Salvation Army in the Islands: Part One
The following was contributed by Erik Sundman, Divisional Worship Arts Director for The Salvation Army Northern Division, and is part of a series about how employees of the Northern Division are helping with the new Salvation Army branch of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The origin of the Army’s work in each country is unique.
For example, in 1879, a 17-year old girl named Eliza Shirley defied the initial wishes of Salvation Army founder William Booth by establishing the Army’s presence in America. (That seems to have worked out well!)
The Salvation Army’s work in the Turks and Caicos Islands began in a board room in the Bahamas. Advisory Board member Edward Crothers looked over a mission plan and noticed something interesting buried in the long-term goals section of the plan: Establish The Salvation Army in the Turks and Caicos Islands. After learning that money was the only thing standing in the way of achieving that goal, Crothers wrote out a check for $100,000, and the Turks and Caicos branch of The Salvation Army was born.
Upon arriving on the Islands four year ago, Captains Matt and Rebecca Trayler familiarized themselves with their new surroundings, concentrating on building relationships with those they encountered in church, at the grocery store, on the street, wherever. They prayed for wisdom, direction, strength, guidance, humility, patience. And God heard their prayers. He provided opportunities for them to minister to those in the Turks and Caicos Islands. While it doesn’t lack for churches, the country does lack for demonstrable compassion available to those in difficult circumstances, and there is often a huge gap between peoples’ needs and the assistance that the government and churches are able to provide.
One such gap existed on the largest (and among the least populous) island in the Turks and Caicos: Middle Caicos. There, 400-500 people live simple lives, far removed from the economic center of the Islands, Providenciales. Many of them, despite being elderly, tend to impressive gardens in order to feed themselves, and live off the land to a great extent.
However, they still need commercial goods to survive, along with the equivalent of Social Security, which amounts to around $100 per month. The problem? Being so remote, they must travel to other islands to cash their checks and do their shopping, and the trip is quite expensive. It could cost anywhere between $40-50, so nearly half of their monthly income was essentially spent before they walked into the store.
Rotary International heard about this and wanted to help, so they raised funds and bought a used van, complete with wheelchair lift. However, they couldn’t fund and run an ongoing transportation program, and sought out a partner organization.
Enter The Salvation Army. Captains Matt and Rebecca Trayler set out to incorporate this into their work on the Islands. They now oversee the senior transportation program on Middle Caicos, which has improved the quality of life for those they serve tremendously. Not only does The Army pick up the seniors and drive them where they need to go, but the Traylers regularly provide a church service with music and Bible-based teaching.
It is a rich ministry, one of many such ministries taking place in the Turks and Caicos Islands under the auspices of The Salvation Army.