Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Did You Know: The Salvation Army Brings Families Back Together

The Salvation Army is an international organization, operating in more than 125 countries around the world. One of its little-known ministries is the Missing Persons Bureau. The Eastern Territory-USA, of which the State of New Jersey is a part, has its Missing Persons Bureau at our Territorial Headquarters in West Nyack, NY. The latest statistics (for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012) show that 137 applications were received. Each case was opened and 113 persons were found.

Can you just imagine the joy of those reunited families? Because of our unique internationalism, family members have connected with each other all over the world through modern technology. Let me tell you one story.

Mary Jane Shaw is a retired officer who lives in Ocean Grove and worships at the Asbury Park Corps of The Salvation Army, just as I do. As an active Officer, she was Director of Missing Persons for 16 years. While she was Sirector, an inquiry came from Sweden. A recent widow went to The Salvation Army’s Missing Persons Bureau in Stockholm to ask about a brother living in the United States. She had had no contact with him for more than forty years.


This brother, Eskil Strom, was born in America to Swedish immigrant parents. When he was just a child, the family returned to Sweden. Eskil and his next younger brother were born in America, but two more brothers and the only sister were born after the family returned to Sweden.  Eskil was raised and educated in Sweden. Then, at age 25, Eskil decided to travel to the land of his birth for a visit. He fell in love with the country and never returned to Sweden. Through the years, contacts diminished and eventually all contact was lost.  Now, recently bereaved of her husband, his only sister went searching for Eskil. She had an old letter, and through the return address and the work of the Missing Persons bureaus in Sweden and New York, Eskil was found, living in a small nursing home in Brooklyn Heights, NY.  Major Mary Jane Shaw visited this aging gentleman and told him of his relatives seeking contact with him. The invitation was given: "Would you like to go to Sweden?"

At first, this perfect gentleman declined the offer, fearing the unknown and the long-distance travel, but the Major continued to visit him. This sister wanted to offer a home for Eskil. Finally, when Major Shaw promised to travel with him, Eskil agreed to the trip.

A new suit was purchased for him and a new hat, too. Major Shaw recalls that she knew if the hat fit her, it would fit him as well. With the airline tickets provided by the Swedish relatives, the pair took off - this was Eskil's very first airplane trip – all the way across the Atlantic at that. 

When this unlikely pair, a Salvation Army Major and an aging gentleman, arrived at Stockholm airport, a large crowd awaited them. All of Eskil’s siblings, The Salvation Army Major-Director of the local Missing Persons Bureau and representatives from the Stockholm newspapers, who had heard of this fascinating reunion. They exited the plane with Eskil holding tight to the Major’s hand. Major Shaw remembers that she felt like arriving royalty as they presented her with flowers and grasped her hand and said, "We will never forget The Salvation Army for what you have done for us." Eskil lived several years with his sister until his death. He never regretted "coming home" and living out his remaining years as part of a loving family.

The Missing Persons Bureau of The Salvation Army is a unique international social service.  Its purpose is to help facilitate successful reunions between family members who have lost contact with each other. Searches are conducted utilizing a variety of methods, including government offices, credit institutions, social service agencies and law-enforcement personnel. Should you be interested in this service, please contact your local Salvation Army offices.


Written by Gloria Hohn
Asbury Park Corps

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Walking Dead

OMGoodness!!!

The Walking Dead keeps me on edge week to week. Every week, the final 10-12 minutes draw me in as I try to prepare myself for the outcomes. Will Rick become the old Rick? Will Glen's love for Maggie be his downfall? The answers unfold partially before my eyes, and I'm drawn back to the screen next week for those that remain unanswered.

Then there are the Walkers. They are the shadow of human life. Dazed and living life as an instinctual monster. It's a shame really. When you look at them, they have faces because they were people once. Now, they only exist to satisfy their own sick desires. They go from want to want. Left foot then right foot. They drag their lifeless bodies from place to place until eventually they are destroyed.

Luckily, we are not in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, but we have the walking dead around us. Everyday, there are men, women and children who wake up miserable and go to bed feeling even worse. They live broken, hurt and hopeless lives. Living as a poor replica of human life. Dazed and disengaged with the world. When you look into their eyes, you see a human face, often smiling the best smile inner turmoil can buy. They drag themselves from routine to routine until eventually they fade away.


That isn't life, but it's life for so many people.


So many of our brothers, sisters, friends and co workers are subject to this unfulfilling lifestyle. They are the walking dead. They aren't living - they are existing. In the TV show, the dead are destroyed on site in most cases, but the hurt and the suffering these people experience doesn't have to kill them.


It says in Jeremiah 33:6,


"Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security."

God has offered a better solution to the destruction prescribed by the world. He offers healing, prosperity and security. We don't have to broken, poor in spirit or afraid! God loves us all and not from a distance. He isn't a spectator or at ringside. because He is in the fight with us! His offer holds true for anyone that would accept it.


Today, you many know someone who is suffering in a similar fashion. I urge you to offer them this reminder of love so that they may partake in the gifts of God. Perhaps you're reading this, and something resonates within your own spirit. I pray that God is allowed into your heart this moment so that the seeds of life can be planted.


Written by Lt. Darell Houseton
Newark Ironbound Corps

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Has Sprung

The signs of spring are all around me – warming weather (most days), green shoots appearing in the garden, and my beloved New York Yankees are only days away from their 2014 season opener. These signs give me pause to consider the miracle of rebirth that happens so visibly this time of year.

Before moving to New Jersey, I spent several years living in Southern California where I hardly noticed the arrival of spring, as winter in San Diego merely means you don’t get up to 70 degrees. Here, however, winter is evident in the cold days, gloomy skies and inches of snow. So, when I start to see signs of life in the garden, I get impatient for warmer weather and fresh air!

This rebirth of nature also prompts me to consider the rebirth that I have experienced through Christ. I am reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (NLT)


What an incredible promise and transformation; all of my sin and decay has been replaced with new life and righteousness. To me, it is the single most important truth of the Bible, a real, personal relationship with Christ results in a new me!

I am given pause to think about the thousands of people I have encountered in my time with The Salvation Army who have experienced this same rebirth. Whether they are graduates of our Adult Rehabilitation programs, young people who have attended our camps, or volunteers who have packed food boxes, people see Jesus and accept His offer of a new life at the Army. We don’t force it on them; we just live by Biblical principles, and they are drawn to ask why we are different. I think that this is an incredible testimony to the life changing ministry that is and has been since 1865 - The Salvation Army.


Perhaps, today, you are in need of new life. Why not reach out and ask for it? We’re here to guide you to the source. Make this spring be about more than just flowers and baseball; make this spring one of rebirth in your life. When you do, things will never look the same.



Written by Richard Pease
Divisional Controller

Friday, March 21, 2014

City On A Hill

The Christian band Casting Crowns is a popular one in my home. Any song by them is known by heart, but there's one particular song that caught my attention one night during a drive home. It speaks about a city on a hill. A city that was said to have "once shined bright," but because of differences among the people, "they all started turning on each other." The song continues with the following lyrics:

"You see the poets thought the dancers were shallow
And the soldiers thought the poets were weak
And the elders saw the young ones as foolish
And the rich man never heard the poor man speak
But one by one, they ran away
With their made up minds to leave it all behind
And the light began to fade
In the City on the Hill, the City on the Hill"


My mind then went towards the churches. We find these roles from the songs in them. The poets being the members who bring the message, the dancers being the praise members or those whom bring us into worship, the soldiers I saw as the congregation itself, and I’ve seen all age ranges in our Corps in varying economic statuses.


Growing up as a PK (a pastor's kid in the Salvation Army) I have seen this scenario various times. The church increases by the number of members, and one small, close-knit group grows up and somehow along the way becomes divided. Within these separate groups, we judge one another and become prideful in a way to who we are and what group in our church we belong to. We believe that our role in the church is more important than the others. We believe that no one does more for the church than we do, so we leave the church thinking we can do better on our own or in another church, but the light we all burned together fades and is no longer as bright. The fire that was shared amongst the members of the city is lost because they don’t work together and appreciate one another.


"It is the rhythm of the dancers
That gives the poets life
It is the spirit of the poets
That gives the soldiers strength to fight
It is fire of the young ones
It is the wisdom of the old
It is the story of the poor man
That's needing to be told"


All our roles fall in together like a perfect masterpiece, and I thought to myself how beautiful this is. That God makes us "different by design," and that although we are all different, we are all created in the image of God. But the song is very true in its words - "Instead of standing strong together," we allow our "differences" to divide us. And just like the people of the city on the hill, we all need each other in our churches.


We need the poets to give us the word of God in a beautiful way. We need the dancers and the musicians to lead us in worship so that we are able to fight the daily fight and stay strong. We need the youth and their fire to continue the fight and grow a new generation of soldiers. We need the old who were once in our shoes and can tell us about how hard the battle really is. We need them for their wisdom and experience, because they know what we don't, and they prepare us for it. We need the poor to teach us what we have forgotten in our worldly world. We are so easy to forget what is really important in life, and we become so ungrateful and prideful and far from what God wants from us.

We see ourselves as rich or poor by the relationship we have with God, and we judge one another based on our relationships. We forget that we are all the same; we are all far from perfect, and we need the new members and the lost sheep to remind us what we fight for and why we fight for it. We forget that our purpose is to spread the love and word of God, not for our own praise and pride. We forget the words of the poet, the rhythm of the dancers, the strength of the soldiers and the fire of the young. We all run away from God and our churches, leaving the fire behind, but God is looking for us, and he is calling to us, "Come home (to the city on a hill)," and together maintain the burning flame.

Written by Elizabeth Ramirez
Newark Ironbound Corps

Monday, March 10, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Adam Braziel

"I needed something in my life that would make me feel I was making a difference. I enjoy helping people in need. I feel as though that is what I was put here on this earth to do, to help the hungry and make someone sad feel happy. If I can help someone in need every day when I come to the Salvation Army, I feel as I have done my job. This is what the Lord wants me to do with my life. I enjoy doing volunteer work!"

Adam Braziel has been a volunteer at Bridgeton Corps for 7 years. He can be seen at the Drop-In Center, weekly Bread & Soda event, and as a Maintenance Worker. Some of his responsibilities include preparing coffee and distributing donuts to local workers and those in need.

Follow Alex's lead! Apply to become a Salvation Army volunteer at salvationarmynj.org/volunteer

Thursday, March 6, 2014

You're All I Have

One of the little known services of The Salvation Army is our Community Care Ministries. Visits to shut-ins, regular visits and programs at local rehabilitation and long-term care facilities, teaching children how to render compassionate service to the elderly, etc.

I have been a member of the Community Care team at my Corps (Salvation Army church) since my retirement fourteen years ago. Along with another team member, I visit the same nursing home every month. We go just to say hello and distribute our magazine, "The War Cry" and a small gift. We greet, listen, and offer a word of encouragement. When invited to do so, we pray with the resident, asking God to make Himself known as the great burden-bearer and the God of all comfort. Over a period of fourteen years, one can develop a strong attachment and admiration for these residents. I have made many friends.

One of my special friends is Bobbie Morgan*. Bobbie is retired from the military, and a small veteran's pension provides for her stay at the nursing home. When I first met Bobbie a number of years ago, she told me that she was from Alabama (I still have not discovered how she ended up in a nursing home in central New Jersey). My son lives in Alabama, and I am more familiar with that state than most New Jerseyans, and so Bobbie and I began to share stories.


We've talked together, laughed together and prayed together. I've learned of some of the difficulties of military life and some of the loneliness of nursing home living. She has learned more about different towns in the deep South as my son, a United Methodist minister, has moved from church to church over the years. I have visited her on "good days" when she was full of enthusiasm and joy, and I have seen her on "bad days" when pain and physical disabilities seem to sap her joy along with her energy. But she always knows me and greets me with a smile.

Recently, I visited Bobbie on a "bad day." The pain she was experiencing was marked on her face. The supplemental oxygen she was breathing indicated to me that the medical staff also knew it was a "bad day" and were doing all they could to make her comfortable. I visited longer than usual, spoke words of comfort, shared some Scripture and prayed with Bobbie. Glancing at my watch, I realized I had been there far longer than usual, and my co-worker would be looking for me. Smiling at Bobbie, I said: "Oh my, it’s getting late, I have to go now." Grasping my hand tightly, with tears in her eyes, Bobbie replied, "Oh, don’t go yet – You're all I have!"

God gave me a glimpse, at that moment, of the limitless value of our Community Care ministry. For many in that nursing home, I am all they have.

As one enters a room, it is quickly evident that the resident is lucky enough to have family and friends who visit them and care about them. Cards and balloons celebrating birthdays and special occasions, the person who may be visiting as I come, all show that the resident is loved. But there are other rooms, like Bobbie Morgan's, where the only evidence of any visitor is the small gifts that the Salvation Army lady has left behind. These visible objects remind them daily that God loves them; they are not forgotten; they are not alone. Multiply the Bobbie Morgans of this world, and you will understand why I am glad to be a Community Care team member in The Salvation Army. Jesus said, "When you serve the least of my children, you are serving me." (Matthew 25:40)
 

*Name has been changed.

Written by Gloria B. Hohn
Asbury Park, NJ

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Slow and the Furious: But and Yet


"This is going to hurt me more than its going to hurt you!"

The phrase heard around the world. No matter what language you speak or the neighborhood you’re from (unless you suffer from affluenza), these words preceded an inevitable form of punishment.

"How can it be?"

How can my pain hurt you, not as much, but more than it hurts me? As a child, this paradox baffled me to my core. It made no sense that the source of my perceived affliction would hurt more than I. As a child, and sometimes even now, my thinking was simple: Up was the opposite of down, there were winners and losers, and there were pain givers and pain receivers. Now, you ask me to believe in a mutual suffering? A mutual suffering that stems from love and anger.

Love. It has caused wars, raised heroes, built nations and caused committed men and women to gladly look death in the eyes and stare back! So has anger. These two great passions can be seen as the seeds from which all great efforts and conflicts grow.

A man will climb and cross mountains to get to the woman he loves. If she were harmed, in anger, he would traverse those same peaks in pursuit of her assailant. A mother would move heaven and earth for her children, yet she will grow angry if they misbehave and discipline them.

In the same way, God would do anything for His people because He loves us. Not unlike the loving mother’s reaction to poorly behaved children, this does not absolve us from the discipline of His love.

I was always taught that whenever you see 'but' in a sentence, the latter often contrast the aforementioned statement, BUT when you see ‘'yet,' a crucial detail is about to be added. In Numbers 14:18, we read:

"The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.
Yet
he does not leave the guilty unpunished"

The Lord loves us, but this love doesn't negate His anger when we exhibit undesirable behavior, yet the discipline is still from a place of love. Love and anger are a two car garage that are attached to the same house. One is a luxury sedan and the other is a four wheel drive SUV. They pull out of the same driveway and onto the same street. The weather or circumstance determine which the driver takes, but they are both intended to get us safely from point A to point B.

God is abounding in love and slow to anger, but that anger isn't rooted is hate. It's rooted in love. He only grows angry because He cares. My fear is not His correction. My fear is when He no longer desires to correct.

Written by Lt. Darell Houseton
Newark Ironbound Corps 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Small Beginnings

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin..."
Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

Are you at the beginning of something? Or are you in the middle of trying to begin again? This verse struck me as I listened to it this morning. At first, I thought it was because I was at the beginning of something new, but then I tried to dig deeper beyond my gut feeling. Often times, I want to skip the beginning and get to the end result. My new year's resolution of dropping those extra, unwanted pounds is hard work, and I would rather it just be gone.  Nature doesn't work that way. 


God doesn't work that way either. The principles of our universe don't work that way.  Remember learning about inertia in science class? If you suppressed that memory, here is what it is:


"a property of matter by which something that is not moving remains still and something that is moving goes at the same speed and in the same direction until another thing or force affects it"

Basically, if something is not moving, it will remain that way until something acts upon it. If it is moving, another thing can affect it. Notice this principle is no respecter of size. 

To God, size doesn't matter either. God rejoices to see the work begin and specifically says He rejoices in the small things. I'm not sure where you are at or what might be waiting to begin in your journey – it doesn't matter, just start.

Written by Chip Kelly
Territorial Lay Leader
Development Bureau Director

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Invisible

With their latest song "Invisible," the band U2 recently joined with Bank of America to raise funds for (RED) to fight AIDS. As lead singer Bono explains the inspiration behind the song, he remembers coming out of a subway station and feeling unhip in a crowd of people. He recalls that people "didn’t see you in the crowd, you were just invisible."

This feeling of invisibility combined with a desire to be seen is highlighted in the song's chorus:

I’m more than you know
I’m more than you see here
More than you let me be
I’m more than you know
A body in a soul
You don’t see me but you will
I am not invisible

This is a feeling shared by millions each day, the feeling that we are just part of a crowd; the feeling that we are invisible to most around us. If we're honest, we don’t see many of the people around us each day. They are just invisible, nameless people who cross our path and are gone. It may be the mom at the grocery store struggling to provide nutritious meals for her family, or the businessman in the seat across the train who commutes 2 hours each day, or the homeless man at the train terminal who is trying to keep warm.

In Matthew 19:19, Jesus tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself." As a member of The Salvation Army, I believe that these "invisible people" are my neighbors. I am humbled to be part of a movement that reaches out to the invisible to "meet their needs in Jesus' name without discrimination." Whether it’s a food box, family programs or shelters, the invisible are seen by The Salvation Army.

Perhaps, like me, you want to focus more on the invisible around you. I would encourage you to reach out to your local Salvation Army to donate your time making the invisible visible.

Written by Richard Pease
Divisional Controller

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Offering



It's the small things in life that truly capture my eye. Things like the smile of a child and that light in his or her eye that glows and shines beyond anything I have ever witnessed in life. Moments like these are captured flawlessly by my mind like a photograph, and they remind me about the love and word of God. One child in particular named Jayden, a small young boy in my Corps, left me with an unforgettable portrait. 

One Sunday morning during announcements, he tapped my hand and whispered, "Elizabeth guess what?" I looked at him with curiosity and responded, "What?" He smiled so widely as he cradled something out of his pocket. "What is it?" I asked. He opened his little fist and showed me two pennies, and his little eyes glowed with excitement. Then, he sat back and anxiously waited for the announcement to end and the time of offering to begin. As the time came, he smiled at me then became nervous. He asked me to walk with him, and I did.

It meant so much to see such a young child present an offering to God. Two pennies doesn't really seem like much. However, to this child, two pennies meant everything. It brought me back to the story in the Bible about the widow who gave two small copper coins in the offering box. The Bible tells us that “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)

Jayden reminded me that it isn't about how much you give but how you are giving it to Him. He presented his offering with a willing heart, full of love and excitement for God. Even if he didn’t quite understand that, it was powerful to me. It reassured me and taught me that nothing is too small for God. I've convinced myself time after time that what I have to give to God just isn't enough, nor can it be compared to all He has done for me. My all isn't always a lot, but God says it's enough, and that amazes me. God receives all that we give with a willing heart and blesses it no matter how small. Deuteronomy 15:10 tells us to "Give generously to Him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to."

That day in offering, Jayden gave more than anyone in the congregation. He offered to God all that he had, a big heart along with two small pennies, and that was the greatest offering I have witnessed. Not only do I believe that God will bless his little heart, but through Jayden, God has blessed me.

Written by Elizabeth Ramirez
Newark Ironbound Corps