When the news hit Renton last week that Capts. Terry and Rutendo Masango, the much beloved leaders of the , and his family will be transferred to a new location, a collective sigh, and many a tear were shed. Including, yours truly.
On June 28, 2006 Capts. Terry and Rutendo Masango arrived in Renton with a small child in tow and another one on the way. Capt. Terry remembers the day well because it was also his daughter’s birthday.
Now, the entire family, including their two girls, Fiela, age 9 and Tanaka, age 4, are headed to a new spot in San Diego. The Salvation Army frequently transfers corps members—it operates with a military-type mentality, and considers corp officers like evangelists, so it was expected, but the news wasn’t easy to swallow nonetheless.
The move is a step-up for Masango, who recently attended a leadership program in California. He has been named one of five up and coming leaders.
When he received the surprise phone call on Thursday night, he was told that the move is truly an affirmation of his leadership. Masango is emotional about the move, and his heart sank at the phone call because of his love for Renton, the relationships he has made and the people who have embraced him here.
I asked him what he felt were his major accomplishments while in Renton:
“I hope that I have been able to bring awareness of what the Salvation Army does, and that people think of the Salvation Army first,” Masango said. “I hope that people think that it is a good organization to support.”
Since the Masango’s hit town five years ago, a remarkable number of accomplishments have been under their watch. At the time, the food bank was just a year old. In 2006, they served approximately 650 people a month. That number has grown to 1,500 a month. They expanded their service hours from five days a week to six.
Also during Masango’s time in Renton, a dental clinic was formed, and a number of important community programs took root and expanded. The backpack program , which Masango is particularly proud sends homeless children off for the weekend with an unobtrusive looking backpack full of food to get them through the two days.
The backpack program started with no budget and now serves around 250 kids per week. These are children who would otherwise go hungry over the weekend, when they are not getting free meals at school, Masango said.
The community supper program, which is just a year old, served meals to 1,105 individuals in April alone. As many as 93 people have been served in one day.
Masango’s Army Corps also developed the program BOOST (Best Out of School Time), to mentor, feed, tutor, and provide life skills to students, including playing band instruments. Masango was emotional in describing 10 young people that played with the .
Masango hopes that the partnerships he helped to developed will continue. The annual Toy Drive now has formal relationships with Wizards of the Coast and LA Fitness. Last year, Wizards donated 10,000 toys to the drive.
Progress can be marked in dollars as well.
“When we came to Renton, $90,000 in was the highest we received in donations. Last year, $181,000 was received, in a down economy at less stores,” he said.
The staff at the Salvation Army, which grew from four to 13 during his tenure were stunned, and then saddened by the news of the move, Masango said. Most of them, he and his wife hired themselves, he said, so they have become like family.
Many of the committees that Masango has been deeply involved with will continue, including , , , Renton Ecumenical Association of Churches, ARISE and The Community Feeding Program.
Rev. Kirby Unti, who works closely with Masango and the Salvation Army considers him like a brother.
“Captain Terry understood that the glue of a community comes through partnerships. He knew that the best way to strengthen the Salvation Army’s presence in Renton was to engage in the whole life of the community. His God given charisma, deep love of people and highly disciplined work ethic made a significant impact on the Renton community,” Unti said.
“The Masango Family are a living example of how an entire family can commit their lives to community service. I know of no other family who has made a greater impact, in such a short span, with utter integrity and never motivated by personal gain,” Unti said.
Masango, left for his second mission trip to Zimbabwe on Thursday evening. While there, he will visit family but also serve on three projects for his home Salvation Army. At the Highfield Temple, they will be donating band instruments, and work on computer projects, and furnishing the building.
A local Zimbabwe orphanage will be assisted by receiving water pumps, and a modern washing machine, where volunteers are currently hand-washing clothing for 67 kids daily. The local corps, final stop will be at the Howard Hospital, where they will provide stuffed animals and warm clothing and blankets for children.
Julie Hamilton and her husband, Denny, have become close to the Masangos during their time in Renton.
"It is so heart tugging to know that they are going to San Diego, but we know that this is God's plan for their lives. In Matthew 4:19 'Come follow me Jesus, and make me fishers of men,"' Julie said.
"I first met Captain Terry and his wife at the Salvation Army food bank. I was volunteering and we were swamped with clients...they both came in a rolled up their sleeves and started walking clients...both of their work ethic and humor showed through to me right away."
When Julie thinks of the Masangos, she thinks of the bible passage that says that they are peacemakers, the sons of God.
When the Masango family moves on July 1 to their new location in San Diego, they will be at a more established Salvation Army, which is County based, has a retirement home on-site, with home and feeding programs. They also have a program on musical expressions.
Masango trained for the Salvation Army in Australia, followed by his first stop at the Spokane Corps, where he assisted the Major there.
The family that will replace the Masangos is a young couple with four children.
“Home is where ever the Salvation Army sends you,” Masango said.