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    Salvation Army Ministers North of 60

    The Army reaches out in Whitehorse, a small town with big-city challenges April 20, 2010 by Ken Ramstead
    Filed Under:
    Territorial News
    When Captains Jeff and Shannon Howard were pondering their next ministry move after five and a half years in High River, Alta., they hoped they would be sent to the West Coast, somewhere warm and sunny near the ocean.

    Instead, they were asked to go to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon and Canada's driest city, with an average January temperature of -22 C. “I never thought I'd live anywhere close to Whitehorse,” laughs Captain Shannon Howard. “But that's where God wanted us to go. Now that we're here, it just feels right. We wouldn't want to be anywhere else.”

    Small Town, Big Problems
    While Whitehorse is the largest city in Canada's three northern territories, its population is only 22,898, just twice the size of High River. This presents some unique challenges.

    “We're the size of a small town yet we face the same problems—homelessness and alcoholism—as in any big Canadian city,” says Captain Shannon Howard. “In order to function, we need the same facilities.”

    To that end, besides the church, the Army in Whitehorse operates Yukon's only shelter as well as its only halfway house. The busy thrift store also boasts the Yukon's sole Christian bookstore.

    “During the winter, we were finding that too many people had to fend for themselves outside, especially during the cold winter months,” explains Captain Shannon Howard. “We created a lounge area that is open during the hours that the shelter is closed. It's a place to relax and get people out of the cold.”

    The 18-bed halfway house has also evolved to include addictions programming. “We want people to go
    through here, move on and live independently,” says Captain Jeff Howard.

    “You Can Trust Us”
    Of course, at the heart of the ministry is the Army's church. While the congregation is only 20-strong, interest in the community has increased since the Howards' arrival. “We've instituted a Bible study and we're hoping to start up a brass band,” says Captain Shannon Howard. “We've acquired a pianist and a drummer, so we now have the nucleus of a worship team, and we no longer have to rely on CDs. There's a lot of excitement in our services. It's really changed the dynamic of the church.”

    Interest in the community heightened when it was learned that the officer couple were looking forward to being posted there. “Whitehorse might not be everybody's dream posting because of the isolation and the long winter,” says Captain Jeff Howard, “so when somebody wants to be there, that tends to go over well with people.”

    Despite that, the Howards had to overcome some distrust among the First Nations inhabitants. “I'm a redhead and Jeff is blond, so we don't exactly blend in,” smiles Captain Shannon Howard.

    “One woman kept repeating over and over, 'Do you want to love my people? Do you want to love my people? We kept reassuring her, 'Of course, we want to love you. That's what we're here for,' ” Captain Jeff Howard continues. “ 'We're not here to push anything. We're just here to love you through Christ. You can trust us.' And she eventually did!”

    Optimistic Future
    Now that they have been accepted by the community, the Howards are excited about their next steps.

    “We want to see the church grow, but not just in numbers,” states Captain Shannon Howard. “We want everybody in the pews to feel that they are growing in their faith. And we're seeing that happen! Despite their problems, people have not turned their backs on the Lord.”

    Secondly, the couple want the entire ministry team, from the thrift store staff to the shelter workers, to work closely together. “For the church, especially, this gives us an opportunity to become truly involved in the social aspect of our ministry,” continues Captain Shannon Howard. “By doing so, we can really live out Christ in our community and help people in a way they might never have experienced before, all of us together as one whole body of Christ.

    “We have our future in front of us at this point. There's nothing standing in our way.”

    Comment

    On Thursday, April 22, 2010, Joyce Stuckless said:

    Thanks for the information on Whitehorse, I read with interest. I have a daughter who is moving to Whitehorse in the early part of May so I have printed this information for her.

    Thanks
    Joyce

    On Wednesday, April 21, 2010, Major/ Captain Patrick Lublink - Military Chaplain said:

    It is great to hear more about Whitehorse. I spent two summers in that great frontier town in the 1970s, that was before the Army had a presence there. Take care of those folks up there. My prayers go with you.

    On Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Major John Gerard said:

    I commend you to be faithful. From 20 comes many more. My new bride and I pioneered the work in Labrador City in 1961 and Happy Valley in 1962, a thousand miles from a major city.There were no roads in or out and most men were married with family either in Newfoundland or Quebec.Loneliness and fear of the unknown can make the long winter nights hard. Love them all, united them as many times as possible. Prayer with them in the bunk houses, or trucks. Although I did not speak French I had French War Cry's sent over for 60 men and families. Through every effort God was faithful in supplying our need according to His riches in glory.The work still remains in these centres. Blessings

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