AN AFRICAN AMERICAN SINGLE SALVATION ARMY OFFICER, LT. BREANNA JAMES LEADS BY EXAMPLE
Lt. Breanna James is a first-generation Salvation Army Officer at the St. Louis Euclid Corps. Lt. James, an African American, represents a minority population of African American officers in The Salvation Army.
"The representation of the Salvation Army from those on the outside does not see the diversity within it," Lt. Breanna said. "I love that my story can be an example to others that we are all called by God to glorify his kingdom."
As a single mother of three teenagers, Lt. Breanna said, "The biggest impact for ministry is to empower our youth. We should all be examples of positivity in and outside of the church. This will encourage them to look at life and to look to Christ, knowing that they can do and are a blessed to lead people the same way."
She explained, “I think that being an example of a Black women in the Salvation Army is a great opportunity to speak to people and encourage them to take a leap forward especially in ministry. I tell people all the time that if God can use me, he can use all of us. I have great people of all different diversities who surround me and make me feel welcome. We are all open and willing to learn from each other, and that's the example we want to showcase to the world.”
In 1896, Booker T. Washington said The Salvation Army “draws no color line in religion.” The Salvation Army today has hundreds of thousands of officers around the globe of many different ethnicities.
In addition to paying tribute to African American gifts and contributions, elevating those who advocated African American causes or helped lift the community, Lt. Breanna said, is crucial for understanding African American history.
"Black History Month should be celebrated as American history all year round," Lt. Breanna said. "I believe that we should celebrate each other for the heroic acts of those who were willing to help in times of need no matter the race, gender, or ethnicity."
Lt. Breanna’s background, as with many Salvation Army officers, was a religious childhood. This included attending church four times a week, in addition to Bible study summer classes.
She was baptized at 9, growing up at a Baptist Detroit church where her grandmother was a vocal proponent for God’s word in the neighborhood.
"We were the home on the block where you met Jesus," Lt. Breanna said. "When people would come, they would not leave the same. They would always have something to take with them and would know something about Jesus, through Bible stories and testimonies."
It was a sheltered experience in the backyard to protect her from the neighborhood streets, she said. The environment led Lt. Breanna to consider her place in this world, and she began thinking seriously about shepherding the word of God.
As a teenager, she relaxed the pace of church visits and, in her words, fought the internal voice to pursue following God fully. She could recognize the power of the Holy Spirit and learned soon that, should she listen, a more assured and comfortable life awaited her.
Lt. Breanna was introduced to The Salvation Army at a Christmas 2011 event, invited by a friend. The positive experience that night encouraged Lt. Breanna to bring her kids back to visit the local corps and to accept a job offer as an afterschool tutor.
During the afterschool program, kids, some of whom couldn’t read, gained literacy skills through learning the alphabet and reading, and played musical instruments for gospel arts.
This led to other Salvation Army opportunities, including that of a summer day camp counselor. After starting at the Detroit Temple corps, Lt. Breanna moved to Lansing, Michigan, and was able to find employment and became a solider through the Salvation Army Lansing South Corps.
Lt. Breanna’s journey led her through the Salvation Army’s College for Officers Training, where, among from other places, she learned bits of wisdom that influenced her life philosophy and pursue being an officer as a career, when she started Army classes in 2019.
"I heard a speaker at the 730 weekend say, 'The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few,' [Matthew 9:37] and it really resonated with me." Lt. Breanna said. "I knew then that God was speaking to me directly and I responded, 'Here I am, send me.'"
Today, Lt. Breanna heads the Euclid Corps, in north St. Louis, which she said is everything that she prayed it would be. From Bible study to youth programs, she is looking forward to a bright future.
Leadership for her first appointment has been boosted by the wisdom she’s been given by the elders in the community. Remembering God is in control and trusting her team enough to delegate is what propels her success, she said.
"In the Euclid corps, every Sunday, it's something different, whether it's through music or life story, maybe through a meal," Lt. Breanna said. "Not just in the month of February, but all year round, we're able to showcase different people and things that empowered the African American community and our community as a whole."