World Services: a chance to strengthen our faith

by Ted Horwood, Captain – 

Our territorial Self Denial / World Services appeal usually elicits mixed emotions from officers and soldiers around the territory. Frequently, there is a mad scramble for information that communicates the scope of our work around the world—accompanied by the daunting weight of the impending corps and divisional contributions. But I also sense a genuine realization of the importance of our territory’s annual goal, and I propose it can play a significant role in our own lives.

The Western Territory gives over $7 million annually to the work of the Army overseas, providing support to 19 countries represented by eight territories. In addition, we raised almost $2.2 million for the tsunami relief and recovery program. Although these numbers are enormous, the giving should have some personal relevance also.

During my travels this year to the countries that we support, I’ve been reminded there is a direct relationship between denial and faith—because it is in the denial process that we are able to discern grace more clearly. As I reflect on the Self Denial/World Missions appeal, I’m reminded that increased faith and grace are virtues we all strive for, but in our complex society they can be difficult to manage. Yet it is during this season of our Army year that we may be able to gain some insight.

It is generally agreed that living in a country like the United States affords most of its citizens a high level of affluence. Obviously, affluence is relative and I am using it in comparison with other countries we support with our Self Denial/World Services funds. We live in a very presumptive society that believes things will work and we will remain healthy. Basic elements of life are generally taken for granted: who would question if our houses had electricity, or if we would be able to use it consistently? Likewise, when we turn on a tap, water flows out. And there is little doubt that an emergency call will be answered because fundamental health and welfare issues are presumed in our culture. In reality, we are denied very little and usually have the resources to meet whatever needs we may have. But, it is within this context of meeting our own needs that we can miss the faith and grace that are so crucial in our Christian formation.

I recently visited Captains Mark and Vicki Gilden, who live in a small village in the country of Belize. When I asked Vicki what the last six months have taught her, she replied, “I now have a new understanding of what is means to live by faith. Previously, we could solve our problems and didn’t need to have complete trust in God.

Most things we could sort out ourselves. But today that is not true, and I am so much stronger for it.”

One of the challenges of living in a very efficient and high functioning society is that it facilitates a strong reliance on one’s own initiative. We have options. And the more options we have, the more self-reliant we become. Reflecting on the overseas ministries may help us acknowledge how incredibly blessed we are, and not take our abundance for granted. It can remind us that we, too, must live in greater reliance on the Lord.

Although we have stronger social structures, our lives are still unpredictable, and we all must continue to cling desperately to the providence of God’s grace.

It often takes a trip overseas or an unexpected tragedy to shatter our assumptions and force us to assess where our reliance lies. The very fact that we are not in control can jettison faith, and drive us further towards an awareness that we really do live in a state of grace. A life not reliant on the precarious nature of technology or national structures is a life deeply dependent on God. Our contribution to the global ministry of the Army is enormous—but if we only see the Self Denial/World Services campaign as an obligation, rather than an opportunity to assess God’s provision and grace, we may be missing the biggest contribution the annual appeal can have: a chance to strengthen our own faith.

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