When Will Revival Come?

Revivalism is the Protestant movement concerned with the conversion and salvation of the individual and includes the attempt to appeal to the masses on behalf of Christ. This term refers to strains of 17th and 18th century strands of Anabaptism, Puritanism and Pietism, which stressed personal religious experience, the ideal of a holy life and the priesthood of all believers. It was set against the spiritual lukewarmness and sacramentalism of the established churches of the day. Yet, sadly, what began as revival degenerated into “revivalism” as we know it today.

Revivalist Charles FinneySecond Awakening revivalist and Oberlin professor Charles Finney claimed that revival of religion suggests first a declension: “It presupposes that the Church is sunk down in a backslidden state and a revival consists in the return of the Church from her backslidings, and the conversion of sinners … ” Revival brings fresh impulses to the saints in a new beginning before God. The charm of the world is broken and the power of sin is overcome by the power of the cross. Believers enjoy a new foretaste of heaven and have new desires for union with God. The worst of human beings are softened and transformed into the beauty of holiness.

For all this to occur, the Church first needs to repent and be reformed by the power of God.

What is Revival?

Jonathan EdwardsIn our day the term revival is greatly misunderstood. To some it is merely the holding of evangelistic meetings; to others it means the restoration of backsliders. But these are the by-products of revival, not revival itself. William Sprague said that revival occurs when religion rises from depression to life and strength and Christians are more faithful in their obligations. G.J. Morgan called it “reviving humanity … to the sense of God … to reanimate the life of the believer, not the regenerate.” Arthur Wallis defined revival as “God revealing Himself to man in awful power and holiness.” Finney spoke of it also as a new beginning before God, a breaking down of heart, a getting down into the dust before God with deep humility and a forsaking of sin. Jonathan Edwards described it as “the goings of God.”

Biblical Basis

According to J. Edwin Orr, the best definition of revival lies in Acts 3:19: a “time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.” Our spiritual deadness must be reanimated, our declension reversed as we pray with Isaiah, “O, that you would rend the heavens and come down … ” (64:1-3). Second Chronicles 28–29 indicates what must be attended to if revival is to come to the house of God:

  • The abused holy things must be restored and the way of access reopened to God (28:24)
  • The quenched lamps of testimony must be relit (29:7)
  • The incense of prayer must ascend once again (29:7)
  • We must return to the sincere worship of God (29:6)

Revival holds back God’s anger, according to Psalm 85:5-6. The Lord who walks among the lampstands (Rev. 2:1-5) searches our hearts about non-attendance at necessary worship (Heb. 10:25), unreliability of service (1 Cor. 4:2) and unholiness of heart and life (1 Thess. 4:7, 1 Peter 4:17). “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).

To all who seek Him, He will disclose His lovely face and quicken all our drooping powers. Too often we are like Absalom, who did not see the face of his father for three years (2 Sam. 13:38). How long has it been since you walked and talked with the Lord? He alone “makes His face to shine upon you” (Num. 6:24-26).

In revival we become aware of God’s grace (Rom. 6:14): “You are not under law, but under grace.” Legalism and censoriousness are dealt a deathblow. “We back up the hearse,” as Bud Robinson used to say, “load up carnality and cart it away!”

Revival also makes us aware of God’s pace . By that I mean we learn to distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of Satan. The loud feverishness of Satan’s demands gives way to the “still, small voice.” Satan’s driving gives way to God’s leading—the vague generalities of Satan yield to the specifics of the known will of God. The “I want” of our lower instincts becomes the “I ought” of the higher Christian life. Revival bringsthe stilling of the heart: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, Mark 4:39).

Church History

Salvation Army Open Air meeting in New York City’s Bowery, 1915
Beginning with the Book of Acts, the history of the Church is a history of revival. Those 28 thrilling chapters abound in instances of God breaking supernaturally into the ordinary affairs of men. Central to multiple conversions and the manifestation of spiritual power was the person and work of the Holy Spirit. By 200 AD, Tertullian could write, “We have filled all quarters of the world.”

Sixty years later the historian Eusebius told of people flocking to the religion of Christ, with pagan altars deserted and the cultic mystery religions virtually put out of business.

Patrick (A.D. 395 – 493), the ”apostle of Ireland,” said that “I was reformed by the Lord that I should concern myself for the salvation of others.” Columba and others in the spirit of revival founded churches, schools and monasteries. We ”swarmed like flies,” declared Augustine of Canterbury, “into the dark places of heathen Europe.” In the 12th century, the Waldenses, for whom “every rock was a monument,” prepared the way for the Bohemian Revival in which John Huss was martyred.

A new emphasis on the Bible and preaching sprang from the 15th century Lollards (preachers) under John Wyclif. At the heart of the revival was “making known the Scripture.” John Savonarola, unprecedented as a preacher, changed the very face of the corrupt city of Florence so that even the Sultan of Turkey ordered his sermons to be translated into Turkish! Savonarola’s aim was simple: “to be a regenerator of religion.”

During the Reformation Martin Luther was used by God to free millions from spiritual bondage, much of it through his prayers, study of the Word of God and an emphasis on strong doctrine. John Calvin was converted by reading the Bible and led a revival in Geneva which caused the taverns and bars to close down. John Knox, mighty in prayer, changed the face of history in Scotland in 1559. “O Lord,” he prayed incessantly, “give me Scotland or I die!” God gave him Scotland!

In the mid-17th century, with thousands adrift from the Church, George Fox heard a voice declare, “There is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition.” He yielded his life to Jesus, stressing prayer, the Bible and the “inner light,” and founded the Quakers (Society of Friends), which influenced The Salvation Army.

We could go on to describe the “Methodist Pentecost” which began, at a love feast in Fetter Lane, London on January 1, 1739, but was itself preceded by the Moravian Revival under Count von Zinzendorf. Their “bands” underlined the settling of differences and disputes and the ever–burning flame of prayer. Jonathan Edwards helped to bring in the Great Awakening in America in 1735 with a new emphasis on family life and the Lord’s Day when “the goings of God” were discerned in His sanctuary. And so the movement continued through Whitefield, Asbury and Finney with an emphasis on being “endued with power from on high” and “constant fillings” of the Holy Spirit. And Finney was a huge influence on Catherine Booth. Revival fires burned on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Role of The Salvation Army

Blood and Fire; The Salvation ArmyThe Army was born in the superheated fires of revival, coming into being through obedience, dedication and holy courage. It arose out of the Home Mission of the Second Evangelical Awakening in 1859, known as the “Year of the Right Hand of the Most High.” William Allen wrote of “the amazing growth and worldwide ministry of The Salvation Army” and “the spiritual causes of this revival of religion. ” The heart of William Booth, a 16–year–old pawnbroker’s apprentice, was cleansed by the blood and filled with Holy Spirit fire until “Blood and Fire” became less a motto and more a way of life. There were more spiritual luminaries in one square yard of Salvation Army sky, claims one biographer, than in the century span of many other organizations. Yet we may rightly question this in the today’s climate of spiritual declension. How are the mighty fallen and the fallen become mighty!

Revival has motivated Salvationists in every country and territory. In South Africa, early Salvationists were cast into prison, but revival broke out in the jails! The individual foot–soldiers of Methodism led to the shock troops of Salvationism as men and women lived, sacrificed and died for the sake of the Gospel. Holiness blazed from our banners and prayers and tears were our meat and drink. Vibrant testimonies blistered our lips and knee drills were crowded with earnest, believing prayers. But what of today? That sovereign, sudden, searching work of God (Hab. 3:2-6) appears to be missing except in isolated pockets of “old-fashioned” resistance to post-modern theologies with the emphasis on “bricks, budgets and bucks.”

Are we content with a “baptized” self-indulgence, our identity blurred by a pseudo-gospel which equates divine approval with affluence? Have we forgotten the meaning of practical holiness with its moral obligation to reach the socially poor and the spiritually lost? Are we marked by a Christian character that will stand the test of the Judgment Seat (1 Cor. 3, 2 Cor. 5)?

Duncan Campbell tells the story of the Lewis Revival on that Scottish island in 1947. At one meeting where the heavens appeared to be as brass, an old deacon prayed in a climate of unusual spiritual hardness, “Lord, you promised to pour out floods of water on the dry ground … and you’re not doing it!” This was followed by a silence and then he prayed again, “Lord, I challenge you to now honor your word!” Then, said Campbell, that great building, made of granite, shook like a leaf and people all over the village were calling on the Lord to save them! That is the revival that we need! And it is gloriously possible.

The Way Forward

Revivalist Leonard Ravenhill suggested that the way forward, among other things, required less playing and more praying, less feasting and more fasting, less profession and more possession, less popularity and more persecution, less lust and more trust. To be revived we need a divine discontent, a homesickness for holiness, for revival will only come when we are desperate, when we no longer trust in religious organization or political correctness, in material prosperity and popular preaching that tickles the ear. We need to stand before the Lord in our true state, “poor, miserable and blind,” desperate for revival.

The secret of William Booth was not merely that he laid all on the altar, but that he never took it back! There must be a return to simplicity, to New Testament study and methods, with the Bible as the model for service. Our focal point must again be the preaching of the cross, the priority of the salvation of Christ as man’s greatest need. Speculative theology and cold orthodoxy must be put aside.

Then will “the Lord turn again the captivity of Zion … our mouths filled with laughter, and our tongues with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them …” (Psalm 126:1-6).

O Holy Ghost, revival
comes from Thee,
Send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy word declares Thou
wilt supply our need,
For blessing now, O Lord,
I humbly plead

By Colonel Brian Tuck

The Reality of War

Nobody wants war – but we all have one.
War simply defined is “a state or period of armed hostility or active military operations—most often between nations or parties within a nation.” One definition goes even deeper and terms war as “a struggle for men’s minds.”

War is ugly, bloody, grueling, excruciating and costly. Wars have littered our landscapes with dead bodies and devastation throughout history.

In his statement, “War is hell,” Union General William Tecumseh Sherman succinctly described the horror of war and unwittingly sets before us a surprisingly ironic truth. Any seasoned soldier will agree that war is hell, but the profound twist is that the denial of war can invite a certain, vastly worse hell. As long as good and evil co-exist, the hell of battle is infinitely more desirable than the inevitable hell of unrestrained evil.

War is an inescapable reality of life—sometimes nationally—always personally. If I am not purposing to fight for the good, I am surrendering to the evil. If I am not actively pursuing the right, and willing to battle all that opposes it, then I naturally default to the wrong.

Personal neutrality is a fatal fallacy. To opt out is to concede defeat.
Sword and Shield“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” is attributed to Sir Edmund Burke and serves as a reminder that apathy already chooses a side.

English writer and philosopher G. V. Chesterton presents a slightly different angle. “War is not the best way of settling differences; it is the only way of presenting their being settled for you.”

John Stuart Mill cites something possibly uglier than war:

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept by the exertions of better men than himself.”

These applications have profound implications when applied to the biblical Christian today—and the appeal to be the better men and women recognized by Mill.

The Bible is replete with war references for our instruction—from Cain and Abel in Genesis, to the cataclysmic climax in Revelation. From beginning to end, the Bible chronicles the heavenly conflict between God and Satan played out on Earth as the battle between good and evil. The sides are clearly defined, and mankind’s history plays out dramatic clashes as God and Satan vie for the hearts and souls of men.

This war is unseen, but it is real and the stakes are very high. In our typical notion of war, there is a danger of physical death that terminates an earthly life. Death in spiritual warfare has an eternal impact. Maybe that’s why Jesus implores His disciples, to not fear those who can kill the body, but not the soul—but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
(Matt 10.28)

As the ultimate Commander-in-Chief, God sets up clear parameters for perpetual victory. When His people follow His authority, He abundantly provides protection. Conversely, Biblical history shows how God’s people suffered horribly when they forgot what side they were on; they were seduced into enemy alliances and lured into complacency. In a state of compromise and prosperity, they were no longer able to distinguish danger—to discern truth from lies. When they neglected God’s commands intended to keep them sharp, defeat and captivity were the inevitable consequences that stood in sharp contrast to the victory God desired for them.

The Bible provides a vivid portrayal of physical warfare and spiritual warfare. The second book of the Bible says, “the Lord is a warrior, the Lord is His name. *(Ex 15:3) Our God is a God of war, but not like the hawkish, malevolent Being many imagine. God is the all-powerful Lord of hosts whose supreme love is shown by the great price He exacted to personally pay for our victory. In human terms, He is the five-star general that dies for His troops, but then conquers even death to come back and lead them to victory. He goes before them, works through them, comes behind them, and wages “air war” to cover them,

The Old Testament contains bloody battles from both sides. The book of Psalms records the heart cries to God from those caught in the throes of personal and national wars. Military jargon is common as the psalmists cry out for protection, refuge, victory and restoration. God is David’s fortress, shield, buckler, high tower and deliverer. In Psalm 143, David says, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” *David knew the sting of battle, from other nations and from his own family. He also knew the reality of battle in his own heart as he struggled with sin.

The New Testament shifts to predominantly spiritual warfare. In Ephesians 6, the enemy is ”principalities and powers of the air” and the armor outlined there is for internal use—to protect the mind and soul where the fiercest battles rage. There are references to war and soldiers, but the battles are cosmic, and faith is the prize for which to contend. Military references alert us to spiritual battles that intensify at the end of the age when God ultimately wages the physical war of all wars.

In light of the reality of spiritual war, the Bible becomes more than a “life manual”—it is vital to the very survival of our soul. It is noteworthy that the Bible is a “life” manual, because the Christian war is much more about pursuing life than death; it is a fight for life and wholeness. This is most easily understood in medical terms, like fighting cancer or fighting to save a nearly-severed limb. This fight attaches value to all people but valiantly battles what brings death. Medical battles may inflict pain and suffering, but always with the objective of healing and life.

Jesus presents a startling paradox in the fifth chapter of Matthew. *(5:44) He tells us to love our enemies but never to compromise with truth to do so. Like no other battle scenario, the Christian must fight with a motive of love and life, first in their own soul, and then in the lives of those around them.

To explore war as a topic is daunting, but looking at key concepts of physical warfare can stimulate a startling awareness of spiritual war–and implications of improper preparation for both. We easily understand the risks associated with sending an untrained soldier into battle, but we just as easily dismiss the need for disciplined training for spiritual soldiers–believers In Jesus Christ. Churches are filled with shattered souls wondering why they feel so weak and defeated, blaming each other instead of recognizing the real enemy, and training for strength and victory that is already ours in Christ.

To a Soldier/Airman/Marine/Seaman, war is a given. It’s what you train for, and If need be, it’s what you die for.

If you are a Christian, the war is on. It may be to the death…
Are you fit or flabby? Are you trained for battle? Are you part of a trained unit? Are you under a chain of command? Can you handle your weapon? Can you identify the enemy? Can you recognize explosives so you don’t step on them? If a fellow soldier gets wounded, do you know how to help him or her? Have you even been to basic training?

Preparation prompts courage – Does a lack of preparation prompt fear?

George Washington said. There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well-prepared to meet the enemy.”

Military Inspections are a way of life. Whether you’re standing in formation for a physical inspection or in a full-on training exercise to test unit readiness to go to war—you have to assess your weaknesses to move to strength.

What is your personal readiness for war—and ultimately—your potential for peace?

By Sandi Michon

Bible Study: Songs of the Soul

WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL geometry class, Mr. Griesheimer, using multiple and incomprehensible steps, showed us how to solve a problem. Invariably, one of the students would ask, “Is there another way to do this?” And just as he always did, Mr. Griesheimer answered, “Yes. The wrong way.”

The Bible is full of oppositional characters: Abel and Cain, Joseph and his brothers, Moses and Pharaoh, David and Goliath, Jesus and Judas. In these stories one person makes a choice that ultimately leads to a radical divergence from the other. Similarly, Psalm 1 juxtaposes two types of people––the righteous and the wicked––who opt for decisions with vastly different impacts on the present and the life to come.

First, the psalmist tells us what the righteous do not do. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers” (vs.1). To walk denotes the idea of two people meeting on the road who, while going in the same direction, share a conversation. It is a casual association, even a bit careless. In this instance, it means to accept the world’s wisdom, listening to advice from ungodly sources about spiritual things. We can think of talk show theology as an example. The word “wicked” in Hebrew refers to someone who fails to do what he knows is right. It means taking the easy way out, the path that suits rather than the way that is right and just.

To stand signifies continued and lingering fellowship. It is more intentional, actually joining sinful ways. The Hebrew root of the word “sinners” is an archery term for arrows that fall short of the target. It is to enter into a habit of sin, actively doing what is wrong.

To sit represents feeling right at home, fully joining and belonging. And mocking is the most fatal of all these attitudes because it represents a hateful view of the things of God. Recall the mocking around the cross that represented the most callous and antagonistic actions of Christ’s enemies.

DiamondRocks or Diamonds?
The psalmist then speaks of what the righteous person does, “whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night” (vs. 2). Here the law of the Lord contrasts with walking in step with the wicked. The righteous person delights in God’s Word. Like the coin collector who searches his change and discovers a rare coin, the righteous person, in a much deeper way, searches the Bible and finds riches there, to his delight. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” Finally, the righteous person meditates on the Word. The literal meaning of “meditate” is to ponder by talking to oneself, to imagine what something means. Meditating deeply and light reading, are as different as picking up worthless rocks on the ground and digging deep to mine for diamonds.

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (vs. 3). The tree spoken of here is deliberately planted and cultivated. And in the wonder of God’s creation, trees transform dirt and water into luscious fruit. The righteous person does this “in season,” at just the right time. The fruit that is borne will not wither, or fail in a drought. How many can testify that God’s Word sustained them during their darkest hour, when all human comfort or words failed? A life lived this way will prosper, not necessarily with wealth or popularity, but in the things that last for eternity. The godly life is a long–term investment, not a day trading exercise.

Skirting the Cliff
“Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction” (vs.4-6). The fate of the unbeliever is outlined graphically by the psalmist. He says they are like chaff, an allusion to the method of separating grains of wheat from the stubble. In the usually windy land of Palestine, the wheat was thrown high into the air and the chaff was taken away by the breeze, leaving the good grains of wheat. Therefore, the ungodly are like the chaff, fruitless because it is lifeless.

The Psalmist says that the ungodly will not stand, meaning that in the day of judgment they will have no right to testify on their own behalf, no claim on grace, no means to appeal for heavenly clemency. There is no “good enough” apart from a relationship with God. Their end leads to destruction. More literally, the original language indicates a road that dead ends and produces nothing. Thinking they are going somewhere, unbelievers find themselves instead on a one-way road that leads to the edge of a cliff.

By comparison, the “Lord watches over the way of the righteous.” Rather than going nowhere, every step leads somewhere for the child of God following his Lord. And the Lord not only leads but knows exactly where that person is, exactly what he is facing, what it has taken to get there and what it will take to finish the journey. The old song reminds us:

He walks with God who turns His face to Heaven,
And keeps the blest commands by Jesus given;
His life upright, His end untroubled peace,
Whom God will crown when all his labors cease.

The Salvation Army Song Book

The psalmist has outlined two ways. There is no third. Which way is yours?

By Major Allen Satterlee

General Bond Celebrates Progress in Florida, Haiti, and the Caribbean

General Bond with students from College Verena, Port-au-Prince


General Linda Bond traveled to Haiti to see firsthand the progress of The Salvation Army’s reconstruction work after the devastating earthquake in January 2010. General Bond also spent time worshipping with Haitian Salvationists and met children from The Salvation Army’s College Verena.

She told Salvationists that “I’m proud of your Christlike service,” praising them for joining together in the years following the earthquake to share the love and message of Christ.

Twenty junior soldiers and 50 senior soldiers were enrolled during one meeting. A tour of the Delmas 2 construction site—which will eventually house a school, health clinic, offices, conference center and corps—revealed building plans and a vision for the long-term impact on the community. Haitian contractor ARCOTEC hires and trains unskilled workers from the community to participate in the construction.

New Center for Holiness Studies

General Bond at the opening of the Center for Holiness StudiesThe Florida Division dedicated the Center for Holiness Studies this fall, the first such facility in The Salvation Army. General Linda Bond was the special guest, supported by National Leaders Commissioners William and Nancy Roberts and Southern Territorial Leaders Commissioners David and Barbara Jeffrey.

The center, located at Camp Keystone in Starke, Florida, was created to meet the following objectives:

  1. Development of curriculum for holiness study beginning with basic instruction and “moving deeper into biblical and doctrinal studies on a wide range of holiness topics.”
  2. Ongoing opportunities for soldiers and corps groups to pursue holiness studies in both individual and group settings.
  3. Hosting an annual holiness institute for soldiers.

Lt. Colonel Vern Jewett, divisional commander, under whose guidance the center took shape, shared that its goal is to “promote holiness of heart as a hallmark of Salvationist life.” General Bond declared, “Holiness means to be an authentic Christian. It means that Jesus Christ has chosen to enter our flesh and blood in order to live out His life in our personality . . . This center must live and breathe and come alive as a place that promotes and demonstrates and allows for the Holy Spirit to do His supreme work in our Army by filling its soldiers.”

125th Anniversary Celebrations in the Caribbean

General Bond with students from The Salvation Army's School for the BlindThe Prime Minister of Jamaica joined thousands of Salvationists in November under the leadership of General Linda Bond, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Salvation Army work in the Caribbean. The Army “opened fire” in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1887 and over the years its ministry has spread to 15 more countries that together comprise the territory.

Downtown Kingston came alive to the sights and sounds of the New York Staff Band and the Caribbean Territorial Band leading hundreds of Salvationists in a march of witness. The General then visited children from The Salvation Army’s School for the Blind.

When nearly 2,000 Salvationists and friends gathered to worship God on Sunday morning at the Jamaica College Auditorium, the General encouraged her listeners to cultivate a healthy appetite for the deep things of God, assuring them that it is possible to live holy lives in the 21st century. With Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller attending, the General promised an ongoing commitment to serve suffering humanity and challenged the territory’s young people to serve God, despite the severity of the temptations they face. “The ground is level at the foot of the Cross,” she said, emphasizing that all people are equal, irrespective of who they are and what they have done.

Compassion in the Midst of Chaos

As a first year cadet at The Salvation Army’s School for Officer Training in Suffern, New York, I was unaware of everything I would be called upon to do. Upon arrival, I quickly began a full-course load: Old Testament, Music, Youth Programming, Doctrine, Salvation Army History and Biblical Interpretation. Little did I know that I would be asked to put down the books and march into a disaster zone.

Coney Island Damaged After Hurricane SandyIn late October, Hurricane Sandy had ripped through New Jersey and New York City, leaving behind flooded homes and people who were confused and bewildered. I was asked to volunteer on Brooklyn’s Coney Island. As I drove through Manhattan without noticing any damage, I wasn’t sure what to expect and became skeptical of the so-called “devastation.” But from the moment we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, my ignorance was quickly dismissed. Trees still littered the streets, downed wires hung carelessly from above and trash spewed up high on every street corner. Most alarming were the faces of the people, frightened and disheartened. It was as if their spirits had left their bodies and they had nothing left to do but wander the streets in confusion.

I said a prayer upon our arrival at Coney Island and realized that this was my very first time at the famous vacation spot. The Ferris wheel and other amusement rides looked cold and abandoned. A tilt a whirl lay completely on its side, its hinges no longer in existence. Hurricane Sandy was true to her name; sand littered the streets more than a half mile from the beach. About seven feet off of the ground, darkened lines stretched across entire rows of houses. The water had hit that high. Almost instantly, I realized that every pile of garbage plaguing the city sidewalks belonged to every first floor apartment. How awful it must have been to have to pour through family heirlooms and belongings and then have to assign them to a pile of wet trash!

I pulled up to a community building and was told that my partner, Cadet Selah Bender, and I would be the only representatives of the Army. I walked into the “buzzing” building and saw a long table filled with food and household products.  People lined an entire side of the building, waiting to collect the much needed goods. Volunteers clothed in neon orange from the New York City Cares group were on one side; tired, dirty, devastated people with their hands outstretched lined the other. A woman from the mayor’s office walked around with a walkie-talkie, frantically requesting items that would fly off the tables. Batteries, diapers, snacks, toilet paper, Ajax, garbage bags, MREs, canned goods, apples, sandwiches and even blankets were eagerly passed out to anxiously awaiting hands. Behind the goods table, the majority of the large gym contained FEMA phones and people directly signing up for FEMA assistance. I learned that the phones were for the people to check on the status of their claim. On the right side of the gym, AT&T charging stations were set up, which allowed people to charge up their cell phones and laptops. People were willing to wait in line more than an hour to charge their phones. I realized that the annoying “buzzing” sound was coming from two extremely large generators. This building, this block, this island was still without power. And then it hit me … Hurricane Sandy had hit on October 30th, 2012; I was one of the last groups to go out on Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) from the Army’s school for officer training. The date was November 9th, 2012; it had been 10 days since the storm.

Hurricane Sandy relief supplies being unloaded from a Salvation Army truck.I asked someone how I could help and they quickly replied, “A truck just pulled up, you can help unload.” I must have pulled off more than 200 boxes filled with giant packages of fruit cups. I brought the boxes to a blank space on the “long goods table” and quickly filled it with fruit cups. I stacked them six high and filled a four-foot block of space. The people flooded the tables and I can remember having to refill my fruit cup space no less than 20 minutes later.

About an hour later, we received a shipment of fresh Dunkin’ Donuts pastries. I was handed 20 dozen boxes of donuts and told to, “Dish em’ out!”  I walked to the front of the building and started handing out the brightly frosted pastries. I picked up a chocolate sprinkled one and handed it to a little boy wearing a forest green Ninja Turtles coat. It was ratty and tattered and the white cotton stuffing was poking out at the seams. His mother waved me off saying, “Yo no tengo dinero! (I don’t have any money).” I quickly assured her that it was free, and she began to sob. I looked up, “Lord, please use me.” My Spanish is at a 60% percent efficiency level, but I knew I had to try and pray with her. She understood me! I walked away from this woman and her son feeling heavy-hearted, but knowing that my hand was being firmly held from above.

There were only two dozen donuts left after the entire line had been serviced. I walked over to the police who had been fervently keeping order for the volunteers stationed inside. I decided to offer them the donuts and they exchanged a few hurricane stories with me. They thanked me for my service. ME?!? When I reminded them that they were risking their lives to protect the citizens of New York City, one officer simply pointed behind me. I glanced over my shoulder to see a line of cold, flustered and tired people, yet in every single hand, their brightly colored donuts sparkled in the sunshine. I finished my donut distribution, feeling ever so much like an original Salvation Army donut girl.

I went back inside the community center and noticed a svelte African-American woman curdled up in the corner. Volunteer after volunteer had passed her by and I wondered why. Before I approached her,  a man clothed in a bright orange NYC Cares coat stopped me and said, “Don’t go near her. She’s out of her mind. Crying about seeing people drowning in the street. That didn’t happen here! She’s on heroin.” Still determined, I walked over and knelt by her side. She looked up at me and began her “rant” about people drowning. She said she couldn’t save them then and she couldn’t save them now. I had no idea what she was talking about. I gently placed my hand on her back and asked her if I could pray with her.

I will never forget the moment when she looked at me and said, “Yes, but don’t touch my arm. There’s a needle in it.” I figured I could both run away and cry or I could continue to minister. This woman walked around with a needle full of heroin in her arm. She knew she would only be able to afford one needle for the entire day, so she left it hanging in there. She told me she was hoping the drug’s effects would come in random waves throughout the day. I looked up, trying to fight back tears. The man who had warned me to leave her alone was still standing there. “I told you she was crazy. Come on,” he said. I asked her if I could pray for her and she agreed. The man rolled his eyes and walked away.

She looked at me in tears and said, “They don’t believe me because I’m an addict. I’m from New Orleans. They were drowning and I couldn’t save em’. I moved up here. It’s ‘posed to be safe here. I did see. I did see someone drown. Went right by the Ferris wheel. I couldn’t save him. Just always drowning.” She had experienced Hurricane Katrina and now Hurricane Sandy. I prayed for her soul and my sanity all in that one moment.

Cadet Shareena LeeThese experiences all happened in the span of five hours. I will always be grateful for the dedicated volunteers and EDS members who serve day in and day out. My very first time with EDS was truly unforgettable. My prayer is that the volunteers will always allow God to work through them and never try to act on their own strength. Like the man who rolled his eyes and walked away to ”help” someone else, it is quite easy for people to look like they’re “doing good.” However, with our Heavenly Father by our side, The Salvation Army will always be “Doing the MOST Good”.

By Cadet Shareena Lee