Cultural programs teach greatest commandment

Salvation Army multicultural programs serve people from around the world

President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate … the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.”

The Salvation Army is putting those exact ideas into action across Minnesota and North Dakota, with multicultural programs that nourish the minds, bodies and souls of people from all across the world.

Multicultural worship services at the Central Ave Salvation ArmyA great example is the Central Ave. Salvation Army in Minneapolis (pictured), which offers church services in three languages – English, Spanish and Laotian. Every Sunday, one service is held for each respective language.

“We have a lot of things happening with our multicultural ministries – big things,” said Captain Vong Luangkhamdeng, who escaped Laos in 1978 and became a Salvation Army officer in 2005. “Everyone has their own way of doing things, yet we are still able to come together with respect, compromise, love, and patience. It is amazing.”

Every first Sunday of the month, one service is held for all of the church’s 150-plus members to attend, with hymnals displayed on a projection screen in all three languages. After the service, a potluck is held for churchgoers to enjoy homemade fare from around the world.

Williston diversity class attendeesIn Williston, North Dakota, many locals are experiencing culture shock from the influx of people arriving from across world to cash in on the oil boom. The Williston Salvation Army responded in October by hosting a multicultural conference attended by nearly 30 locals (pictured) interested in the topic (read the full story).

“A lot of the seminar revolved around one central point, and that is relationships,” explained Captain Joshua Stansbury, Williston Salvation Army administrator. “In order to be able to understand one another, we must be in relation to one another; we must be willing to take time to converse through the difficulties of language barriers and cultural acceptance and just share with one another.”

Major Elsie ClineIn southern Minnesota, the Albert Lea Salvation Army has embraced the city’s growing Hispanic population by offering free English classes. The classes are taught by Major Elsie Cline (pictured), who spent 18 years serving as a Salvation Army leader in four countries: Mexico (12 years), Costa Rica (three years) and Spain/Portugal (three years).

“There’s a real need for English classes here,” said Cline, who began working at the Albert Lea Salvation Army last summer. “Some are learning from scratch, some are brushing up.”

The Albert Lea Salvation Army is located in a predominately Spanish-speaking neighborhood, making it even easier for Cline to reach out.

“They’re getting to know me now,” she said. “That’s how we got started with these English classes – while the kids were waiting for the bus, I’d talk to their parents in Spanish. In January, I’m planning to start going door-to-door.”

Captain Nancy Mead, who leads The Salvation Army Northern Division’s multicultural ministries, says it’s important to remember that the word “multicultural” doesn’t apply only to ethnicity.

“There’s much more to it than that,” she said. “There’s prison culture, youth culture, senior citizen culture, socioeconomic culture … it’s not just black, white, Asian. At The Salvation Army, we are reaching out to many of these different cultures. Our greatest commandment is to love others greater than yourself, to accept people where they’re at.”

Salvation Army officers playing musical instrumentsHere are a few more examples of The Salvation Army’s multicultural outreach:

  • The West 7th Salvation Army in St. Paul hosts a Hmong youth group (read the full story).
  • The Salvation Army operates a Korean Outpost church in the southern Twin Cities metro area.
  • The E. Lake St. Salvation Army in Minneapolis offers Sunday church services in Spanish.
  • Close to half of residents at The Salvation Army’s senior housing facility in Minneapolis, Booth Manor, are from Russia or Eastern Europe.
  • Several Salvation Army food shelves in the Twin Cities offer culturally-specific foods. The Payne Ave. Salvation Army in St. Paul, for example, offers coconut, baby corn and other Asian foods for the local Hmong population because their stomachs won’t accept some American foods.
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