Finding a Community with Emaniel Brifil

"Love others. Stay focused. And leave a lasting legacy."

Emaniel Brifil found his way into The Salvation Army at a young age and has never looked back. In this interview with The War Cry, Emaniel shares how he was introduced to the Army, found solace in the local corps, and discovered direction for his life. Today he spreads the love of God by leading the Florida Division’s Young Adult Ministry.

WC: Tell us about yourself.

Emaniel: I’m a Haitian American and the youngest of 13 children! I married my wife back in November 2019. I work as a Young Adult Admissions Program Coordinator and Spiritual Life Specialist at The Salvation Army Florida Division. My hobbies include listening to podcasts and book audibles, spending time with my 31 nieces and nephews, baseball and cheering on the Florida Gators!

WC: How did you meet the Army? 

Emaniel: When I was younger The Salvation Army in Winter Haven was hosting a basketball tournament and from that tournament my older brother was invited to play on the church’s team. They ended up winning the tournament that year and then he started attending church there on Sunday nights. With my brother being one of the older siblings he was able to attend church with his friends on the basketball team and then go to “mom and dad’s church” which was the Haitian Baptist Church, but me being the youngest I couldn’t go with my brother.

One day though, when my mom and dad were working late and Major Caleb Prieto came to pick up my brother, the youngest give brothers jumped at the change to go with him since mom and dad couldn’t stop us! From that point on, the whole family just kind of tagged along. As we got older, we were able to decide if The Salvation Army was for us and to this day, I am still a part of the Army and attend the local corps here in Tampa, FL.

WC: What made you want to stay with the Army?

Emaniel: One of the things that spoke to me was the focus on character-building program. The Haitian Church was great, but it wasn’t really for me at the time. We would have speakers or preachers who would be speaking in French or speaking Creole extremely fast, and I can speak Creole but when they would speak at church I felt as if some things were getting lost in translation. I felt as if I wasn’t receiving what God truly had for me at that age. 

As I became a teenager, it transitioned into me working at summer camp. I remember thinking, “There’s no way I can go back to anything else,” because it became more than just church for me. It became home.

WC: When did you decide to make the Army a career versus just a church?

Emaniel: I worked at our summer camp in Florida Camp Keystone for five years. One year, one of my former Corps Officers said to me, “Hey, I’m losing two of my solid people to the Evangeline Booth College [where individuals go for about two years to become commissioned and ordained ministers of the Gospel].” So, he reached out to me to be a youth pastor at a local Salvation Army Church in Port Charlotte.

At first, I thought, “Oh I can do this commute of an hour and 20 minutes,” but I just wasn’t sure. So, I did what I always do when trying to make a tough decision, I prayed. I didn’t want to leave home, I didn’t necessarily know what to expect and I didn’t know if it was even for me to lead young people. A couple weeks before my 22nd birthday, I went to visit the church in Port Charlotte just to see how it was, to look at the location, to kind of do some shadowing of what goes on in this command. In that meeting, I felt God was saying, “I think you can do this. I think this is for you.” My first day was two-weeks after that trip.

WC: What is your current role in the Army? 

Emaniel: I was in Port Charlotte for about seven years as a youth leader. Now, I have the privilege of working at our Divisional Headquarters in The Salvation Army for Florida where I oversee our Young Adult Ministry. When it comes to missions, I have the privilege of working with our different departments, mostly in the youth and the music departments. But we lead, plan and coordinate mission trips from time to time. Now, granted, with the COVID-19 pandemic, that hasn’t really been a thing as we’re still trying to stay safe, but we’re excited to get back to mission trips and group outings when things start to go back to normal.

With the spiritual life component, I work closely with our Divisional Secretary for a program where I oversee our Divisional Soldiers, Ideas, Needs and Concerns (DSINC). When soldiers, which are members of The Salvation Army Church, have issues or challenges within their local unit or within the division, they can send those to me or to our Divisional Sergeant Major who oversees the shepherding of soldiers within the division or being a voice for them. 

WC: What are some of your favorite and least favorite parts about the job?

Emaniel: My favorite part of my job would have to be the young adult component where I get to be myself with my peers. For many of them, they don’t see me as a person who “is in charge of them,” they see me as a person with who they can be open and honest with. They can be transparent with me because I’m somebody who understands and is there to guide them not judge them. Being able to connect with people and hear their stories have changed my life at one point or another. It’s amazing to see where God is using me to make an impact in the life of these staff members. My least favorite part is the administration work. Stuff like e-mails or meetings, I know these things are important but it’s the busy work I have to do as a supervisor that I dislike the most.

WC: What are some challenges you think the Army is facing today or even in the future?

Emaniel: One of the challenges I think that the Army is facing is in some of our locations, I think we’ve forgotten the mission or the foundational pieces of why the Army was started. And I think that can happen with any job. People start to get into a routine or complacent in our everyday tasks. But I believe that God raised up our founders, William and Catherine Booth, to be more than just doing the status quo or the bare minimum. I think at times, we get to a place of just saying, “We’re okay. Our head is above water.” But then I start to think, “Are we just swimming or are we actually moving forward within these waters?” So, I would say that’s definitely a challenge.

Another challenge at times can be our sense of diversity and inclusion. God has gifted individuals in all different walks of life so if a person could maximize the mission of the Army, they should be allowed to fill certain roles despite their experience or years in the Army. 

WC: What projects are you currently working on?

Emaniel: For work, there has been talk about a program called “Partners in Missions.” Which helps us connect with individuals in the area and how we could better assist them. That’s something that myself and my current supervisor and our Divisional Commander, who oversees all The Salvation Army work in the State of Florida, were kind of just talking to each other or brainstorming. How do we make a greater impact with our Partners in Missions?

On a personal note, my friends and I have started a podcast called Da Kickback, where we talk about our thoughts on current events. 

WC: Who inspires you to do the work that you do?

Emaniel: There’s a few people who inspire me. Of course, God has placed this in my heart and in my life to, I would say, love God and love others, so definitely Him. My dad is a huge inspiration in my life. The way my dad lives his life and the way that he presents himself to the world has always been a big influence on me. My wife of course, she’s a constant support system and encourages me every day. There are some former leaders who I’ve had Majors Matt and Jamie Satterlee, Drs. Marion and Everette Platt, Majors Art and Ann Penhale, Majors Cam and Paula Henderson, Jodel Garson, Dr. Adeley Charles, Mozart Charles, Luke Walker, Majors Caleb and Rebecca Preito and Majors Pierre and Luna Smith. I know I am missing some people, but these are just a few who inspire me to do the work that I do.

WC: Any final thoughts for our readers?

Emaniel: Make sure you surround yourself with people who are there for you and not against you, because there are sometimes people don’t always have your best interest at heart. Be sure to share the word, do your devotions, drink your water but most importantly love God. Love others. Stay focused. And leave a lasting legacy. 

Instagram @ebrifil |Podcast: Da Kickback wherever you get your podcast

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