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from the desk of…A number worth remembering

By  Edward Hill, Lt. Colonel

Since early summer, I have served at Western Territorial Headquarters as territorial secretary for program under the inspired and capable leadership of Commissioners James and Carolyn Knaggs.

The program section is large, with 11 different departments: music, social services, youth, program services, spiritual life development, missions and overseas child sponsorship, corps ministries, multi-cultural ministries, multi-media, Kroc Centers and statistics.

While some might shudder at the thought, one department that stokes my interest most keenly is the last one—statistics! My abiding interest in all things numerical, I expect, goes back to my childhood obsession with baseball. I am able to recite confidently from memory that Babe Ruth’s career batting average was .342; Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games; Joe DiMaggio safety hit in 56 straight games in 1941; and Roger Maris hit 61 home runs during the 1961 season. At the same time, I humbly confess that I struggle every morning to recall where I placed my wallet and car keys, and more than occasionally need help remembering the birthdates of my children.  However, I will take to my grave the names and positions of the starting lineup of the 1972 Cincinnati Reds.

We have statistics in the program section for just about every imaginable category. Most point out a lot of great trends in the Western Territory. Since October 2011, for example, our statistical reports indicate that no less than 50 corps and adult rehabilitation centers (ARCs) averaged more than 100 people each week in holiness meeting attendance; 10 corps and outposts provided social services to over 1,000 people per week; and another 10 corps and ARCs averaged 10 or more seekers per week.

These are impressive numbers indeed, but we must never forget what each number in every statistical category represents—a single individual, loved by God, in need of his amazing grace.

A few years ago I prayed with a man named John at the altar. He openly shared that years of drug and alcohol abuse had contributed to squandering away his family, vocation, freedom and dignity. In that sacred moment at the altar, however, John realized that God was willing to give him a second chance in life. He had found new life and worth in Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7 NIV). In The Salvation Army, we ought to have a big interest in keeping track of big numbers, like the 99 righteous folk, but it is clear that the Lord is most interested in reaching out to individuals like John who need to be included in his protective care.

Statistics are more than numbers; they represent people being saved, sanctified and served through the all-encompassing response of the Army to a world in need. Among a vast sea of statistics, let’s celebrate the high calling we have to reach the millions who are lost one life at a time.

One—that truly is a number worth remembering and celebrating.

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