When the youth group from Arbor Community Church in Nebraska traveled to Kansas City over the summer to volunteer with The Salvation Army and other community organizations, they couldn’t have anticipated the impact they would have on one particular resident from the Bellefontaine neighborhood.
“I never expected this… Never. I try not to ask for help, but when (Major Love) came through, she was just bubbly and she wanted to help the community,” Marva said. “I’m 64, and never have I gotten this kind of help in all of my years, wherever I’ve lived. I’ve never gotten this kind of service. If I could turn flips, I would.”
Marva was diagnosed with stomach cancer last year, in addition to living with HIV for the past 22 years. She’s currently undergoing extensive chemotherapy, but even though her health has kept her from being able to keep up with work around the house, it certainly hasn’t broken her spirit.
“God is so good all the time… just to allow me to live through everything that my body is going through. That’s how spiritual I am. I thank God for today, I thank God for yesterday and I thank God for the day when I met the Major of The Salvation Army.”
Although she was born in Kansas City, Marva lived in Memphis for a period of time before returning to her hometown. “My home is here,” she says.
“Even when I was moving away from Memphis, people were asking me, ‘Where are you going? Where are you going to move to?’ And I’m, sitting here saying ‘I don’t know, but God has someplace for me to go.’ Little did I know that it would be right here.”
Marva’s strong will and positive attitude continue to keep her moving forward. Even through it all, she admits that she has it pretty good compared to many others in her community.
“I know I’m doing well. I believe it and I feel it, and I really thank God for where I’m at,” she said. “I know the Salvation Army has so many services to give for the community, but I thank God that I haven’t really needed to use them. I know there are other people who need the services more than I do.”
For Hayley of the Arbor youth group, the experience of helping Marva and others in the community resonates deeply with her and has changed her outlook on life and faith.
“The coolest thing about volunteering is that the people, they teach us. I love listening to them explain their relationship with God,” Hayley said. “Their faith is so strong, no matter how hard their lives have been. I complain about the smallest things, and they really put everything into perspective.”
Her friend Lexi agreed. “It’s rewarding to see how faith filled other communities other than our own are,” she said. “We like to be able to talk to new people about the Gospel.”
This is the 5th year that the youth group has visited their sister church in Kansas City, helped local community members and volunteered with the Salvation Army.
“This is so rewarding for the kids because it lets them be a real missionary for a week,” said Mark Perez, head of the church’s youth group. “These kids come from good homes and families, so it’s extremely important for them to expand outside of their community to take a look at how others live. This new perspective gives them a chance to talk to new people about Christ.”