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Bucking the trend at Wyndham Corps

The seven newest junior soldiers at Wyndham Corps are constantly prayed for and encouraged by the growing and diverse congregation.


Special celebration services to rejoice in lives positively transformed through a commitment to Christ have taken part at The Salvation Army’s Wyndham City Corps (Vic.).

Evoking both emotions and inspiration, the services held recently at the corps’ premises in Werribee celebrated 14 new church members and the enrolment of seven junior soldiers.

Wyndham City Corps Officer Major Phill Abram said the services, officiated by Assistant Divisional Commander Major Brenda Young, were both emotional and special for the church community.

“It was a massive celebration of Jesus transforming lives,” he said. “Some are more exuberant in their life transformation, and others are very private about their life transformation, and that's okay. When they say, ‘This is what I was like before my encounter with Jesus, and this is where I'm going now,’ that is what it’s all about for us.”

Assistant Divisional Commander, Major Brenda Young, officiated at the special member service at the corps.

Growing attendance

Newcomer lunches held at the church have been a key element in helping to introduce people to the church community, with 14 new members being a significant number for Phill and his wife, Major Catherine Abram, who have been corps officers for 18 years.

“It was a sign of last year,” Phill said.

“Most churches that I've spoken to are seeing a decrease (in numbers) since COVID, but for some reason, by the grace of God, we're seeing a buck in the trend. We had around 70 new people come in last year and be regularly attending, so that was the kind of the catalyst to do the membership and soldiership days.”

And the reason behind bucking the trend?

Corps soldier Susan Stobie welcomes and prays over new member, Yvette Katoto.

“It’s prayer,” Catherine said. “It says everything. It has to be prayer, prayer, prayer. It’s not by our skill as leaders; we’ve got an amazing team of people, staff and volunteers. We're very blessed.”

Legends of the Army

Phill further added it was not left to Catherine or himself as corps officers to invite people to church.

“I was joking with one of the retired officers and said we've got evangelists in every age group in the church,” he said.

“We’ve got evangelists in the 70-plus age group that are inviting their friends, evangelists in the 50-age group, in the 30-age group, and it goes down the line. The kids are inviting their friends to come too.

“It has not stopped at Catherine and I being the officers. We are actually seeing the gifts of God working throughout the congregation. And so those who are gifted in evangelism, they are doing their part for the kingdom rather than expecting Catherine and I to do everything in that space. It is gifts and fruits that are in action to make it work.”

For the seven junior soldiers who were enrolled, the junior soldier preparation classes spanned several weeks.

Community outreach

Catherine said it was special to have the new members and junior soldiers be part of their “very Pentecostal” church congregation which spanned many cultures including the Middle East and the Pacific, with a large population of the church being Africans.

“We have people who jump up and down African style, sometimes doing the African shrill,” she said.

“It's rowdy . . . there's lots of shouting, dancing and carry on, so we are historical rather than traditional Salvation Army. Our church meetings won’t all be spoken in English as congregants are encouraged to pray in their own native tongue, and to bring their own Bible and read it in the language of their own tongue.”

Community members have also connected with Wyndham City through its large red bus – affectionately named ‘Hunger Busters’ – that visits the local train station every Friday night to give away food and drinks and cook a barbecue, plus community lunches held during the week.

“We figured out that from those two outreach things, we've got a dozen people that have transitioned from just a food handout or a meal, to actually coming to church and being engaged in the congregation,” Phill said.

“I don't think that's happened before, so that's kind of really cool to have the right people in the right seats that are doing the work.”

Being on the frontline is a top priority for both Catherine and Phill who are passionate about their corps work and ministering to others.

They have also greatly benefitted from previous leaders who have invested into their lives, stating it has been an incredible blessing to both of them, and they were “standing on the shoulders” of some incredible corps officers that had been before them.

Major Rintje Taekema (ret.) prays over new member, James Key.

And it was leaders who prayed over the church’s newest members as their role was to disciple.

“I was looking at Retired Officer Major Rintje Taekema, and he was praying over a guy, James. It was a huge step for him to become a soldier. He was giving up a lot of family traditions, a lot of things . . . and I just went, you know, how beautiful is that, that he is praying and speaking into his life,” Catherine said.

For Phill, he calls them “legends of The Salvation Army”, like bringing a grandma and grandpa figure to reality.

“They hold the spiritual temperature high, and they keep the accountability high,” he said. “They bring the eldership position in the congregation and it holds everyone to a standard.”



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