After six years of ministry in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Captains Brent and Melissa Haas are preparing for a move to Halifax.
Posts on social media about their departure drew overwhelming support for the couple from La Scie and much sadness about the Big Land’s loss.
When Brent and Melissa moved to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in July 2013, church attendance was low, leaders were in short supply and finances were in rough shape, Brent wrote in an article published in the church’s national magazine “Salvationist.”
Today, attendance at Sunday services has almost tripled, more people have taken on leadership roles, and the church has been financially self-sufficient for more than four years. (Kettle campaign funds went from $18,000 to $85,000 under the couple’s leadership).
Just how did Brent and Melissa breathe new life into the struggling congregation?
Reaching out to people via social media and bringing the church into the community helped with the transformation.
“We do things to empower and encourage our congregation but there is a world outside of our church building that needs help,” Melissa said in a phone interview.
The church’s “Out of the Box: I Love My Community” theme this past fall included organizing a block party where 2,200 people enjoyed a cost-free afternoon of games, rides, music and food.
Offering a monthly community meal on Saturdays grew from 15 to 20 people to more than 200 guests turning out for the 2018 Christmas dinner.
The church also began hosting coffee before and after church services.
A cafe worship service on Sunday evenings is a more relaxed atmosphere for people not comfortable sitting in a pew, Brent wrote.
The church has helped numerous communities in the Big Land and focused on the importance of reaching out to Indigenous communities.
Sea containers filled with children’s clothes and bikes, furniture and household supplies were sent to Nain and one to Hopedale, Brent said.
Recently, Brent said, the church raised more than $10,000 for overseas missions in Africa.
“Our faith calls us to love our neighbour, whether it’s our neighbour who is next to us or our neighbour half way across the world,” Brent remarked during the phone interview.
Since moving to Labrador, the couple has fostered six children and youth.
“That has forever changed our lives. It started in Labrador and we will forever continue to foster children,” Brent said.
The Haas’ new appointment takes them to the Salvation Army Fairview Citadel in Halifax. The move is bittersweet, Melissa said.
“We are leaving behind a community where we have had so much support... people we’ve grown great relationships and partnerships with,” she said.
Both Brent and Melissa said they would like to thank the people of Labrador for their tremendous support over the years.
The duo has been described on social media as compassionate and caring people who are always there for everyone.
Jessica Keating wrote how life has changed completely since she started attending their church over a year ago.
Her only regret, she said, is that she didn’t make the choice to attend earlier.
Keating describes Brent and Melissa as absolutely beautiful people who brought so much life and energy to both the church and the community, she wrote.
“I will miss them more than they’ll ever know. My heart is heavy with the thoughts of them leaving,” she wrote.
The Salvation Army’s future in Labrador is very bright, Brent said. The church will continue to make a difference in people’s lives for many years to come, he said.
“We have wonderful community support, a great group of volunteers, and an exceptional congregation. Just because we are leaving it’s not an ending but another new beginning... an opportunity for new leadership,” he said.
Major Byron Kean will take over the corps in July.