Get committed and get connected
by Robert Docter –
Stretched too thin—that’s the message that comes across time after time in country after country as New Frontier reports on Salvation Army life in a territory that must depend on outside resources for its existence—in this issue, Latin America North. In this and other areas around the world like it, our Army survives due to the sacrificial commitments made by outstanding people walking in the pathway of Abraham—ready to sacrifice his own son.
These people have defined “neighbor” as “the world.” They’re committed and connected. Are you?
Stretched too thin might relate to the gaunt look of some corps officers’ children whose parents haven’t received any salary for several months—whose “quarters” often comprise one room—whose living conditions are inferior to the poor to whom they minister.
This fact denies the Catherine Booth edict that officers should be provided income and quarters commensurate with the general population they serve.
“Thin” also describes the dimensions of that blue line of officers serving humanity around the world. There aren’t enough of them. Many corps in these territories are staffed by lay ministers—sergeant-majors. I’ve got nothing against sergeant-majors running corps, but supposedly training college contributes some information and skill. Maybe the resignation rate parallels the salary, I don’t know. The development and actualization of plans encouraging lay participation in short-term missions is a highly positive step.
I believe every officer, upon being accepted to officership anywhere in the world, should sign an agreement to accept at least a three-year appointment to the mission field in one of these externally supported countries sometime during his or her career. Upon return, these officers would have much to say about missionary giving. If this were to become a reality, cross-cultural education would need to be enhanced greatly. With most of us having very little insight into our own contemporary culture, how can we expect people to gain necessary cultural sensitivity in relation to a different culture?
Any American Salvationists who visit these desperate areas of Army service leave feeling embarrassed about the opulence of life in America. Their missionary giving inevitably increases when they return. Usually, they manipulate the system sufficiently to provide additional support to a specific location—a good idea.
What to do?
Let’s recognize that we’re slowly getting on the right track in dealing with a number of these problems. I’m pleased that there is commitment to selection, training and appointing of indigenous personnel both to corps and command positions. This makes it possible for levels of trust to develop that ex-patriots might find more difficult to generate.
I’m pleased that IHQ recognizes personal giving will grow dramatically as individuals are asked to give to a specific location, officer, or program. This is most evident in the Child Sponsorship programs that support specific children in Army children’s homes. Sponsors know that individually identified children depend on their monthly contribution.
Specific giving is equally visible in the international adoption of the “Partners in Mission” program that pioneered in the West as “Heart Connection.” This assigns particular divisions as partners with territories needing outside support. I am hopeful that each soldier will learn the names and cities with whom his corps might partner—that someone from that corps will visit that territory during the course of a year—that a team of skilled “helpers” might go for a few weeks or so to assist with some project—and that the soldiery will pray both individually and corporately for specific individuals in that territory.
We’ve got to give more to World Service. While our annual giving totals have increased, soldier giving in the West has decreased. Do you think this is acceptable? I don’t!