It was in the middle of the summer and Fred Williams was 10, living in a rough neighborhood in west Charlotte when he found The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte. “The Play House,” a safe place that Salvation Army soldiers managed was Fred’s escape from his neighborhood. After being with them for a few years and gaining more self-esteem and leadership skills, the soldiers he had befriended moved on to other appointments. Fred felt alone again.
“I had the hunger and thirst to be with The Salvation Army, but everyone else was going their separate ways, so it was really just a bunch of empty holes,” he said.
In 2008, he moved to the Sedgefield neighborhood in Charlotte. “I remember thinking, God please pull me to the nearest Salvation Army.”
And, God did just that. The Charlotte Temple Corps was right across the street from where he was living. Fred worked hard over the next year to get his uniform. But, one thing Fred didn’t realize with The Salvation Army was that officers move to different appointments regularly. After he would grow a connection with a leader, they would move onto a new appointment, and he would be in a standstill.
“I stopped wearing my uniform, I still went to church but I wasn’t at a place where I felt I wanted to wear my suit. I felt like I committed to wearing my suit for the wrong reasons. I made the wrong connection. I made a connection with the pastors, instead of the commitment to God. When they left, it was like an empty hole.”
After continuing to go to Charlotte Temple Corps and graduating High School in 2011, Fred took a year off. “In 2012, God was calling me to go to Charlotte Christian College Theological Seminary, but I was fighting Him on it. I had my own idea of getting my game design degree and working for SONY.”
He completed a semester at Central Piedmont Community College, then took time off and started applying for FAFSA for the next two years to continue his education at Charlotte Christian College Theological Seminary. But FAFSA would not go through; unfortunately Fred felt like he could not follow God’s call to enroll into Charlotte Christian College Seminary.
Even though he couldn’t follow through, Fred was still going to the Charlotte Temple Corps and being faithful to God.
“I heard the whisper from God that said, “Just get ready for seminary, I have your back.’”
So Fred went to Charlotte Christian College Theological Seminary without FAFSA, and at the same time he started building a strong relationship with the Corps Officers at the time, the Phelps. Even though he was going to church, volunteering at The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Charlotte and attending Sunday School, Fred felt God was still calling for him to do more.
After working at The Salvation Army’s Camp Walter Johnson for two summers, Fred asked God what was in store for him.
“What do you want me to do?” God responded by sending him Corps Officers, Howard and Katie Tate to help him grow. The Tates kept Fred moving in the right direction. They kept him spiritually fed, gave him the the opportunity to teach Teen Sunday School and pushed him to where he felt he needs to be.
“God had been calling me to do something major for about two years, but I couldn’t figure out what He meant,” Fred said.
Fred went to Territorial Youth Institute, a conference for young adults, where he found what God was talking about: Summer Service Corps. He spoke to the leader of the group and found out what it entailed. “This is what God was calling me to do.”
The Salvationist Summer Service Corps is a six-week mission experience that allows young adults to discover a deeper relationship with Christ through ministry alongside other Salvationists abroad. As Fred puts it, “You sign up to make a commitment to go out and make yourself a servant in another country and see how they worship Christ in another setting. It really makes you think about what you have.” Recently, Fred got the call saying he was accepted into the program and will be going to Poland this summer. “I’m really excited. This is my chance to really bring out the best in myself and change my life. I think it will be cool to worship God in the same setting but a different culture.”
Fred knows the hand of God is on his life. After the summer service, he is praying about moving to Japan and becoming a pastor.