Sharper focus ‘A tale of two believers’

By Erin Wikle, Soldier

I met for lunch with a student, soon to be a graduate, at the university where I work. Hannah was a student worker in my office and over the past few months, I’d taken quite a liking to her.

As we sat chatting over chips and salsa at an artsy little Mexican spot near the campus, our conversation took an interesting turn. From grades to graduation, overbearing mothers (hers, not mine) to “boys,” we soon found ourselves talking about something the South is no stranger to: church.

Hannah spoke of being raised in a family of all adopted siblings. She didn’t know her birth father and never had an adopted father. Instead, Hannah’s adopted “white” mom raised her alongside three younger African-American sisters, each bearing a different birth mother, and all adopted by her “white” mom.

When I asked about her previous church experiences, she said they never went to church. Instead, they grew up attending small, weekly Bible studies. They’d study the Word together. They’d select hymns and worship together. They’d break bread together. And then they’d go home. Nothing wrong with that. But as Hannah shared her desire to find a “church home,” and how her mom berated her when she mentioned visiting a nearby Church of Christ, I sensed a need for something more. The deep cried out to the deep.

After lunch I grabbed a magazine from a stack near the door—one of those free publications the city issues each month to stir your interest in all the local happenings. This one promised: Nashville News, Business, Politics, Opinions and Sports.

I turned to the first page and was shocked at what I saw. Poised heroically against the backdrop of a rough Nashville neighborhood stood a man wearing a white dress shirt with blue epaulets, proudly hoisting a brightly colored flag.

I recognized him—Sergeant Steve Simms, corps officer of The Salvation Army’s Berry Street Corps. The short article boasted of Simms’ daily neighborhood prayer walks. ’Mid prostitutes, drug dealers, and the poor, this mighty man of God marches through the streets, bearing The Salvation Army flag and proclaiming the cross! His witness of blood and fire (redemption and cleansing) in his community has made an impact on the kingdom of God. The deep cried out to the deep.

Hannah, an exemplary student, gifted classical pianist, rule follower and hard worker—still working out her faith, still asking questions, and still deciding if “contemporary praise and worship” is of the devil or not.

Sergeant Steve Simms, a man I don’t know as well, but who expresses “abandonment” for Christ and for the sake of others—a man of more seasoned faith, still fighting for souls, still serving suffering humanity, still proudly waving the Army’s banner with both pride and humility.

Both the dichotomy and irony of our faith as soldiers is this:

1) In our humility, with our desire, and in our earnest, God honors even our impure intentions and gives us the grace to know him more. Even with the purest of intent, we have been and remain a people consumed with church, religion, habit, discipline and doctrine. While often detrimental to our faith, these can be the very tenets that spur us on to question, wonderment and faith-inducing experiences.

2) When we grow to a place of constant communion with Christ, our intentions are clarified, and we can then grow in esteem of our Army, its mission and vision, and take pride in its origin—because it is then that we truly understand what it is to love Christ and to love the lost.


Hannah is who she is and does what she does because she was never told anything else, nor has she experienced anything else. I’m praying she encounters Christ. Steve Simms is who he is because Christ got a hold of him—and now he happens to be one of the most successful church planters Nashville’s Army knows.

Which tale will you live to tell of yourself? Will you be most known for your faithful Sunday morning attendance or your long-standing role as corps sergeant-major? Or will you be known as the soldier who placed Christ before corps cadets, who asked questions and allowed the deep to cry out to the deep. Will you be his soldier? Abandoned to him? I pray it is so.

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