A most refreshing breeze!
by Terry Camsey, Major –
The Army has been called many things over the years. One of my favorites has been, “The most refreshing breeze ever to blow down the halls of orthodoxy.” It challenged the rather inflexible stance and attitudes of the traditional church in our early days—a church that was, apart from charitable works, largely disconnected from the masses of poor, disenfranchised people Booth felt called to reach with the gospel.
Thank God that, in some places, that refreshing breeze still blows. We had the privilege of visiting one such corps recently, in Lahaina on the island of Maui. (Beryl and I were on vacation, but could not resist making contact with local Salvationists; how glad I am that we did so.)
Envoy Vidella Nagasaki was busy when we called unannounced…in the rear yard…making a “volcano” in readiness for vacation Bible school the following week. You know, there are some people with whom one can find instant rapport and Vidella was, for us, one of those people…refreshing is a word I would use to describe her, too.
She shared that the Lahaina Corps was, in fact, a recovery corps. The words warmed my heart, since establishment of such corps was such an integral part of the MISSION2000 initiative. Here was a live, working model! The congregation primarily consists of homeless and previously homeless (now, having been blessed by God, being rehabilitated).
As part of the mission strategy, homeless are fed and housed for the night. But, here’s the part that really got to me: they are asked to perform some small duty in exchange. In fact, they tiled the floor of one room (with donated tiles) and the envoy had them do it three times until they felt the quality of work was worthy for a place of worship.
That is right in line with William Booth’s philosophy of not “pauperizing” those helped through our social work. He knew that doing something in exchange for such help would build self-esteem and self-worth.
While on the island, we also visited Kahalui Corps for the Sunday morning holiness meeting. Both sets of officers and a number of the congregation were away for Divisional Family Camp, but—even so—a healthy-sized group was present and we received a warm welcome.
What really impressed us was the way local officers and others stepped up “to the plate.” Even without “live” music, the worship time was inspirational. One testimony in particular revealed a lot of hurt in the family…more problems than many of us can imagine…and confirmed to me that God still sends to us the kind of people we were raised to help.
Matthew 26:11 reports Jesus as saying the poor will be with us always. That’s a constant…in an ever-changing world in which many enjoy a standard of living and luxury that their parents never imagined. The poor are still with us. And it was for such that God raised The Salvation Army. We shall have a ministry to such people until Christ comes again! The corps on Maui demonstrate that ministry is still a priority.
It’s a ministry, not just for social workers and other employees, but for the congregation as well. And one directed to the whole person—body, mind and soul. We save to serve AND serve to save.
Let’s pray that we never let our corps forget the poor!