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A vast and untapped mission field

A vast and untapped mission field

A vast and untapped mission field

5 August 2016

Majors Hector and Melba Crisostomo are excited by their appointments at Salvos Stores, where they oversee mission and outreach opportunities. Photo: Lena Pobjie

By Naomi Singlehurst

In 2014 running frontline residential crisis services for the homeless, Majors Hector and Melba Crisostomo wondered at first how God would use them in their appointments at Salvos Stores. Major Melba had been appointed Mission Director and Major Hector as the Outreach Ministry Coordinator.

What they discovered very early on was a highly professional environment where Salvos Stores staff and management gave “110 per cent” to delivering around $12 million a year in financial assistance to Salvation Army territorial projects and a number of corps – all this achieved in addition to providing low-cost goods to those in need, as well as the wider public. Digging a little further, it became clear that a vast and largely untapped mission field existed in and through Salvos Stores.

“We have around 280,000 customers a month to Salvos Stores, we have 3000 volunteers and work-for-the-dole participants, and we have 350 staff members,” says Major Melba. “I believe God is longing for these people to come to know him, or come closer to him, and out of that to reach out to customers and others. Walking into Salvos Stores I just had that wonderful feeling that the Lord was saying to me, ‘these are the people I long for’.”

The Crisostomos began to work collaboratively with management, staff, volunteers, customers and chaplains, to build a new framework to more closely connect Salvos Stores with the wider Salvation Army culture and mission values. After a range of training days, outreaches and a series of workshops, a new in-store cultural focus has been created and is being rolled out within stores. This focus is supported by posters, fact sheets and interactive material around the concept of “transformation”.

“We are working to draw The Salvation Army ‘family’ more closely together,” says Major Melba. “The first part of the role has been to encourage and remind those in the stores that we are not just Salvos Stores, we are The Salvation Army and together we are a church with an incredible mission. It is a very successful, professional business and we are not trying to deflect from that. But, as a Christian organisation, we need to recognise that it’s first and foremost the Lord’s business!”

The Crisostomos will soon be increasing their visits to corps and social centres and encouraging them to reach out and more intentionally support those running, working and volunteering in Salvos Stores. They will also look at partnering with them to materially, emotionally and spiritually support customers who are in need. Major Melba is excited by the possibilities of deepening the relationship between corps and stores.

“Walking into Salvos Stores I just had that wonderful feeling that the Lord was saying to me, ‘these are the people I long for’.”

“So many good things happen in Salvos Stores,” she says. “The community is already very receptive to us. During our previous outreaches we met many lonely people who knew they could always come to the store even if they had nowhere else to go. They knew they would be welcomed and feel like they were part of a family. It was interesting that people were also very accepting about us praying with them and we met many people who had great needs. While those in many stores are already doing it, we saw so much potential for stores to become even more of a frontline ministry.

“There is such potential for those that come into Salvos Stores as customers, to go on to join corps or engage with our services or other ministries. I truly believe God is going to do mighty things through Salvos Stores!

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