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Body, mind, spirit


Gercine Carter

Body, mind, spirit

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There is a perception that the Salvation Army exists for the lowest in the society. It does, and more.As Major Dewhurst Jonas, head of the Salvation Army in Barbados puts it: “We cater to the lowest of the low.”“All that we do stems from the fact that founder William Booth, an evangelical preacher, thought that it was useless to preach to people who were hungry, people who did not have decent clothing, people who lived on the streets, and he attempted to meet all of those needs.“That is why when some people think of the Salvation Army, they think in terms of feeding, clothing and housing people. But the work of the Salvation Army is far more than that.”Barbadians see Salvationists around Bridgetown in December ringing bells, calling attention to their red kettle for donations to bring Christmas cheer to the island’s less fortunate.But the volume of work being done daily by this army of soldiers, eases the burden on the national welfare purse, and the organisation is looked upon by many of Barbados’ poor, outcast and underprivileged as the  raison d’ être for their existence.
Holistic needs“We attempt to meet the holistic needs of the person,” Jonas explains. “We provide them with spiritual and emotional support.” The work is done in the Army’s 11 churches around Barbados in places like Sea View, Carlton and Speightstown in St James;  Diamond Corner, St Peter; Josey Hill and  Checker Hall, St Lucy; Wotton, Christ Church; Long Bay, St Philip, and Reed Street and Wellington Street in Bridgetown.Daily at the Reed Street headquarters, Jonas witnesses the depth of poverty, of destitution, and hopelessness among Barbados’ elderly and the young drop-outs from society. This is where this sector turns for a caring face and voice. Many are referred through government’s social agencies.“One of the main functions of the Salvation Army is to see that people become whole,” Jonas explains. Part of the holistic approach is to target the family. “One of the areas that we recognised that there was a serious problem, was in the area of the family and we have a programme, the Home League, which has a fourfold purpose of worship, education, fellowship and service. “We deal with the training of women as young as 16 up to age 100, helping them to come to terms with parenting, teaching life skills such as craft, dressmaking, cosmetology.”Weekly, non-Salvationist women from communities surrounding the many corps branches are given instruction in a range of skills  to enable them to become self-supporting and industrious. In addition, through the Home League programme many a shut-in knows the joy of seeing another human being showing genuine care for their welfare and well-being. But Jonas expresses some disappointment at a less than enthusiastic response to similar programmes from men. Instead he regrets: “Men don’t want to be organised . . . they are being stigmatised, and maybe rightly so, because they are not serious about their responsibility and I find it really difficult to believe that we men, who should be the leaders in our homes, in our societies could be so irresponsible, not caring for the wellbeing of our families.”  Salvationists in The League of Mercy visit the island’s institutions, such as children’s homes and geriatric hospitals bringing material assistance with their spiritual upliftment.
Annual excursionThe Home League’s annual excursion affords beneficiaries of the Salvation Army’s  welfare programmes the opportunity to see Barbados, something Jonas plans to extend to patrons of the Reed Street Feeding Centre from next year. “I know that the bus is free for some of them, but I know because of their state of mind they are not going to jump on a bus and say let me see another parish.”Colonel Eudora Louissant is dedicated to counselling those disturbed minds. Her work is a fillip to the nursing care given by nurses of the Psychiatric Hospital who are at the Reed Street headquarters’ satellite  clinic every week, to administer much-needed medication to those who would not otherwise make their way to the Black Rock hospital of their own volition.Music, an integral part of the Army’s tradition is taught free of cost and many a beneficiary of the Salvation Army’s music programme has found a place in the ranks of the Royal Barbados Police Force Band.The many lessons and experiences are shared with Junior Soldiers, the young Salvationists targeted by the Army, with a strong youth programme designed to build character. Divisional Secretary Captain Robert Pile gave a budget figure of just over $1 million for running Salvation Army operations and programmes last year. It is remarkable how much this army of soldiers is able to do with that sum.
Self-supportingEach church is self-supporting, funded solely from members’ tithes and offerings.Public donations fund public social programmes such as the Feeding Centre, the hostel providing accommodation for men in need of shelter, educational classes, and also subsidise some of the three pre-schools and two day-care centres. Private sector support as well as individual donations and some Government support all go into the pot, and Jonas praises Barbadians for their generosity, remarking: “The outstanding thing about the country of Barbados is that they support the work of the Salvation Army, probably with the exception of Jamaica, more than any country that I have been in.” He has been in quite a few during his 28 years of service. Jonas points out: “We work under strict regulations. You cannot drive a certain kind of car in the Salvation Army. A Salvation Army officer must not be seen to be living in luxury.” This is hardly possible considering the weekly allowance given to Salvation Army officers.Yet Jonas remains committed to the “sacrificial work” though he admits: “Dealing with the difficult situations that we encounter from day to day is not easy, but one of the things I thank God for is that I have a very good family.” His wife Major Vevene Jonas is director of the women’s organisation. Quietly, without fanfare, the Salvation Army here marches on with heart to God and hand to their fellow [email protected]

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