FOCUS – You never know whose life you might be touching
by Amy Reardon, Captain –
I’ve always envied missionaries. Whether they are overseas missionaries in a developing country or urban missionaries in some dirty corner of a metropolis, they must possess a sense of purpose that isn’t always easy to come by when you live in middle-class America. They cannot avoid strapping on their battle gear every day; they can lay their heads on their pillows at night, gratified to know that they turned their backs on the comforts of home to work for the kingdom.
Today, Captain Mark Gilden, who serves (with his wife Vicki) at the edge of the jungle in the South American country of Belize, sent me an e-mail delineating some of the problems and irritations they face every day. It read like Paul’s list in II Corinthians 11: 24 – 28 (though not quite as severe). And yet, Mark added these telling words:
“I do feel fulfilled and am at peace here…We’ve been blessed beyond description. We now understand what it means to be in need, but we aren’t starving…Through it all, we haven’t cried foul, we’ve drawn closer to the Lord and not only survived in his strength but are thriving in his strength.”
The payoff outweighs the sacrifice.
But many of us, though we have our ears to the heavens, waiting to be told to go to “Samaria and the ends of the earth,” are expected by God to stay here in “Jerusalem” (Acts 1:8). Our mission is our own front yard. And frankly, that can be a little disappointing sometimes. We miss out on the thrill of leaving home for lands or cities unknown…the romance of it…the opportunity to cling to Christ only, because there is nothing else to which we might cling. And we are more likely to wonder if the things we attempt to do for the Lord really matter.
A few days ago I was at my son David’s end-of-season baseball party. I was sitting next to one of the dads, who suddenly turned to me and said, “I wanted to congratulate you on being part of The Salvation Army.” He went on to explain that he had once been given a new start through the Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in Seattle. He was a veteran who had fought in the Gulf War in the 1980s. Upon returning from war, he suffered that kind of mental anguish that only another war veteran can truly understand, and began to anesthetize himself with alcohol. He fixed his eyes on me and said, “You know, with you being in The Salvation Army, you never know whose life you might be touching.” He clearly wanted to impress this point upon me. He was intent that I should understand his gratitude toward the Army, and he seemed to want me to know that I, too, might be reaching someone with equal force. I was quite moved by his words, and the powerful emotions behind them.
I reflected on that conversation for the next few days. Then I remembered an encounter a few weeks ago with a woman at my local grocery store. I had run into the store to pick up a few things, wearing full uniform. An employee behind a desk lowered her phone from her ear and called out, “Excuse me, Salvation Army?” I thought perhaps the store had a donation to give to the Army, and I was going to save her that phone call. I soon learned, however, that she was on the phone with her mother, discussing a grave family problem. Her brother had once gone through the ARC program, but had just turned back to alcohol. Their main concern was for his live-in girlfriend, whom he’d recently begun beating. When she saw me pass by in my uniform, she remembered that there was someone who could help. She cried as I described the programs we offered and gave her a number to call. She said it was fate; I said it was God.
Any Salvationist can recount stories such as these. It ought to give us pause; God needs agents in the worst segments of the hardest cities. And he needs agents in the jungles of Belize. But, I guess he also needs people who once in a while walk through the Fred Meyer grocery store in uniform. What I mean is—you and I must be a reflection of our Savior wherever he places us.
There’s nothing too exotic about Shoreline, Washington (where I live). But there are lost souls there. There are people who need me. Reader, whether you be far flung from home or ten miles from the place you were born, there are people who need you. To be more specific, they need Christ; and they need you to deliver him to them.
You never know whose life you might be touching. So live well. Live purposefully.
Contact Capt. Reardon at: firstname.lastname@example.org