Col. Dennis Strissel, the brand new momentary commander of the Salvation Military, Citrus County Corp, has ministered to many within the Midwest, St. Helena, South Africa and Ghana.
But, he describes himself as “only a boy from Springfield, Mo.”
That self-reflection hardly does justice to a person who has spent a lot of his profession serving to the needy within the far corners of the globe.
Strissel is filling in till a brand new commander takes over to exchange Majors Ken and Linda Fagan, who’ve retired. The alternative probably will take over in June.
Strissel, who retired to Spring Hill in 2015, additionally has crammed in at posts in Miami and West Volusia County since departing from his fulltime work.
However these posts are tame in comparison with Strissel’s service on the island of St. Helena, which lies in the course of the South Atlantic Ocean, 2,500 miles east of Rio de Janeiro, and 1,200 miles west of the southwest Africa coast.
He additionally served in South Africa throughout apartheid, and he was accountable for the Salvation Military’s Ghana operation.
For Strissel, who mentioned, “I didn’t turn out to be a Salvation Military officer to make plenty of cash,” it could appear his posts have offered him with a lifetime of instructional and repair alternatives.
As he tells the story, his dad and mom and grandparents had been Salvation Military officers and “I needed to be something however.”
Nonetheless, “I had an epiphany, a non secular expertise,” Strissel mentioned, and it was off to varsity to be skilled to observe within the footsteps of his household.
He met his spouse, Sharon, in school, they usually had been married in 1975, following a three-year, church-approved courtship. Though he hadn’t recognized Sharon beforehand, his dad and mom and grandparents knew her household.
Their first put up was in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and at some point, Strissel noticed an announcement that the Salvation Military was in search of a alternative minister on “The World’s Most Remoted Island,” he mentioned.
After seeing the announcement, he mentioned he felt “as if the arms of God had been on me” and he crammed out the applying.
He had second ideas, although, and ripped up the shape.
It was then that he felt as if God had been saying, “How dare you snort at me?”
Strissel dutifully taped up the applying and despatched it off, pondering, “I’ll give up. If God is asking our household, we’ll go.”
Strissel didn’t hear again and thought he was off the hook. Then, three years later, he acquired a letter saying he had been accepted for a put up on St. Helena.
It was the tip of 1979 and it took till September of 1980 earlier than the Strissel household left for St. Helena. The island, a British protectorate, has about 5,000 folks.
To achieve St. Helena was an arduous journey. By this time, Dennis and Sharon had two babies. The household flew to London, the worldwide headquarters of the Salvation Military, and stayed in church housing.
They had been to sail to St. Helena, however their ship was in drydock, so that they needed to spend three weeks in London. Though many households might need spent these weeks on trip, Strissel mentioned, “We had been like nation bumpkins. We had been so scared, we simply stayed in our flats.”
It was the primary time Strissel had left the nation. It was the primary time he had seen an ocean.
When the matron at their housing web site requested if they want mushrooms with tea, Strissel thought she meant she’d put the mushrooms within the tea, not serve the teatime meal.
When a person pulled out the belt on his pants and mentioned he had dropped a stone, Strissel questioned why the person had dropped a stone down his pants, not realizing the person had misplaced a “stone,” or 14 kilos of weight.
It took three weeks at sea to succeed in St. Helena, the island the place the British exiled Napoleon Bonaparte after he escaped from exile on the island of Elba.
Once they arrived, the Strissels discovered there was no tv. There was a cable that delivered phone service, however making calls seemed like placing a tin cup to 1’s ear, Strissel mentioned.
Within the 4 years they served on the island, the Strissels made two calls residence.
Strissel mentioned the time spent on the island “was extra for us. It grew us. We needed to be a household.”
He mentioned his household would test books out of the library and browse to one another. They discovered the folks to be “great,” however Strissel mentioned the folks “had no idea of the skin world.”
When two islanders visited South Africa, that they had by no means seen cease lights. One spent hours in a grocery retailer, amazed there have been so many decisions.
The Strissels had been “poor as church mice” on the island, Strissel mentioned. One Christmas, Dennis and Sharon gave one another “step-ins,” or rubber thongs. One other Christmas, they gave one another deodorant.
“We discovered a sensible religion in God,” Strissel mentioned. “When he mentioned he’ll meet your wants, he meant it.”
Whereas there, the Strissels had been “commanded” by Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of England, to attend a cocktail party, honoring Prince Andrew of Britain, who was visiting. In addition they helped mark the centennial of the Salvation Military’s presence on the island.
They’d one official Salvation Military customer — their boss, who oversaw the St. Helena congregation, and lots of congregations, from his workplace in South Africa.
He stayed every week with the Strissels and earlier than he left, he requested if they’d contemplate serving in South Africa.
After Sharon prayed, the couple determined South Africa was the place they had been headed.
They spent two years at a put up in Krugersdorp, South Africa, a small, conservative, all-white city about 19 miles from Johannesburg. One of many providers their church offered was working a homeless shelter for whites.
Strissel mentioned in Krugersdorp, black staff needed to be out of city by dusk.
“It was a bone of competition for me,” he mentioned.
However, whereas he was there, Strissel made associates with different clergy.
The Anglican bishop invited him to a cocktail party for eight to 10 folks, and when Strissel confirmed up, he found that one other Anglican cleric had been invited, anti-apartheid activist Bishop Desmond Tutu. Strissel sat subsequent to Tutu throughout dinner.
Later, throughout his time in Krugersdorp, Strissel made a remark that wound up within the native newspaper about how the town council must be supporting homeless shelters for folks of all races. He was summoned to Salvation Military headquarters and knowledgeable that he couldn’t make feedback like that or the federal government may ship him residence.
“I mentioned, ‘If somebody asks me, I’ll say it once more,’” Strissel mentioned.
For his outspokenness, Strissel was assigned to a mission in Zululand. His kids would have needed to attend boarding faculty. He needed to maintain his household collectively and requested for a special put up. He was despatched to an all minority congregation in Cape City.
There he discovered “an enormous sea of people that wanted assist, and I had nothing,” Strissel mentioned. There was no funds to supply social providers to the needy. He mentioned he and his household recognized a lot with the members of his congregation that “We did every little thing they did.”
If members of the congregation went to a nonwhite seashore, the Strissels went alongside.
“They had been great folks,” Strissel mentioned. “They hold wanting us to come back again.”
After 4 years in South Africa, the Strissels returned to the USA so their kids may attend faculty right here. They had been despatched to a put up in Wichita, Kan. After that, they served at spots across the Midwest, together with serving as divisional commanders of the Indiana Division and of the Midland Division, in St. Louis.
In 2006, the London Salvation Military headquarters known as once more, and this time, the Strissels’ kids had been grown. Dennis and Sharon headed for Ghana, the place they served as territorial commanders.
They presided over 200 faculties and 32,000 schoolchildren. They supervised 9 clinics in rural areas. Among the folks attending the clinics suffered from malnutrition. Others had AIDS or HIV.
Strissel mentioned the Salvation Military additionally ran vocational faculties for younger ladies from rural areas who felt compelled to promote their our bodies to earn cash. The Salvation Military skilled them to bake, tie-dye, and stitch. After a yr of coaching, the Salvation Military would give them a bag of products to assist them arrange their very own microbusiness at residence. The Salvation Military staff then would investigate cross-check the younger ladies to see how they had been doing.
“It was an amazing program,” Strissel mentioned.
For his work there, Strissel acquired the Order of the Volta from the Ghanaian president, an award for excellent service to the nation.
His service in Ghana was troublesome and whereas there, Strissel had malaria six instances and coronary heart issues.
The Strissels returned to the USA and had been named divisional commanders for Jap Michigan, together with Detroit.
On the time, Detroit was going by chapter. The federal authorities had decertified Detroit’s social providers and, as a substitute, had channeled them by the Salvation Military. There have been 5,000 workers and Strissel oversaw all of them.
By 2015, Strissel’s coronary heart issues compelled him to retire.
Over time, Strissel and the Salvation Military “did the most effective to supply service to folks in want,” he mentioned.
He recalled that as a boy, he would accompany his father at hand out meals to homeless folks.
“It was so rewarding,” he mentioned.
That’s the enchantment to him of the Salvation Military. Salvation Military clergy not solely attend to folks’s non secular wants but additionally operate as front-line social staff.
“To today, I nonetheless need to be out with folks,” Strissel mentioned. … “We’re folks of integrity. Eighty to 90% of our cash goes to direct providers. When cash goes to the Military, the cash is there, and it’s working for folks.”