” (Mission Statement) It did, however, cause the Army to, “examine in depth the relationship of culture to leading, to following, and to building effective ministry teams,” as Sherwood G. Lingenfelter stated in his book Leading Cross-Culturally.
In an ever-changing society with “hot-button” issues fueled by media sensationalism, the question becomes “How do we minister effectively?” The answer is the cross. The way of the cross leads home and the corps is still home base, despite the generational and cultural barriers they are facing. When facing tough issues the officers at the International Corps reason that the work completed at Calvary was for the “whosoever” that comes. That is the message and it still has meaning. We are all called to be an extension of Christ so that “whosoever” with “whatsoever” issue can find truth and love in the grace of the cross. Each week at this Salvation Army International Corps, that message is given out at different times, in different languages, during different services to help highlight the common thread in our differences.