Playing Guitar to Praise God in Steel Valley

Sep 13, 2021 | by Stephanie Rex


Like many teenagers her age, Lilly took interest in playing the guitar.

But at 15 years old, she’s playing for a purpose much larger than herself.

“I am thankful I can take guitar classes, and I am thankful that it’s not just about playing guitar – it’s about why I am playing guitar, which is for worshiping God. It’s not just about the chords and the strings, it’s about playing for God,” Lilly said.

A Music Program participant at The Salvation Army Steel Valley Worship and Service Center, Lilly became connected to The Salvation Army at a young age when her babysitter in Washington State began taking her to daily youth programs. After moving across the country with her family, which includes 5 siblings and her parents, her Corps Officers from Washington quickly connected her to her new Salvation Army home at Steel Valley.

There, Lts. Michael and Kevilyn Haynes gave her the support and influence she needed.

“When I first got to Pittsburgh, I was not making the best decisions in my life. I was hanging out with the wrong people, and I was just not in a good mindset. Lts. Haynes didn’t necessarily know everything going on, but they treated me like a daughter,” Lilly said. “They tried to involve me and my family in everything going on here, and it made me feel good inside. They are always willing to talk, always willing to go out of their way to keep me motivated.”

After getting involved with the Teen Program in 2020, there were openings for guitar lessons in the Music Program. Lilly took advantage of the opportunity to learn something new and said the music lessons have also translated into valuable life lessons.

“The learning process is kind of hard, it hurts your fingers, but at the end, performing the song is so satisfying,” she said. “It’s the same way with everything else – I have a job and it takes discipline to wake up every day and go to work, so it connects that way – guitar class helps me to remember that discipline is important.”

The Music Program has also demonstrated another important aspect of life that she has now applied to other parts of her home life.

“The Salvation Army has changed my life because it gave me structure,” Lilly said. “When we have the programs, I know which days I need to be there and for what hours. It gives me the vision to make my life that way.”

It has also connected her to a new crowd of true friends who want what’s best for her.

“I’ve made really good friends here and it’s a good community. My focus now is on my goals, and always on my future,” Lilly said. “My new friends here have influenced me because they are good people and they want me to succeed. They give me 150% when I can’t give that. They want to be with me – I feel like I am chosen by them and they don’t leave me out. They really do care about me.”

Lt. Kevilyn said it’s a joy to watch Lily grow – and to watch her influence her peers. During Sunday worship, one of Lilly’s fellow teens in the Music Program was hesitant to participate and perform, worried about what others would think. After worship, Lilly encouraged them and said, “I think if next time, you do it with your whole heart, it could be even better.”

“Her passion to learn and to grow in Christ really inspires the other teens,” Lt. Kevilyn said. “The next time we had our music finale, the whole group was just all in. She teaches her fellow teens to be all in. To see her grow and play the guitar, she was faithful in her pursuit and conquered the mission at hand. It is a blessing to see how God continues to deposit his gifts within her.”

Lt. Michael also said her leadership is natural, and her desire to use her gifts for worship is inspiring.

“I always appreciated how Lilly connects worship to guitar. It’s more than just learning an instrument – she is doing this with a purpose,” he said.

Lilly said that through her participation in weekly worship and teen and music programs, she is blessed to call The Salvation Army Steel Valley home.

“The Salvation Army gives you everything – in my opinion – you could ever want: friends and family,” Lilly said.

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