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Focus – Sandwiches in the rain

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by Amanda Reardon, Captain – 

The Salvation Army has declared 2005 “A Year for Children and Youth.” Being in the youth department, I’ve been quite excited about this. Preparations are being made all over the territory to bolster existing programs and create new ones. We’re going to cast a collective eye on the young people to ascertain their needs and extend a collective ear to give them a voice.

Visions of campers, Sunbeams, corps cadets, and junior bandsmen have been dancing ’round my head. But I was recently sobered by a more alarming vision.

I went to Vancouver, B.C. for about a week to experience the War College and the Vancouver 614 Corps (a cell-based corps). These ministries, which are entwined, are located in Vancouver’s “Downtown Eastside” (DTSE). DTSE has, effectively, been cordoned off as dwelling place for crack addicts and prostitutes. Walking down the streets I stepped on discarded needles used for shooting drugs. I watched a man snort a line of cocaine in broad daylight, in the open alley. It’s rough there. There’s an abundance of sin and a famine of hope.

One night I went out with Jen, a member of the corps who was formerly a sex worker, to distribute sandwiches to prostitutes. We didn’t have a vehicle; we just walked up to the ladies strolling the streets and asked if they were hungry. It was raining and we didn’t have umbrellas. Jen believes that it is important to conduct her food ministry in this weather, because “Jesus would be out here in the rain.” I was quite cold in my sopping wet jeans, but probably warmer than the girls in their miniskirts. Jen knew most of the girls and chatted briefly and lovingly with them. As for me, I mostly just fought back the tears. I didn’t know what was sadder: the older, lonely women who had done this for many years or the young, fresh-faced girls who were still trying not to be terrified.

We drew near a tiny frame whose back was to us. “Wait until you see her face,” Jen said. “She looks like she’s about 12-years-old.” The girl turned toward us, and Jen was right. She was nothing but a child. She stood in the steady rain dressed in a tank top and pajama pants. She was barefoot. On her face was a completely vacant, drug-induced stare. Her nose was running. Jen said to her, “Where are your shoes, hon?” The girl looked our way and I felt she was vaguely aware of our presence. Suddenly, wordlessly, she bolted down the street. She seemed like a frightening apparition, something I once saw in a weird movie.

But she wasn’t an apparition—she was a girl. A very young and very lost girl.

“Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry,” I told myself. We still had more sandwiches to distribute, and it wouldn’t do to have tears streaming down my face. When we were done, we returned to the small room where Jen lives, with the tiny kitchen area where she makes her sandwiches. As we debriefed, I continued to fight back my tears. It’s been less than a year since Jen herself was on the streets, and I felt that if I were to cry over what I’d just seen, it might somehow demean her. Finally, my friend Danielle came to pick me up and as I told her about what I’d seen, I wept freely.

Now, the Year for Children and Youth has taken on a larger meaning for me. I’d been focusing on discipleship, mentoring, and even celebration. True, I had also contemplated the need for sharing the gospel more readily and effectively with children. But I had forgotten how very lost some children are. This year calls us to hard work: Stand at a peaceful protest against abortion. Become a foster parent. Adopt. Sponsor a child in a developing nation. Give significant time to your corps’s tutoring program. Coax a young girl in from the streets; let her stay at your house.

Do you think that’s impossible? Do you think that’s too much to ask? There are warriors out there doing that type of thing all the time. Please, let’s stop sitting back saying “Tisk, tisk, what a sad situation for young people today.” Let’s engage ourselves in their lives. Do something big. Change the world.

It’s not just a new year; it’s a new world. Evil doesn’t lurk in corners anymore, it dances in the streets. We can’t sit back like we used to. Wake up, soldiers, and join the war. (And if you see me slacking off, feel free to sound the battle cry into my ear.)

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2005 – A Year for Children and Youth

2005 – A Year for Children and Youth

by Donald Bell, Lt

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On abdication of responsibility

On abdication of responsibility

by Terry Camsey, Major –  Well…did you make any resolutions this year?

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