Morgantown Salvation Army’s new lieutenants Sheldon and Nicole Greenland are fresh out of training and busily settling in to their new posts.
“It was a good surprise,” Sheldon said about learning they were appointed to Morgantown on June 3, succeeding Allen and Trish Adkins, who were transferred to Baltimore. They started a week ago.
They’d visited here last year, he said, and helped with vacation Bible school, the feeding program and other services. So they knew the community a bit and liked it.
The couple has a long association with the Salvation Army, from early childhood. Sheldon’s parents were Salvation Army officers in Kingston, Jamaica. “I was born into it, pretty much.”
Nicole came a little differently, through her grandma.
“She dragged me to church, the Salvation Army,” she said. She and her two brothers. They got involved in church activities and learned to play musical instruments, as did Sheldon and his two siblings.
The two first met when they were 4 and 5, but were separated for a period of years when Sheldon’s family moved to Trinidad. Eventually they returned to Kingston and the pair reconnected as teenagers.
They married in January 2005 and came from the island warmth to the icy chill of Cleveland that November, working for the Salvation Army.
“We felt the call to do mission work,” Nicole said, so they moved to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, as missionaries. For no salary, they did street ministry, served at the government adult rehab center and operated the Army’s feeding program.
Then came the next step.
“During our time working with the Salvation Army, we felt called to go into full-time service as ministers,” Sheldon said. They headed to Atlanta in 2016 for two years of training, then received the assignment to Morgantown.
“Everything we do,” Sheldon said, “the social services, the adult rehabilitation centers, the shelters that we have, is because we love Jesus and we want to serve suffering humanity in his name without discrimination. … We are saved to serve.”
During their whirlwind first week, Sheldon has been immersing himself in files to learn the local operation. They and the staff are also gearing up for the weekend’s vacation Bible school.
Along with church services, Sunday school and the annual VBS, the Salvation Army also provides a variety of social services for about 50 people per day — including utility payment assistance, clothing vouchers for the adjacent thrift store and a food pantry — and daily 4 p.m. Monday-Friday meal service for more than 100 people per day.
The Morgantown office also has branches in Kingwood and Fairmont. They visited Kingwood on Wednesday.
One of their goals is to get the Fairmont thrift store up and running again. An SUV ran through the front window and into the store in February, causing extensive damage. The thrift store is the main means of support for the Fairmont social services, Sheldon said, so they want to get it operating so they can keep serving the community.
Being musicians, they also would like, someday, to enhance the Sunday music offerings beyond the piano. “We’re jumping at the bit to play more live music,” Sheldon said. He’d like to see at least a quintet ministering to the congregation, which averages about 45 each week.
Being downtown means, of course, limited parking for those attending the church or shopping the thrift store.
“One of my personal goals would be to see if we could get another building,” Sheldon said. It’s not an immediate goal but something to have in mind if the need should present itself.
The sanctuary is adequate size — seating about 100, but other space is limited, they said. The upstairs dining area can get crowded, sometimes forcing some to eat and leave to make room for others.
And they want to bring their artistic skills to bear — a music school and art school, drama.
“We want to bring that to the community to reach the youth and young adults,” Nicole said.
They live about 10 minutes away, much closer to school for their children than they were in Atlanta. Son Azariah is 8 and will enter third grade.
“He’s excited he doesn’t have to get up as early,” Sheldon said.
Daughter Anael is 5 and will start kindergarten.
The kids’ names — Azariah means “the Lord helps,” Anael means “the joy of God” — took careful consideration, they said. Names carry meaning.
“There’s something so powerful when you say names like that,” Sheldon said.
After the weekend VBS, Sheldon heads to the Army’s Camp Tomahawk in Hedgesville to serve there. Their youth specialist heads to Atlanta for her red officer’s tabs and a career as a pastor.
Salvation Army officers go from post to post at the behest of headquarters, they said. The average stay is three to five years. The Adkinses were here for four.
Meanwhile, the Greenlands’ thoughts and dreams are of their service here, and the potential to grow.
“The sky’s the limit,” Sheldon said. “God is able to give abundantly more than anything we can ask, think or even imagine.”