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Bob Lind, Published May 04 2012

Lind: Prodigal son ‘Bill’ finds Salvation

Bill was who you might call a “street thug,” often preying on weaker and vulnerable people in downtown Fargo.

When he’d show up at the Salvation Army, you could be sure he was drunk and looking for a fight. Sometimes, he acted so badly the staff had to call the police to remove him from the property.

“Bill” isn’t his real name; Neighbors is calling him that so as not to pinpoint this troubled man.

The story comes from Steve Carbno, business administrator for the Salvation Army in Fargo. He tells it because it demonstrates the ministry of the organization so well.

‘Worse for wear’

Bill’s bad behavior continued for several years. “But, after time, we started to see there was less fight in Bill, and that gave us the opportunity to share with him that there were other alternatives for him if he was looking to change his lifestyle,” Steve says.

The Salvation Army offered to enroll him in its Adult Rehabilitation Center in Minneapolis. This is a six-month Christian faith-based program that addresses someone’s addiction, along with other issues negatively affecting their lives. It includes counseling, a work program, Bible studies and church activities.

But Bill nixed the whole idea, saying he didn’t need any help.

“As time went on,” Steve says, “we noticed Bill would come into our facility a little worse for wear: a split lip, a black eye. But he would sit in the dining room and not create any problems.”

Younger men would target him. When he received his monthly check, he’d buy alcohol, and then these guys would roll him for the rest of the money.

Salvation Army staffers asked him what would happen if the police called, saying he’d been found dead in a downtown alley and asking for help finding his next of kin. “While it was evident this made an impression on him,” Steve says, “he had no answer for us.”

Then one day Bill came in and said he was ready to make a change. He said he was tired of the life he was leading and wanted the use the rehabilitation center in Minneapolis to help him.

The staff said they’d take him there the next morning if he was sober. He agreed, and then asked if he could call his mother in Minneapolis.

He’s back …

The call was made. With tears in his eyes, he said, “Hello, Mom, it’s Bill. No, really!

“Mom, I’m coming to Minneapolis to get straight!”

They talked some more, then Bill handed the phone to Steve and began sobbing.

Steve began explaining to Bill’s mother about the rehabilitation center, but she interrupted him, saying, “Stop! You don’t understand! For six years now, I thought Bill was dead. You’ve just given me my son back!”

Making a difference

“Bill was at our door early the next morning, as nervous as anyone could imagine,” Steve says. “We loaded him into a van and drove nonstop to Minneapolis and got him enrolled in the center.

“Bill’s six-month program took him seven to complete. Upon graduating, he was clean and had the skills to hold down a job.

“He was hired as a worker at one of the Salvation Army’s thrift stores in Minneapolis.

“But more importantly, Bill became a mentor in one of the programs and now helps make a difference in the lives of men like him.”

There are many stories out there of what organizations like the Salvation Army, who minister through faith, are accomplishing in peoples’ lives.

This is one of them.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com


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