Salvation Story

Double Duty

Deep in the heart of the Indiana Division, a young married couple is meeting the challenge to do what has rarely occurred since the early days of the Army—give equal attention as corps officers in two units. by Major Frank Duracher

Captains Vinal and Brenna Lee serve as pastors in Bloomington and Nashville, Indiana. Historically, the missions and ministries for each corps have been independent—but for various reasons, the Lees have been asked to perform “double duty” for the foreseeable future.

At its heyday, the Brown County Corps averaged 75 in membership, with occasionally more than 100 in attendance for Sunday worship—impressive for the town of Nashville’s population of nearly 800 people and countywide population of 15,000. The corps was entirely self-sufficient through weekly tithes and the Christmas effort. The Army’s work opened in 2006, but dwindling numbers and a decline in finances took a toll, and the COVID-19 pandemic nearly finished off the unit in 2020.

Enter the Captains Lee, who were charged with a dual mandate for the neighboring facilities—a mere 20 miles apart.

“To say we were shocked (when the double appointment came) would be an understatement,” Captain Vinal admits. The two counties could not be more different. Monroe County is the most liberal in Indiana, while Brown County is probably the most conservative.

“Bloomington is home to Indiana University, which has an enrollment of about 45,000 students—over three times the entire population of Brown County.

“In Brown County, we conduct a ‘4:12 Ministry’ (drawn from I Timothy 4:12) and have more than 100 sixth-to-twelfth grade students among the county’s school system that has 1,647 students from K through 12. It is one of the largest youth ministries in the Central Territory (while at the Bloomington Corps, there are very few youth). For Brown County to have so many in the youth ministry shows the importance the administration places on keeping the corps doors open here.”

Four outstanding Brown County volunteers make that possible. Denise Loomis is a full-time volunteer who operates the food pantry and regularly cooks dinner for the youth ministry. She’s drafted her husband, Dan, the full-time volunteer handyman. In addition, Tina Higgins is director of the youth ministry, assisted by her husband, Ron.

Bloomington has an outstanding thrift store, while Brown County does not. Bloomington has a robust advisory board.

Both units conduct healthy social services programs. Both have successful Christmas kettle campaigns. Both have impressive food pantries. Both are blessed with excellent employees and volunteers. Both have quality Emergency Disaster Services at the ready.

The Lees agree that either unit would be a great appointment welcomed by any Salvation Army officer. “We enjoy both communities, even if they are different,” Captain Brenna says.

The Army needs both units to remain viable—Bloomington, a major city with a major university; and Brown County, due to its ongoing ministry that is so vital, full of life and visible to the community. 

The couple’s weekly schedule looks nothing like that of most corps officers. Three days a week are spent in Bloomington; with three other days in Brown County. Occasionally, they must separate between the two as the need arises. That is especially true in November and December when Brenna handles the Kettle Season in Bloomington, and Vinal oversees the toy shop, a Christmas parade and kettles in Brown County. 

With wisdom beyond their years, they’re even prepared in case one or both cannot get back to their quarters in Bloomington—especially during snow season, which has already happened. Their “emergency sleep plan” includes a blow-up mattress and a small food supply upstairs at the Brown County building. 

Every Sunday year-round, the captains are at both locations, but even that looks different. Sundays begin in Bloomington, where Captain Vinal cooks breakfast for that corps family, followed by the Holiness Meeting at 9 a.m. An hour later, they pack up and head to the next-door county to worship again at 11 a.m.

“We are so blessed to have people there who have the building open, the coffee table set up and everything ready by the time we arrive! This has really given them excellent ownership in their corps,” Captain Brenna says.

These young officers are philosophical about the challenge presented to them.