by Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock –
I am one of millions around the world whose eyes are glued to the screen for the Olympic Games. I have always wanted, but never had the opportunity, to be present at an actual Olympic Games event. So, you will understand my interest when it became obvious I could attend the opening ceremonies of the Kingdom Games.
Betcha never heard of the Kingdom Games. Their objective is to foster mutual understanding and participation in sports between the youth of the Netherlands
Antilles, Aruba and Holland. This is what Carolyn and I discovered as we visited our service corps team in the Caribbean island of St. Martin (Sint Maarten, N.A.) last month. This 36-square mile island, population 60,000, is actually two countries with three currencies and at least three languages. Half the island is French, the other half Dutch. The U.S. dollar, the French franc, and the Dutch gilder are all acceptable currency. Dutch, English, French (Parisian and Creole) are spoken.
Prince Willem Alexander of Holland officially opened the Kingdom Games, consisting of more than 1000 athletes, ages 16-24, competing in football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, table tennis, softball and track and field events. My favorite team was the Dutch basketball team, comprised mostly of seven footers.
The Kingdom Games set me thinking about the special teams we field each summer for our own version of Kindgom Games. Our service corps teams travel around the world to seek victory for God’s kingdom and encounter some giant adversaries in doing so. This summer, the Western Territory sent teams to Germany, Guam and the Marshall Islands, Russia and St. Martin. These service corps teams are made up of our finest young Salvationists 18-26, and we can be justly proud of how these 26 young ambassadors represented us. Not only do they represent us well, but they work hard in some challenging situations. Take time to ask returning service corps team members about their experiences, observations, and what it meant to them.
Here are some of the opportunities and challenges the team faced in St. Martin. This idyllic island is wrestling with many difficulties. Their local newspapers report their economy is in a deep valley, their government is having to institute austerity measures, and lawlessness is increasing. Immigrants to the island are not able to obtain school for their children and must bargain for wages since there is no minimum wage. While years ago the island might have been isolated, CNN and cable vision bring the standards and values of the world into their homes.
The Army in St. Martin is eight months young. Yet, on the one Sunday we attended meetings more than 80 Salvationists were in attendance, more than two thirds in crisp white uniforms. The officers, Lieutenants Vilece and Joan Thomas, are energetic, spiritually focused, Christ centered and have a heart and a vision for the people of this island. They are working with limited resources, meeting in a rented facility which they have already outgrown, and in need of our prayers and tangible support. Their newly formed advisory board is extremely helpful in dozens of instances. At the moment, the officers and advisory board members deplore the lack of music training available in the schools, are highly interested in the Army’s music program, and hopeful that unused instruments sitting in closets might be sent to them.
Our service corps team conducted two weeks of vacation Bible school with an average daily attendance of 80 children. At the graduation, attended by parents, over 200 were in attendance. The team did visitation, appeared on television, and interacted with advisory board members, all of which contributed to raising the visibility of the Army. Their final contribution was to organize an Army-sponsored community seminar focused on youth related issues, involving community leaders. Team members worried that they had not done enough, but we witnessed that they had won their way into the hearts of the people of St. Martin and the reverse was also true.
So, to Fulton Hawk, leading his first service corps team, to Ken Diep, the historian and bookkeeper for the team, to Joy Raven and Patrice Keith–two beautiful, warm, intelligent, Christian young ladies–this column is dedicated to you and the other service corps team members of this summer of ’99. You encountered giants, won spiritual victories, demonstrated you understand how to actualize the prayer “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and grew significantly this summer.