Home Away From Home

Image of Lt. Blake Wilson

On Commissioning Sunday, June 2016, Cadet Blake Wilson was commissioned as a Minister of the Gospel and an officer in The Salvation Army with the rank of Lieutenant. He then learned of his first appointment: Assistant Corps Officer at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Suisun City, California.

Anxious to commence his career as a Salvation Army officer, Lieutenant Wilson was understandably concerned about the reception he would receive from soldiers of the Kroc Corps and members of the center.

To his delight, he quickly found that he was “right at home.”

“To me, serving here at the Kroc means being a part of a family that is bigger than any appointment I could imagine,” Lieutenant Wilson admits. “Having the team we have here at the Suisun City Kroc is like working with family every day.”

Wilson plunged right into his post, forming relationships with Kroc members coming around for a workout, or with corps folk arriving throughout the week for worship and service.

“I have laughed and cried with many people here,” he says.

“I have been moved by some of their stories, and we’ve made some great memories.”

His “at home” feeling is also true of his (now) lifelong association with The Salvation Army, dating back over 10 years when at age 14 he got a job working summers at the Army’s Camp Del Oro near Nevada City, California.

Image of Lt. Blake Wilson in Prayer Circle

Lt. Blake Wilson (far left) joins in prayer with other program participants before a Sunday worship service at the Suisun City Kroc Corps.

“I jumped at the opportunity to live at camp all summer. I was told it is a Christian camp, and I had been to church enough with my dad and stepmom when I was younger to fake Christianity to get the job,” he says.

During one of the first nights of camp orientation, Blake listened with the other workers as they were told this camp was a sanctuary—a place where you can leave your burdens at the gate, and be free to be who you are.

“That really stuck with me,” Blake says.

Throughout that first summer, he saw “something” in his coworkers that he decided he wanted. It wasn’t fake, he says, and it wasn’t just because they were out at camp—it was “something more.”

“I realized these staff members had confidence, joy, and this love about themselves; and I thought to myself, I want that!”

Growing up in a large family, Blake often felt overlooked by his parents and overshadowed by his siblings. But working at Camp Del Oro was way different.

“At this camp, I was told that I was important, and valued, and loved. I realized that if I wanted this feeling to continue when summer was over, I needed what all the other staff members had—I needed to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior,” Blake says.

During one Thursday morning chapel, as the campers were praying to accept Jesus into their hearts for the first time—Blake secretly did the same thing.

A few years later, Blake was accepted on the territory’s summer service corps team going to minister in Costa Rica.

“One day, I remember standing with our group, doing an open-air meeting in a neighborhood of tin shacks, and I felt God’s Spirit telling me that ‘this is what I’m calling you to do!’ God truly revealed to me that serving others is something I’d do with my life,” Blake says.

He might be young, but Lieutenant Wilson already sees that his mountaintop and valley experiences have served to prepare him for ministry at the Suisun City Kroc.

“I want them to know that God doesn’t seek perfect people to serve Him—just those who are willing,” he adds.

He is working hard to show Kroc teens and young adults that God knows each one’s name, the number of hairs on their head, and every breath they take.

“Know that in this world, you will get burned; but if you hope in the Lord, He will always be there for you. Even if you cannot see it at the time, God is faithful!”

— Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor