Gateway to the Son
After meeting The Salvation Army one young man’s life comes full circle.
by Heidi Bailey –
Majors Brad and Heidi Bailey are the leaders of the Spain Command.
It was a typical Friday night in Madrid, as nine volunteers gathered at the Madrid Central Corps to prepare soup and sandwiches, pray together, and then with loaded backpacks, walk to the underground metro, and head for downtown Madrid. A few minutes later, the Salvation Army officer and her eight volunteers arrived at the metro stop “Puerta del Sol” (“Gateway to the Sun”), and systematically walked into the night in three distinct directions.
The first group arrived in an area crowded with prostitution and homosexual activity, while the next group continued on to a plaza to minister to alcoholics and drug addicts. The third group soon arrived at their destination—under a bridge, where Spaniards, Africans and South Americans alike drink together, sleep together and fight unemployment and depression together. It is here that David, one of the Salvation Army volunteers, relives his story, each time he goes out with the Friday night street ministry team from Madrid Central Corps.
Due to the dire economic situation in his country, David left Ecuador five years ago, hoping to find new opportunities in Spain. Instead, The Salvation Army street ministry workers found him buried in drink and depression one Friday night, under the same bridge where he now stands.
He recalled how the officer approached him that night, with not only hot soup, but a comforting word as well. But this warm and compassionate gesture was quickly drowned out by a sense of shame, as he recognized that the young woman officer was also from his beloved homeland. Overcoming his embarrassment, he accepted the officer’s sincere invitation to go to The Salvation Army Madrid Central Corps the next day, where he experienced his first hot shower in months, and a clean change of clothes.
The following Sunday, David found himself in the Sunday service, and he never left again! When David’s old street friends see him now, they are intrigued by the miraculous changes in his life and question him. He passionately tells them that hard work and the grace of God working through a small group of volunteers committed to a weekly street ministry have turned his life around. Within a month of meeting the Army and giving his life to the Lord, David became a part of that same Friday night street ministry team.
“My life has come full circle,” David explained. “I once received clothes from the clothes room, now I give clothes to others. I once took showers here at the Central Corps, but now I supervise that ministry for others. I once lived under this bridge, dependent on others, but now I minister to others living under the bridge, dependent on the Lord. I was offered soup, soap and salvation, and now, I can offer the same to others!”
David admits that he still has difficult times, and has even had some setbacks. But when asked what he would have done without The Salvation Army’s Friday night street ministry, his glance returns to the bridge, and he quickly responds, “I would still be there, under that bridge. But instead, I’m in preparation classes to become a Salvation Army soldier, and with God’s help, I’ll be enrolled on July 4! Will you be there?” he asks me, with hope in his eyes.
The Gateway to the Sun, in downtown Madrid, literally became David’s Gateway to the Son, and as I contemplated yet another one of God’s miracles, I joyfully told David that I wouldn’t miss his soldier enrollment for the world!