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May10TueAt Khi Community Church in Milton, Ont., volunteers and clients get far more than they bargained for. May 10, 2011 by Ken Ramstead
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There is no special event, no flashy campaign, no magic formula for adding people to the fellowship of believers,” declares Captain Leslie Wiseman, corps officer at Khi Community Church in Milton, Ont. “It's really all about relationships. Often it only takes an interest in someone, an invitation and, of course, a welcoming atmosphere if and when they take you up on the offer. That's what we try to do at Khi.”
Khi Community Church was planted in Milton in 2003. Although a Salvation Army church had existed, it closed leaving only a community and family services office.
With its population growth, Milton became an attractive location for the Army to plant a new church. “Six years ago, there were 40,000 people in Milton. Now, I hear there are 90,000,” says Captain Leslie Wiseman, who has been corps officer with her husband, Stephen, since 2010.
Just as Milton is growing, Khi is growing with it. The name comes from the symbol X (pronounced khi), the first letter of Christ's name in Greek.
“The Army has a great presence in Milton,” Captain Wiseman goes on to say. “We're often profiled in the local paper, and we are a part of the Remembrance Day and Santa Claus parades.”
Many residents find out about Khi through this community involvement. This past December, Khi Community Church helped more than 300 families through their food hamper program and toy drive. The community support was so generous, they were easily able to meet the needs. “The toys and food donations just poured in,” says Captain Wiseman.
Here to Stay
Though Khi is the only Salvation Army church in Milton, both old and new members of the community recognize the Army shield and come in looking for volunteer opportunities.
“Many of our clients are also our volunteers and our church members,” explains Captain Wiseman. “They want to give back by volunteering at our food bank and then start attending the church.”
Recently, a man called on behalf of his daughter who needed one more volunteer hour for her academic requirements. Khi's warehouse manager, who also oversees the food-bank volunteers, invited them to drop by.
“When the man saw that the food bank and the worship space are in the same building,” says Captain Wiseman, “he was impressed and asked questions about The Salvation Army, our faith and our beliefs. The following Sunday, father and daughter attended Khi's church service and later invited their entire family.”
And through events such as Khi's monthly potluck lunch and youth group, the family have integrated into the corps fellowship.
“People come in through the back door—to volunteer or receive assistance—and end up staying,” says Captain Wiseman. “Some of our new members have even become soldiers.”
Many who attend Khi do not necessarily come from a Christian background.
“There's a lot of freshness, newness and excitement here as a result,” says Captain Wiseman. “People are searching and eager to learn.”
This makes mentoring and discipleship a priority for the Wisemans.
“When we come together on Sundays,” she continues, “it's very real. People come as they are, whether they're happy or they're sad. There are no masks you need to don in order to worship. You don't have to pretend you have it all together. None of us do, and we just come and acknowledge that.”
Over the next five years, the plan is to expand on Khi's community focus. “We want to move from being a church with a couple of small groups to being a church of small groups. That would be where the nurturing, the growth and the care and community would come from. Everybody would be connected to a small group during the week, and then come together on Sunday to worship.”
A Wealth of Activities
The key to Khi's success has been the integration of its community services and its church. Besides the food bank, Khi operates the following:
• Moms and tots afternoons—This weekly session for mothers and their pre-schoolers consists of songs and stories, a circle time, exercise activities and snacks.
• Tax clinic—Volunteers come in at tax season to help prepare tax forms free of charge.
• Friday night junior and senior youth events—Children can participate in different activities and outings, such as movie evenings, laser tag, mini-golf and scavenger hunts.
• Halton Fresh Food Program—This initiative, where people can sign up and receive a box of local produce, supports local farms.
• Khi music night—A community outreach where children can learn to play an instrument and participate in the choir.
• Bible study, Sunday school and day camp programs, ladies' scrapbooking and card-making nights.