from theDesk of…
by Dave Hudson, Lt. Colonel –
Faithfulness is a word that seemingly is not used much anymore. It is understandable given that our modern society is often described as a disposable one. We like the simple and easy way, including disposable plates, razors, phones and marriages.
Wait a minute—did you say marriages? Why not? Statistics show that only 50 percent of marriages in the United States last longer than five years. Marriage takes commitment, which is not popular today. The term “commitmentphobia” has been coined for those who avoid long-term commitment.
Commitment avoidance has an effect on the Church. While attendance on Sunday morning continues to be fairly high, memberships have dropped significantly in recent years. People are interested in committing until it is no longer convenient, and then will move on to the next opportune thing. The consequence is that faithfulness is no longer a trait to be sought after, but rather a term with little modern day meaning.
When a person becomes a Salvation Army officer he or she must sign a Covenant. At one point it states, “I will live to win souls, and I will not allow anything to turn me aside from seeking their salvation as the first great purpose of my life.” Those are powerful, life-committing words, certainly something that runs contra-culture in our disposable world.
This past year as Secretary for Personnel I have had the joy of walking alongside some officers who take the covenant they signed very seriously, including Major Sheila Bradley, Captain Steve Sutter, Captain Tom Fenton and Major Leticia Saunders. These brothers and sisters faced challenges that most of us cannot imagine. Three of these fine people are now with the Lord; Tom fights on. While their individual stories differ, they share one common attribute—their utter resolve not to quit.
I had the honor to be with Sheila Bradley on the day that she went through her final procedure. A few of us gathered at her bedside to talk and pray with her right before she was taken into the operating room. It was far from a peaceful moment; the hospital transportation team was hustling frantically around her bed. One of the nurses, frustrated at her coworkers shouted, “JESUS CHRIST.” Sheila looked up at her, called her by name, and said in a very calm voice, “He is our best friend.” The nurse looked over to her and asked, “What was that?” Sheila, surrounded with tubes, cords and monitors, replied in a calm assured tone, “Jesus Christ is our best friend.” The nurse pondered for a moment and said, “I guess we all need a best friend.”
Sheila’s last sentences were to glorify God and share with others her simple life-faith in Jesus. In doing so, she lived her life-covenant to make the salvation of souls the first great purpose of her life to the very end.
I see the same determination in Tom. While challenges of life confront him on a daily basis, he fights on in the ways he is able. He writes letters and makes phone calls of encouragement. He manages the corps finances and prepares statistics from home. He has become a mighty prayer warrior. Tom fights on.
I could share similar stories of Leticia Saunders preparing the Christmas youth pageant from her hospital bed, or Steve Sutter working alongside the men at the Adult Rehabilitation Center until he could no longer go on.
I still feel a tingle of emotion whenever I hear William Booth’s “I’ll fight speech.” Yes, Booth fought to the very end, but so did Sheila, Leticia, and Steve. And, while this serves as both an example and inspiration for us, that is not the reason they chose to do so. They were faithful, because the One who chose them is faithful.
If you were to ask Sheila, Tom, Steve and Leticia how you could honor them and express your appreciation for their example, I think their response would be a simple one: you BE FAITHFUL too.