Lt. Linda Choi arrived at the Denton Corps in June 2015 and found a small Corps with little music on a Sunday. In addition to preaching and leading the meeting, the Lt. began leading worship from the piano.
The University of North Texas and its renowned school of music is located just minutes from the corps so Lt. Choi reached out to a UNT professor requesting some musical assistance. Two students agreed to volunteer and began teaching beginner band on a weekly basis. This was the start of a great relationship with students from UNT and a time of incredible growth for the corps.
Nohemi Elias, a Salvationist and second year music major at UNT, invited a friend from marching band to bring his trombone to church. Brian Rios agreed to attend and quickly felt at home at the church. “Everyone was so friendly. It was good to feel useful and that our music was adding to worship and encouraging the congregation and Lt. Choi,” said Bryan.
After several weeks attending church in Denton, Nohemi and Bryan were invited to a special event at the Dallas Temple Irving Corps. “In some ways it was overwhelming to see a large Salvation Army church with an established music program and lots of uniforms compared to our small church in Denton,” said Bryan. However, encouraged by what he saw and the music heard, Bryan returned on a mission to transform the Denton Corps. With the Christmas season fast approaching, the Red Kettle program provided the perfect opportunity to recruit some fellow music students. In no time at all Bryan was leading a group of 20 musicians, rehearsing regularly, attending church, and performing “Christmas gigs” around the city.
Following Christmas the students continued to look for ways to get involved at The Salvation Army. The brass band continued to grow and a praise band was started that included several students from the UNT mariachi ensemble. The corps lacked instruments to support this rapid musical growth, until a national donation by Guitar Center to The Salvation Army incredibly supplied all the equipment needed. “This was truly an answer to prayer,” said Lt. Choi. “It is amazing how God works as He builds his Kingdom.”
Bryan was enrolled as a soldier earlier this year and today the Denton Corps has 15 college students participating regularly in the brass band, including his younger brother, and 9 in the praise band. Bryan uses the corps van to pick up his classmates for rehearsals and Sunday activities. Word continues to spread at UNT about The Salvation Army as those involved invite their friends to attend church.
Music has been an incredible tool to get these students involved and more importantly, four bandsmen have given testimonies about being saved through the music program at The Salvation Army. The congregation has more than doubled in the last year and Lt. Choi attributes this growth to committed prayer and faith in God’s plan for The Salvation Army in Denton.