The Salvation Army

Like most people, my only experience with the Salvation Army was dropping money in the red bucket at Christmastime.

This summer I discovered it was so much more!!

Here is a bit of history on how the Salvation Army began, according to their website:

William Booth embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ. He walked the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute.
Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his message to the people. His fervor led to disagreement with church leaders in London, who preferred traditional methods. As a result, he withdrew from the church and traveled throughout England, conducting evangelistic meetings. His wife, Catherine, could accurately be called a cofounder of The Salvation Army.
In 1865, William Booth was invited to hold a series of evangelistic meetings in the East End of London. He set up a tent in a Quaker graveyard, and his services became an instant success. This proved to be the end of his wanderings as an independent traveling evangelist. His renown as a religious leader spread throughout London, and he attracted followers who were dedicated to fight for the souls of men and women.
Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth's first converts to Christianity. To congregations who were desperately poor, he preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead people to Christ and link them to a church for further spiritual guidance.
Many churches, however, did not accept Booth's followers because of their past. So Booth continued giving his new converts spiritual direction, challenging them to save others like themselves. Soon, they too were preaching and singing in the streets as a living testimony to the power of God.
We had the privilege of partnering with the Salvation Army in Harlem when we went there last summer.  We stayed in the Harlem Temple, and daily went to the Manhattan Citadel to minister to the people in the surrounding neighborhood.
If you have ever read the Gospels in the Bible, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor.  And while we were in Harlem for that brief period of time, the people in Harlem became our neighbors and we loved on them.  Some of these people worked for the Salvation Army.  Some lived in the areas around the Temple and Citadel.
We met people who worked in these facilities who loved God and loved the people they worked with each and every day.
We were able to feed the hungry.  We were able to give water to the thirsty on a very hot Fourth of July summer's day.  We prayed.  We shared Bible stories.
I sat and talked for about two hours to a mother of three of the kids who showed up in the park for Kid's Club.  No agenda.  No strings attached.  Just listening, talking and loving.
We served hot dogs, drinks and popcorn one night.
We served lunch to people in the neighborhood.
We sang hymns and spiritual songs on the sidewalk as people walked by.
We cleaned bathrooms.  We scrubbed floors.  We did anything that was asked of us.
And it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.
So the next time you drop some money in one of those red kettles, know that the money is helping love your neighbor in your own community, and communities near and far.
Here we are before Christmas this year ringing the bell and singing Christmas songs as we manned one of the Salvation Army Red Kettles in our community.

No comments: