By Major Chick Yuill –
When I was just a kid back in Scotland we used to sing songs and choruses like,
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world;
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in his sight;
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
It was a nice tune and easy to sing in a sentimental way since all those little children lived in faraway places and I only ever saw them smiling at me from pictures in the pages of missionary stories.
I knew that Jesus loved boys and girls from all over the world, but all I had to do was try to get along with a bunch of Scottish kids who looked and sounded the same as me.
How times change! Now I live in Southern California, the meeting point and the melting pot for every race and culture on the face of the globe. Of course, nobody needs to tell me that this situation brings its own challenges. Racial tensions do exist. The Rodney King incident, the subsequent riots, and the O.J. Simpson trial all witness to that fact. But that is not the true picture of life in Los Angeles, especially within the Christian church.
Let me tell you about Pasadena Tabernacle, the congregation I am privileged to pastor and a place that is dear to my heart. Just this week 22 people have completed their course in Salvation Army soldiership. The weekly classes demand a minimum time commitment of three months and involve the careful study of doctrines–the things a Salvationist believes–and principles–the way he or she is expected to behave.
Of those 22 people, 13 are Caucasian, four are African-American, three are Latino, one is Japanese, and one is Syrian.
The routes by which they have come to the Tab are as varied as their nationalities. Some have been attending for a number of years; some have returned to the Army after lengthy absences; some “just walked in,” wondering what kind of church they would find; two have been attracted initially with what you might describe as a romantic interest; one has been an advisory board member for a quarter of a century; one first came to us as a Christmas volunteer; one attended a Thanksgiving dinner at the corps; one first met us when we conducted his wife’s funeral; and one lives in our Silvercrest facility for the elderly.
Not only do they come from different races and by different routes. Their ages range from 17 to 70 plus; their occupations include lawyer, police officer, restaurant manager, teacher, nurse, ombudsman, optometrist, secretary, homemaker and student; and, as as as you probably suspected, they represent both sexes–nine men and 13 women.
What a mixture and what a miracle! This is Pasadena Tabernacle Corps. This is the Body of Christ. This is the Christian church at 960 East Walnut Street. This is the company of the redeemed. This is the world on our doorstep. This is a foretaste here and now of John’s great vision of eternity in which he saw and heard the people of God, diverse in ethnicity but united in fellowship through the one who was crucified and is now crowned King and Lord:
They sang a new song…
You were killed and by our sacrificial death you bought for God
people from every tribe, language, nation and race.
You have made them a Kingdom of priests to serve our God,
and they shall rule on earth.
Who would want to trade this diversity for dull sameness? Who would want to swap this unity for destructive division? America would be empty if we followed the advice of those sad and prejudiced individuals who suggest that we ought to send people “back to where they came from”! Thank God for his limitless grace to all mankind and praise him for Southern California and Pasadena Tabernacle, where the evidence of that saving and unifying grace is so clearly and beautifully demonstrated.