Jeff and Cindy Strickler have come back to their roots.
After spending more than 11 years as administrators at the Salvation Army's Booth Brown House children's shelter in St. Paul, the two majors are taking over as corps officers and pastors at the Brainerd Salvation Army. It's work they did for a decade in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa before moving to the Twin Cities.
"We welcomed this change very much," Cindy Strickler said. "Not that the importance is any less, but what we did for the last 11 years was primarily work with young people ... and it's hard to develop, impossible to develop, real relationships. We just really longed for the day when we could again work with families."
Added Jeff Strickler: "Families and more broad-based community kind of work, we really missed that."
Majs. Cindy and Jeff Strickler last week talked about their June appointment as corps officers and pastors at the Brainerd Salvation Army. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
The Stricklers on June 26 took over from Capts. Brian and Heidi Reed, who after five years as corps officers in Brainerd were transferred to Mount Pleasant, Mich.
The Stricklers have been impressed with the city, the Salvation Army's services here and with their reception from the public.
"It just felt like home immediately for us," Jeff Strickler said. "We enjoy it. The people are warm, friendly and everyone's been very welcoming."
The couple, both 50, took very different paths to being corps officers.
Jeff Strickler, a native of Iowa, was a 24-year-old college graduate in 1981 who had become a believer in Jesus Christ and was seeking an evangelical church to attend. During a visit to his grandmother's house, he picked up a copy of the Salvation Army's periodical, The War Cry. He didn't realize the Salvation Army was a church and started attending services. From there he was hooked on the organization.
"I found a lot of great opportunities for serving the Lord and making a difference in the lives of people," Jeff Strickler said.
He started work with the Salvation Army as a case worker and later completed schooling and seminary to become a corps officer.
Cindy Strickler was born into the Salvation Army. Her parents were officers, as are her four sisters and their husbands.
"What we saw in my parents, they loved the work they did for God through the Salvation Army and the people they were able to help through the Salvation Army," Cindy Strickler said. "They just made that life of servanthood so attractive."
The couple met at a Bible camp in 1981 and were married in 1983. Neither could imagine a life in which they didn't work together.
"This has been our life," Cindy Strickler said. "We have thought about people who leave for work at 8 a.m. and don't see each other until supper time, if that. That would break our hearts, it really would."
The couple have two daughters. Chloe, 21, is working at the Salvation Army division headquarters in the Twin Cities and is getting married in November. Sophie, 18, moved with her parents to Brainerd and is attending Central Lakes College in pursuit of a business management degree.
"She's going to rule the world one day," Cindy Strickler said with a laugh.
As far as their work here in Brainerd, the Stricklers said they have a lot of ideas but they want to meet with Salvation Army advisory board and community members to determine what is needed.
One area that will be looked at is a needs study to determine if their current location at 208 S. Fifth St. can be renovated or if another site should be pursued.
Though the nature of the job requires moving where they are needed - before serving in St. Paul their longest appointment was just 2.5 years - the Stricklers hope their stay in Brainerd will be a long one.
"We'd love to stay as long as we can," Jeff Strickler said.
Added Cindy Strickler: "We've just been so impressed coming to a community like Brainerd and really how big the Army is in terms of social services, the food shelf and the thrift store. It's really wonderful."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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