On Captain Emeline’s Watch
By Warren L. Maye
Captains Chaka and Emeline Watch, corps officers of the Harlem, N.Y., Temple, understand the pain families feel today. "As officers, the biggest challenge for my husband and me is knowing what to say and how to help as we go through the same crisis within our own family," says Captain Emeline.
Watch refers to the challenge of effectively ministering to people as they deal with the COVID–19 pandemic. "For example, it’s the fear of contracting the virus and becoming ill or the fear of family members becoming ill or the fear of losing their livelihood," she says. "We are all facing an unknown future. Trying to resolve these fears for myself while at the same time, figuring out how to help others work through the same issues can be challenging."
Despite the storm, a silver lining is already emerging, Watch says. "Many times, I found that in trying to minister to others, I was ministered to. There was a blessing in that we were all leaning on each other and trying to figure things out as we went along, but we all needed hope. I found strength and hope for myself in God. The pandemic highlighted the importance of deepening my faith in God and relying on Him from one moment to the next as I walk alongside others, because I cannot give them what I do not have.
"I try to listen to people. I think sometimes they just need someone to listen. We do not always have answers, but I find that when we listen to people, we can be helpful because they realize they are not alone. We are learning this as we go along."
Watch, who holds a master’s degree in psychology, recently earned an Ed.D., in leadership and professional practice. Her dissertation was on preparedness for multicultural ministry for officers and local officers. "I did my thesis on multicultural ministries in The Salvation Army," says the daughter of Salvation Army leaders in Zimbabwe, Africa. "I was exploring to see if Salvation Army local officers felt that they were prepared for multicultural engagement and whether they felt they had the skills necessary to engage people from diverse ethnicities.
"My particular research found that most officers in the Greater New York area feel that they are prepared and that workshops make a difference in preparing them to engage with others who are different from themselves."
As the pandemic in New York City appears to diminish, Watch is learning some valuable lessons from the emerging post–COVID–19 culture. "One of the greatest tools that we have is social media," she says. "Through it, we can connect with people. We've been able to use Zoom online, as many of our corps are doing.
"I've talked to women about their needs. One common need is for connectedness and fellowship. They feel so isolated. At first, our communication was about things, such as food and supplies. But now, it's all about getting that personal connection and encouragement from other believers.
"So, we're talking to them about what they're going through, individually. They also get phone calls from each other. We are serving more people because of the need everywhere. Regarding spiritual care, we are calling many of them on a daily basis and as often as we can."
Some members of the corps are dealing with aspects of COVID–19; they or a family member has tested positive. Others have lost jobs or are in their homes with underlying conditions. "They have no place to go and no help coming in to address the specific situation that they're going through," says Watch. "So, we've had to just walk people through that."
Today, Captain Watch is optimistic. "Given the pandemic and our sudden reliance on internet technology, we have a great opportunity to be successful in ministry across generational and cultural boundaries," she says. "A lot of our young people are adept and computer savvy.
"Now that people have seen The Salvation Army step up during this pandemic when other churches closed down, I'm hoping new ministry opportunities will come. People will remember how the Army helped them during these difficult times. They will trust us to deliver their spiritual food."