by Man-Hee Chang, Major –
“My past was a mess. I was sick, tired, weary, discouraged, failed, vulnerable, living in my own way, ignoring God, or with little or no awareness of God. I faced my sickness and I knew I couldn’t handle it.
“In my deep alcoholism and drug addiction I was facing possible death, then I found the truth about myself through the love of God that was revealed to me. My life is changed and reformed completely by his amazing grace.”
It is the amazing grace of God that brings together God’s justice and mercy—and turns the maze of life into constant amazement.
Last year, the four Adult Rehabilitation Center Commands (Central, East, South and West) launched a national advertising campaign titled Amazing Grace. The spot features real life ARC beneficiaries and graduates. It is the true spiritual journey of many lives before and after Christ—those who found God’s amazing grace that changed their lives completely.*
Recently, a corps member who saw the television commercial asked me about the adult rehabilitation center and its ministry. “What is the ARC? What do you do in the ARC? Who are those people in the TV commercial?”
I’d like to ask that same question to you Salvationists: “Do you know what the ARC is?”
William Booth’s vision
Early in his ministry, William Booth discovered that attention to physical as well as spiritual needs was necessary to make evangelism effective. One incident emphasized this. Crossing London late one night in 1888, he saw men sleeping under a bridge. The next day—after a wakeful night—he directed his son Bramwell, who was his top aide, to do something about the problem. Social work directed particularly to the needs of men emerged early in Booth’s plans and became an integral part of The Salvation Army.
Within 10 years of the founding of The Salvation Army in the United States, social service work with men began. The Army offered food depots and inexpensive hotels called metropoles for men, and industrial homes, which were the forerunners of today’s adult rehabilitation centers.
In the early days, men with pushcarts were sent out to collect paper and other salvage. By 1898 the Army had eight salvage depots and five wood yards. The men received a small sum from the sale of the goods collected and were given food and lodging. Horses and wagons eventually supplanted the pushcarts and, in turn, were replaced by the familiar Salvation Army trucks. The basic pattern of gathering waste materials, sorting, processing and selling them through thrift stores has continued to this date.
In his book, In Darkest England and the Way Out, Booth stated his belief that the “submerged tenths” of modern civilization, the poor, the honest, as well as those who lived by vice of crime, were the victims of drink. The problem was immense, but there was hope.
The solution was a program on a scale commensurate with the problem and incorporating the “essentials of success.” The program must change the man when his own character or conduct was the cause of his poverty, or change his circumstances if these caused his ruin and were beyond his control. The program must be a permanent one and—naturally—immediately practical.
In those early days, The Salvation Army had remarkable success, chiefly through its evangelistic efforts. The results for the man and his family of the conversion and rehabilitation of a drunkard made an immediate and favorable impact on the religious and social work worlds.
Over the years, new activities and techniques have been added to increase the program’s effectiveness in meeting the needs of people who come for care. This is in keeping with Booth’s emphasis on using the most up-to-date scientific knowledge and the best-trained staff available.
Adult Rehabilitation Centers today
These fundamental purposes and means remain. They are reinforced today through counseling and other programs designed to help each person coming into care to develop the skills, the spiritual, physical and emotional strengths needed. The program has been expanded to include women in recovery as well. Every ARC beneficiary is exposed to opportunities for regeneration based on a personal relationship with God, and many have found a rewarding lifestyle through Christian living.
Within this setting of spiritual awakening, a structure exists that can meet the spiritual and social needs of individuals who have treatable handicaps.
The Salvation Army’s ARC program is unique among social agencies, for it combines the Army’s fundamental spiritual aims with social work concepts and techniques. The center is a true expression of the mission of The Salvation Army—love of God and a practical concern for the needs of humanity.
Men and women who enter an ARC have an excellent opportunity for the successful integration of spiritual values. To produce optimum results, the presentation of these values is best done as an integral part of all center activities.
Every day in adult rehabilitation centers, over 2,500 men and women follow an intense schedule. From 6:00 a.m. wake-up call until 11:00 p.m. lights out, everyone has to live a disciplined life. All participants are immersed in the spiritual disciplines of acceptance, obedience, self-denial and authentic faith. Throughout the six-month program they experience many hours of prayer time, times of meditation, reflection, Bible study and communion with God. They learn of God’s unconditional love. They work to become honest, kind, generous persons, with higher self-esteem, confidence, self-worth and self-respect. They learn how to be still in the midst of storm. They learn to control rage, treating others with kindness, gentleness and forgiveness. Ultimately, they become whole persons. Once again, they become productive members of society by God’s amazing grace.
Amazing grace is saving grace
The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The quality that makes it grace is that it’s always given to people who do not deserve it.
God’s grace is amazing in the way it encompasses everyone, welcomes everyone, forgives everyone, and loves everyone. Grace is not a reward for the righteous; it is a gift for the guilty.
It’s the same kind of grace that caused John Newton, a converted ex-slave trader, to write these immortal words:
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.
It’s only when we remember our wretchedness, our blindness, and realize that we were lost that we can celebrate the grace of what we have become. We need to remember the health, the gain and the virtue—and the loss, the death and the sin—to see the road we have traveled and the forgiving, loving work of grace.
How to receive this saving grace
In every ARC worship service, men and women come to the altar seeking a new life. The most asked question at the altar is, “How can I be saved? What should I do to be saved?”
I tell them, “Well, the devil and all his forces are on your side of the altar; Christ and all his promises and love are on my side of the altar.”
I ask, “What would you do? Would you jump over the altar to be on Jesus’ side?”
“Sure, that’s easy,” is the reply.
Yes, again and again, God gives grace instead of grief. He gives blessing instead of blame. Again and again, people admitted to the ARC find a new life without conditions. Through many hours of work therapy, individual and group counseling, chemical education, Bible study and worship, God’s great grace moves in hearts to give comfort instead of condemnation. And they are changed through God’s graciousness.
A life redeemed by grace should naturally become a gracious life. Yes, resentment and retaliation, judgment and blame are part of the fabric of our human nature. This negative reaction to the bad things in life is learned behavior in a world where self comes first. It is part of the original sin of seeing ourselves as the center of the universe. And it is the disease of the soul that Jesus comes to heal. He gives us grace. He gives us the benefit of the doubt and the gift of a second chance—and a third chance and many more. He gives the generous blessing of unconditional love. And then Jesus asks us to do the same—to take the risk, to make the decision, and to follow him.
A song of salvation
That’s what the ARC is. The ARC offers anyone who is lost in the ocean of sin to find a new life. Everyone in the Amazing Grace commercial is the product of the ARC. Everyone is a product of General William Booth’s passion to make evangelism more effective for the lost and the lowest.
Listen to the testimony of victorious overcomers saved by grace—the song of salvation:
That saved a crack head, alcoholic, drug addict, meth freak,
wretch like me!
I once was homeless, broken, sad, just lost,
But now I’m sober, happy and found,
Was a blind, hopeless dope fiend,
But now I see.
This is truly amazing grace!
*The Amazing Grace spot can be viewed on the Western Territory website: www.usw.salvationarmy.org.