One Soul Without the Light of God
by Colonel Bill D. Luttrell –
“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight–I’ll fight to the very end.”
General William Booth
What a commentary on society and the world in general. One would think that in the time frame of 130 plus years, we would have won the battle and our fighting would be over. Booth was wise in his 1912 comments, however. Just in case we succeeded in “wiping away all the tears, feeding all the hungry, eliminating completely the need for prisons, sobering up the drunkard, rescuing the lost girls–just in case, he committed our efforts and focused on the need for Christ in the life of any one soul without the light of God. His was a God-inspired, God-given vision to go for souls, and go for the worst. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Glory! What was this man thinking? This is a lifetime challenge, never-ending. I mean, we have other things to do! Give us a break! The Salvation Army is now a reputable charitable organization. The Journal of Philanthropy claims we’re number one! Peter Drucker, the expert in management, is quoted in Forbes magazine as saying that The Salvation Army “…is the most effective nonprofit organization in the social sector of the United States.” Would to God someone would say, “The Salvation Army is the most effective soul-saving organization in the United States.” But perhaps, then, would we be the number one charitable organization in the United States?
My personal struggle in dealing with these two areas of our ministry (note: I believe they are both areas of “ministry”) is based on my experience of a recent Sunday. Gwen and I “specialed” at the Los Angeles Lighthouse Corps. This is a new corps, opening within the past few years, ministering to individuals in recovery from substance abuse and related social ills. The Lighthouse is affiliated with the Harbor Light in the “skid row” area of downtown Los Angeles. The corps officers are Captains Bret and Lorena Strickland. This corps is a replica of Booth’s world in 1912. In the midst of the “fight” with weeping, hungry, imprisoned, drunkards, lost girls, and “one dark soul…” the battle is a fierce one. Countless numbers of individuals die on the streets of L.A. every day. What number are dying in sin? Only God knows.
The Lighthouse Sunday morning meeting was filled to overflowing with Harbor Light residents, families from the neighborhood, and lost souls from the streets. Lively music and testimonies prevailed. Eleven recruits were enrolled as soldiers (nine in full uniform). There was singing, rejoicing, and thanking God for his grace and goodness. Following the message, there wasn’t room for all the seekers to kneel. Tears of joy and blessing flowed as souls were snatched from Hell itself, and God was glorified.
The “fight” did not conclude there. On to the “battlefield” at 5th and Julian. The six-block walk was a frightening, sickening, burdensome journey. All of Booth’s people were there–the “weepers, hungry, drunkards, prisoners, girls…” and, oh yes, the “one without the light of God…” Oh, there’s another and another–there must be literally hundreds on the street, sitting, lying, standing, dancing…so lost!
The “open air” was power-based–“wonder-working power!” The old brass band of Hollywood and Vine days was replaced by the amplified praise band. The sophisticated Salvationist was replaced by the recent convert, testifying to the change God has made in her life. “…I was a prostitute–many of you out there know me–but I’ve been changed by the power of God in my life.” What a dynamic witness!
The corps soldiery “managed” the crowd, controlling the trouble-makers, responding to inquiries for help, providing direction to resources, and telling them about Jesus’ love! Who would listen? Who would hear? Who could penetrate the drug-induced stupor! Only the mighty power of the Holy Spirit could intervene to reach those hearts and do his work!
Yes, Booth would have been amazed that seemingly so little has been accomplished in the past century–but his message would be the same, “…while women weep…I’ll fight…!”
The walk back to the corps was much more contemplative. The people seemed to be more animated by then, and restless, the “fight” more intense.
Later that evening, in the security of our own quarters, we discussed our mission and ministry, not only on the Hell-pounded streets of L.A. but in Pasadena, Havre, Majuro, Klawock, the ARC–in every place where that “one dark soul” remains.
Reflecting on our experience of the day, we wept together–because of our own inadequacies…for the tremendous burdens carried by the corps officers…
because of the power the Devil would use against these 11 new soldiers…for the overwhelming presence of need…for the “…one dark soul without the light of God…!” But our hearts also rejoiced at the wonder-working power of God and the countless opportunities that the Army still has in a world lost, were it not for the presence of God through his people.
Yes, the “fight” involves the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of people, however and wherever they may be represented. We must keep the focus clear–on Jesus Christ himself. The goal of that “one” must not be abandoned.
“In the fight, say, does your heart grow weary?
…Though the war at times may prove distressing,
Never mind, go on…go on to Victory.”