Change in Army kettles leads to change in people’s lives.
by CINDY FOLEY, MAJOR –
Have you noticed the signs of the Christmas season? The sights, the sounds, the fragrances of the holidays…they are all around us and serve as a reminder that Christmas is coming. The beauty of colorful decorations, the scents of cinnamon and gingerbread, the nip of cold in the winter air, all serve as a visual reminder of the holy season.
The changes of the season are met with a variety of reactions. Some people welcome change. They embrace the Christmas season and eagerly hang decorations and enjoy the food and festivals that abound. Others find the holidays to be chaotic and disconcerting. They have difficulty adjusting and take comfort in hanging back and watching the festivities from afar—not really participating, but viewing the activity of others as they watch from a safe distance.
In the course of my 20 years of officership I have been blessed to see many families who have taken the opportunity that Christmas brings to make lifelong changes in their lives. Let me share two stories with you.
Dante, a 12-year-old boy in Mesa, Arizona, was being raised by a single mother who lived on public assistance in subsidized housing. Facing a very bare Christmas, Dante’s mother turned to The Salvation Army for assistance. Dante’s card hanging on a Christmas Angel Tree at the mall was selected by a family who wanted to make sure that they were buying the correct basketball hoop that Dante had requested. In speaking to the mother, they discovered that Dante fulfilled his NBA dreams by shooting his basketball through a plastic laundry basket. With no other options, and no money to buy a real hoop, Dante’s mother had cut the bottom off their laundry basket and hung it on a nail embedded in the concrete block of their apartment building.
Dante’s Christmas that year included a new freestanding basketball hoop, several new balls, and the beginning of a new life.
Eugenia was a mother of four and grandmother of eight. Due to the effects of drug use and bad choices, two of her children were imprisoned and one had died of a drug overdose in her 20s. Eugenia had to abruptly take custody of her eight grandchildren who ranged in age from three months to 12 years of age. She lived close to The Salvation Army in San Diego, California, and heard about the Christmas Basket Program from her neighbors. After applying for help, Eugenia assisted the officers as a translator and became an avid volunteer as she helped others to fill out the forms in Spanish and to get information out to those in her neighborhood who were in need.
That year Eugenia, and several of her older grandchildren, worked to make the season more enjoyable for hundreds of other families in their community, and in doing so, discovered the real reason for the season.
It may have started at Christmas, but the stories of Dante and Eugenia did not end when the season’s decorations were put away. The caring of The Salvation Army touched both Dante and Eugenia, and they seized the opportunities the Army offered them. Dante went on to attend summer camp a few months later, began to attend youth programs at the corps, and found the love of God for himself at the altar during a children’s worship program. Eugenia faithfully brought her grandchildren to programs at the corps several days a week. Over time, they came to know the Lord as their personal Savior and became soldiers in The Salvation Army. All of the kids have continued with their education and are active as volunteers in their community.
These families are but two examples of the thousands every year to who turn to The Salvation Army for holiday assistance, but find instead the lasting joy that comes from a life that is lived to the fullest. Dante and Eugenia did not simply receive the gifts that were given to them—they embraced them! They accepted the opportunity to make changes and they continued to grow and allowed their lives to blossom with a brighter future.
Romans 12:1 outlines the simple change that can happen to all who are willing to listen:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it …God will bring out the best in you.” (The Message)
Don’t let this Christmas pass you by as you watch the season from the sidelines. Step in, get involved, and welcome the possibilities for change that God weaves into the celebrations of his holy season. Don’t let any opportunity pass you by. Enter into the joy of the season and expect God to make a lasting change in your life. Christmas will not be complete until all who hear embrace the life-changing message of God.
Merry Christmas to you and to all who will benefit from the ministry of The Salvation Army. Enjoy the beauty of the season and…expect change!