Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 12-Saying Goodbye but Not Forgetting

This last post from Oklahoma is dedicated to the all of the officers, soldiers, employees and volunteers. I would also like to include all of the people I had the honor of working with from all of our partner agencies.

The weird thing about leaving now is that there has been so much good done, but there is more to be done! God has called up other faithful soldiers to carry the burden a little further! And, for that I pray for Holy strength for the local personnel who will carry it even further into the future! So, I am saying goodbye, but not forgetting!

There were long days and confusing ways! There was good teams and greater dreams! There was care and prayer! There was walking and talking! There was no “us and them.” It was always “we and Him!” So, I am saying goodbye, but not forgetting!

This experience has changed me. It has changed my perspective. It has changed how I view people. It has changed how I view myself. It has renewed old friendships and made new ones! It has brought out new partnerships and strengthened others! It has shown me a different kind of world, without borders and rules! So, I am saying goodbye, but not forgetting!

I pray God’s peace and protection over this land. For the love and care of the Father, I place these people in Your capable hands. Knowing that in all things, my God is bigger than the skies!

“For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (Psalm 108:4 NIV).

So, I am saying goodbye, but not forgetting!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 10-Spiritual Care Ground Forces

The Salvation Army is constantly evolving and changing the way it responds to disasters! Due to the impact that this tornado had on the people in this area, The Salvation Army wanted to make the Emotional and Spiritual Care support to be a priority in our initial service delivery. While Emotional and Spiritual Care has always been an understood in our disaster delivery service, the Army is now deploying officers (ministers) and carefully chosen, trained volunteers as Emotional and Spiritual Care Specialists. These ESC personnel are tasked with the care of not only affected people, but also other disaster responders. The Salvation Army sent one of the largest continents of ESC personnel to this disaster response in my memory.

Because of the increased response in this trained personnel, we were able to deploy ESC teams with trucks and other vehicles to affected areas as “spiritual care ground forces.” These ground force teams were able to get into some areas that our mobile feeding units could not get into and offer assistance. Some of the areas were so damaged and difficult to traverse that the ESC teams were forced to walk along roads dragging coolers of cold drinks and snacks. Far from just offering physical comfort, these teams were bringing the love of God to places that had seen such sorrow!

I had a chance to work with these teams for my first two days here in Oklahoma. These dedicated officers and volunteers took to their work like trained soldiers. Every morning, they would go to the distribution warehouse and load up with supplies. From drinks to snacks to candy to small toys, they were loading up “ammunition of love” to be shared with everyone they came in contact with! They prayed as they walked! They prayed as they talked! They spoke hope to people who did not have any hope! The days were long! Some of the teams had to seek shelter during inclement weather. There were sunburns and tired feet, exhaustion and emotional wear. But, these faithful soldiers trudged on and brought hope, peace, and love to the people of this land.

Pray for the people of Oklahoma! Pray for those who are helping! Pray for those who will be staying and helping in the future!

God Bless the people of Oklahoma!
God Bless the work of the responders!
And, God Bless The Salvation Army!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Oh, How He Loves

Mark 1:40-45 NLT

“Everyone needs compassion, a love that never fails.”

Graphic from http://www.tsamtk.org

We live in a world where there are hurting people everywhere. Failed relationships, death, the economy, and loss of self cause people, including ourselves, to feel disconnected and in pain. We have lost faith with our communities. We have lost faith in our government and the officials that run it. We have lost faith with our families and our social circles. Unfortunately, we have even lost faith with the church and our spiritual foundations. Where do we turn?

How many of us have more friends on Facebook that in real life? How many of us have phone numbers for people we don’t really know? Do we still send cards or letters to people we have not seen face-to-face in many years? Why do we text rather than call? We claim efficiency and progress. We tell ourselves that we can communicate more information to more people even more quickly. We are quickly becoming a society of digital hermits and paranoid recluses. We are scared to touch. We are scared to care. We do not choose to love beyond what we know. It is easy to love something or someone you know or that loves you back. It is harder to love what no one else loves.

Do we love enough? Are we caring enough? Are we taking the time to get to know our fellow man? Do we still know our neighbors like we used to? Or, are we more concerned about what is happening in our own world? Are we more concerned about what people might say if they saw us spending time with “those” kind of people? Look at how far, we Christians, we believers, have fallen. We used to be “those” people, but God still loved us.
We need to learn how to reconnect and re-engage with this world and it’s people. We need to spend less time determining who has what or who has more. We need to spend time figuring how to get people what they need. We need to love, need to learn, need to lead. The church, us, we, are in a unique position in today’s world to love the unlovable, to care for the “un-careable”, to befriend the friendless, to bind up the broken-hearted, and to set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1).

Our story in today’s Word for us addresses that very issue. In Mark 1:40-45, Jesus is preparing to continue traveling and ministering to people. He is packing to leave and a man comes and kneels before Him. We are told in verse 1 that he has leprosy. Leprosy then, and still today, is more than a disease. It is a social condition. At the time of this story, if someone had leprosy, they would be required to stay away from people. If someone were to get near them, they had to call out, “Unclean!” People avoided them. Families disowned them. Society did not have time for them. They did not have a place for them. They were exiled to colonies filled with other people with leprosy. They were exiled there to wait to die. There was no reacceptance, no chance of parole, no pardon. They were cut off from the world and forgotten about. This man who knelt before Jesus could have been related to one of his close followers. Everyone probably knew him and his family. But, in their eyes, he was less than human. The government could do nothing for them. Sadly, the priests of the day avoided them for fear of becoming unclean themselves. They were not necessarily concerned with contracting the disease. They were concerned that it would make them spiritually unclean. It would hurt their standing at temple. It would lower their social status. The man asked Jesus for two things that day. We make a mistake if we see them as the same thing. He asked to be healed and to be made clean. It is true that leprosy is a disease that harms the body and can cause death. But, what was different and possibly worse, the social disconnection also harmed and caused a kind of death, separation.

Jesus looks beyond all of that. Oh, how He loves! He loved beyond the physical. He was willing to help. He was willing to heal. He was willing to change the situation. Oh, how He loves! He was willing to reach out. He was willing to touch. He was willing to break through the social barriers. Oh, how He loves! He did what no priest would have ever done. He reached out and touched him. He touched his leprosy, his disease. He didn’t see the disease. He didn’t see the situation. He saw the person who needed love. He saw a person who needed to be touched. Oh, how He loves!

After the physical healing, Jesus tells the man to go to a priest and make the required offering. Although Jesus had removed the problem, the disease, he still knew that the man needed more. The man had asked Jesus for healing and he asked Him to make him clean. I am struck by an interesting thought. Couldn’t Jesus have removed the social stigma from the man? Didn’t His own authority exceed the authority of Moses? The answer is yes! He could have made the man clean. But, as He said many times, He did not come to destroy the Law. He came to uphold and validate it.

We need to follow Jesus’ example. We need to reach beyond how we feel about something or someone. We need to reach out from what we think is our comfort area. We need to go beyond what we know to find out where God really wants us to be. We should be willing to reach out and touch. We cannot stop when we see the “leprosy” around us. Today, “leprosy” can be dirt, poverty, old age, lack of education, social standing, political affiliation, race, physical attractiveness, or religious beliefs. We need to reach out beyond the four walls of our homes, our neighborhoods, and our churches. We have to go beyond only what we know!

Today, Jesus has taught us how to love others. We should love like He loves, and, oh, how He loves! What are we willing to do differently? Are we willing to love people who are friends do not love? Are we willing to befriend people who are not accepted by our friends and social circles? Are we willing to risk becoming socially disconnected ourselves for the sake of Christ? Can we love other like He did?

Soli Deo Gloria!