Touched by God’s love in 1960, woman keeps giving back today
Written by Julie Borgen, Twin Cities Media Relations Director for The Salvation Army Northern Division
When 80-year-old Joan Peterson (pictured above, with Kathleen Manning) walked into her first Salvation Army church at the urging of a friend in 1960, she couldn’t have guessed the impact it would have on her life.
“I was a good Lutheran girl,” Peterson explained. “I had never heard of a band in a church, it sounded fun.”
She was startled by seeing homeless people being fed at that Salvation Army church, the sound of a brass band playing and an exuberant service filled with people praising God.
“They yelled amen, praise the Lord,” Peterson remembered with a chuckle. “Well, the Missouri Synod didn’t do that.”
But Peterson said what moved her most in that church service was an invitation by the pastor to come forward and accept Christ as her savior.
“My friend touched my arm, said she would go with me, and that’s all it took,” Peterson explained. “I accepted Christ, I walked out that evening on clouds. It changed my life.”
Today, Peterson lives in senior housing in Chisago City. When the Life Enrichment director there suggested she and other residents (pictured, left) participate in a service project to help the homeless at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, she knew she had to help.
“At first I thought, it’s too much work, but the Lord said, you can do it with my help,” Peterson explained.
The project, inspired by one they spotted on Facebook, involved gathering thousands of recycled plastic bags and weaving them into mats for the homeless. Each mat requires 600 bags to make, which are cut into strips and then rolled into “plarn” (plastic yarn). Then the weaving begins.
“I’m not going to lie, it was a lot of work,” said Kathleen Manning, Life Enrichment director at Parmly LifePointes in Chisago City. “But it was a labor of love for our residents, it was amazing and just heart-warming to see them giving back to the community.”
“This was so generous and thoughtful of them,” said Deirdre Hoppe, volunteer coordinator at The Harbor Light Center, “It means so much to our guests to know that other people care about them and what they are going through.”
Peterson said it was just another way to share the love of God she experienced at that Salvation Army church nearly 60 years ago.
“God saved me that day,” Peterson explained. “It was the beginning of my walk with Christ. I will always want to do what I can to support The Salvation Army.”