A Tale of 2 Women

The audience could have heard a pin drop as the speaker told of being raped, beaten and tortured as a young adolescent girl and being held against her will in a cold, dark basement. Joy Friedman was describing her 17 years of abuse as a human trafficking victim to a rapt audience at a Human Trafficking Conference in Oklahoma City. When she saw my uniform, her face lit up and she exclaimed, “Salvation Army! I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for The Salvation Army!” Over dinner that night, she told me her story.

Taking Jesus to the Streets
It was 1996 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and The Salvation Army Temple Corps was dying as soldiers relocated to the suburbs and the neighborhood became a hot spot for drugs and prostitution. Crime had risen to the point that the corps building was kept locked even during the day, and the Social Service office had moved to another location. Majors Jerry and Nancy Curttright were sent to this corps in the brutally cold month of January, and immediately began to ask the Lord to show them who was in their neighborhood. A front page story in the newspaper listed the top 10 criminals in the city, and the majors had already met most of them during their first few weeks. Taking Jesus to the streets became their mission, so they took the first big step: they unlocked the door, literally and spiritually! Realizing that the people who lived on the streets were not welcome to use public restrooms, they welcomed them to utilize the corps restrooms, began serving coffee and doughnuts and offered them a warm place to rest.

The Temple Corps became known as the Lake Street Salvation Army. The Lake Street district was known for drugs, crime and prostitution. Word began to spread that the Lake Street Salvation Army welcomed everyone, and people started to trust the unassuming couple who loved them without judging them.

Turning Point
The Curttrights noticed that while the women were eager to come into the corps building for warmth and safety, the men remained aloof and distant. A few months after their arrival, as they were entering the building, one of the girls (accompanied by her pimp) yelled out to them “I know a Scripture from that book!” She was referring to the Bible that Major Jerry always carried with him. They approached her and asked, “What is that favorite verse?” She had learned it as a young girl––Isaiah 40:31. They invited her to the corps and she came by a few days later. Months went by and one of the girls was murdered. “Scripture Girl” came to the majors and told them they wanted to attend the funeral, but it was an hour away and they had no transportation. Majors Jerry and Nancy offered to take them to the funeral on one condition––their pimp had to come, too. Two men and two women ended up riding in the van. Major Nancy describes this as a turning point in their ability to reach the men who were the pimps and drug dealers in the neighborhood.

At a Thanksgiving dinner held at the corps, several girls and their pimps helped to prepare for the meal. A drug dealer came into the building—and passed out shortly after his arrival. A few weeks earlier, a Christian nurse from a local hospital had started attending the corps and immediately diagnosed the situation as a drug overdose. After calling 911, Major Jerry and the nurse went to the hospital to be with the man. He survived and credited them with saving his life and leading him to become a “regular” at the corps building.

First Bought Car
The Curttrights were determined to continue their ministry to the drug dealers and pimps. One of the girls set up a meeting with a well-known dealer. A casual pizza lunch was served at the corps for the dealer, the girl and Majors Jerry and Nancy. A few weeks later the dealer wanted Major Jerry to meet him at a private location. As Nancy prayed fervently back at the corps, Jerry listened as the drug dealer asked the simple question, “Is there any hope for the likes of me?” Through the ministry of Major Jerry and the practical and spiritual help of the Adult Rehabilitation Center, this man was offered a job at a major company within a year. After a year on the job, he called Major Jerry to let him know he had just picked up a car––the first car he had ever actually paid for!

The following winter, Joy Friedman was among those who came in for warmth and safety. “At first, I was not sure what they wanted from us besides coming to their church service. They gave out hope and food for free, and then themselves. I started to see that they really wanted to help me and my friends who lived at times on the streets. They always helped with whatever they had and never turned me away. I slept there, I ate there and they even helped to heal my cracked and bleeding feet and hands. Each time I came, they let me know that Jesus loved me and wanted more for me and didn’t care about what I had done.

They would always love me just like Jesus will always love me.” With Joy’s help, Majors Jerry and Nancy began to realize that these girls needed practical things, such as clothing, shoes, and personal hygiene items.

“Mom and Dad”
“Joy began to call me Mom,” says Major Nancy. Often we would find her waiting for us when we arrived at the corps in the morning. We were thankful, as we knew she was safe for another day. During those years at Lake Street, God gave us the privilege of friendship with Joy. Joy kept us a part of her life and wanted us to be there.”

In 2000, Joy went to jail for what would be the last time. “I fell to my knees and gave in and gave up to the will of my Father. I asked Him to drive my body, mind and life in the way He wanted me to go and that is just what He did. I listened to Him when He talked to me and followed what I was told to do, and today I am free from all that pain and suffering that had bound me. I now have a wonderful, fulfilling life, knowing the love of God. I have to give all the praise and glory to the Lord and God Almighty for bringing the Curttrights into my life!”

As Joy recounted her story to me over dinner that evening after the conference, I asked if she still kept in touch with Majors Jerry and Nancy. Many years had passed, and she didn’t know where they had been transferred after serving in Minneapolis. We were able to locate them, and learned they are now retired and living in Olathe, Kansas. Major Nancy told me on the phone how Joy “had become a tremendous inspiration to me of how to show Christ’s love in practical ways, without judgment or reproach.”

Joy is now a staff member with “Breaking Free,” a ministry that rescues prostituted women in Minneapolis. Joy shares these words about her relationship with Majors Jerry and Nancy: “Without people like the majors on this earth, the king of darkness will win. Thank you, God for sending me my angels. I love you, Mom and Dad! I will always love and remember who is my protector, friend and Father because of what you gave to me––unconditional love.”

Major Nancy Curttright writes, “I’ll never forget one of the things Joy said in the message she gave at our Women’s Camp: “I’m not ‘Joy, the former prostitute’; I’m ‘Joy, the child of God!’ Our greatest delight was and is the news of our Lake Street family leaving the haunts of sin and finding new life with a purpose!”

By Joy Freidman
as told to Major Nancy Hall

What About the Family in Front of Me?

My mom was promoted to Glory in July. While I have been working through sadness and grief, I was hit with a feeling of aloneness, like I’m an orphan. It’s silly, I know, since my father is still alive, but he lives in Texas, and I’m about as far away as one can get, stationed here in Miami. I also have a husband and four great kids, so there’s no excuse for me to wish I had a bigger family and to miss relatives that I didn’t see much even when I did live in Texas. But I feel like an orphan anyway.

One morning in church I was so focused on the hollow spot in my chest that I couldn’t hear the sermon. I found myself in the book of Mark, rediscovering verse after verse how God was helping me redefine my idea of family. First, in Mark 3:31-34, Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived to see Him, and Jesus says, “whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” He wasn’t cutting off His family, but He was reminding me of something that I had never taken to heart––my spiritual family should be just as important as the people with whom I share blood ties. And for that matter, limiting my idea of family to just my husband and blood relatives was limiting what God really meant by family. Look at “Father Abraham.” He only had one son, but he had a huge family ordained by God, and we know this because God told him to circumcise his whole household into His faith, including His servants! His spiritual family was so much bigger than just a few blood relatives.

God never intended for us to just depend upon and support our own immediate family. And I wondered, where did we get this limited idea of what makes up “real” family? After a little research, I discovered that the Romans viewed family in this limited way. It makes sense that the people who destroyed the Temple of God in Jerusalem and tortured Christians like they weren’t human would view anyone without a blood tie as an outsider. And here we are today in America, our own version of Rome, with the same limited view of family.

So when we read in Mark 10:29-32 how Jesus speaks to those who have lost their family about gaining more brothers, sisters and family in return, He is not speaking figuratively. He means that God is giving us a huge family now! To fail to love and feel the ties that we have with other believers is similar to cutting off a blood relative just because you’re too selfish or busy to invest your life in theirs.

And this is where it really gets interesting. My Bible has a notation sending me to Mark 9:43-47. This is where Jesus tells believers, “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.” Now that we know that Jesus value ties to fellow believers above all others, we can understand these verses in the scope of our family relationships. I know from my ministry with recovering addicts that sometimes members of your family are the people who provide you with alcohol or drugs when you have been sober for a year. If that is the case, you must cut off that family. If your brother or father is a pedophile, for the sake of your children, you must cut them off. Your family, in God’s eyes, are those who love and lift you up, not those who drag you down. This is just one extreme example of how much more important your spiritual family is than any blood tie!

For those who feel like they have plenty of family among their blood relatives, or perhaps those who are single, strong, and confident and feel like this extended view of family is just not needed, hear this: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Having a large family is pleasant. It feels good to care about people and to be cared about by them. The precious oil from verse two is a symbol of wealth. So if you have a large family of believers, you can help each other out financially. If you have ever received too much food from your church family during a sickness, you understand a simple way that church families help each other out. And family is like the dew that keeps a mountain green and fertile even in the middle of a desert. If you have experienced death or the loss of a beloved family member, you may feel like you are in a desert. It’s time to turn to your spiritual family, acknowledge them as your relatives and feel the blessing that God wants you to have so you will flourish inside and out!

Since the passing of my mom, I have realized, I am not alone. I’m not an orphan. I have a bigger family than I ever thought I could have, and all it took was opening my eyes to see the brothers and sisters around me who are bound to my heart more than any blood relative ever could be.

By Captain Michele Ward

Household Idols

Many fine Christian families today are in a situation like Jacob’s when he left Paddan-aram. God told Jacob to leave the land of his father-in-law Laban and return to his ancestral home, adding, “I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3). So Jacob made his escape. But his caravan included cargo Jacob didn’t intend or know about: Laban’s household gods, secretly stolen by Jacob’s wife, Rachel (31:19). God had blessed Jacob. God was still watching over him. God was preparing him for yet greater things. But pagan idols had nonetheless slipped into Jacob’s household, without his knowledge.

So it is in many of our homes today. We haven’t turned our backs on God; we haven’t stopped worshiping Him, or enjoying His favor. Not at all. But idols have nonetheless stolen into our households. Sometimes we have lugged them in ourselves, adopting—or adapting—some of the pagan idols that surround us.

Stolen Idols?
The idols in our households are not like the little clay statues Rachel hid in her saddlebags. We do not bow to golden calves in our living rooms or chant prayers to an image, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our lives are free of idols. It may just mean that our idols are more subtle, or that we “worship in ignorance,” like the ancient Athenians (Acts 17:23).

So what are our household idols? A few that seem to be most common in our homes and families are:

Boy watching TVThe pace of modern life makes it more challenging than ever to raise a family without giving in to our culture’s pet idolatries, one of which is convenience. As Christians, we are commanded to do far more than care for our children; we are called to train them, carefully and strategically, in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). But it’s just so easy to stick our kids in front of the television for hours on end while we “get things done.” It’s so easy to use video games as baby-sitters instead of engaging them in constructive activities. It’s so easy to keep them occupied in the minivan by playing a DVD instead of playing road games together. It’s so easy to grab dinner at the drive-thru instead of cooking at home. Sure, being a parent is time-consuming and exhausting, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to get done all we need to do. But we can get so busy that we don’t even realize our modern conveniences are leading to poor modeling… and even idolatry.

Our submission to the idol of convenience will also fuel the idol of consumerism in our children. Before entering first grade, most children will have absorbed thirty thousand advertisements, primarily from television commercials. Little wonder, then, that parents face an unremitting challenge in countering that influence. Our kids crave the coolest toys, the trendiest clothes, the hippest music and the latest technology. But we parents can make matters worse by trying to keep up with our children’s playmates’ or classmates’ families. Rather than teaching our children to budget and spend wisely, we bow at the altar of consumerism.

Instant Gratification
My wife and I were once foster parents to six teenage boys in a group home setting. Our boys had come to us from the juvenile court system, for various reasons, but ultimately each was there for the same reason: the inability to postpone gratification. Given the choice between obtaining or enjoying something now or later, they were virtually unable—untrained—to choose “later.” So it is in many of the finest Christian homes today. Our children have become so accustomed to getting what they want when they want it that they find it nearly impossible to postpone gratification. Too often, they become like us: buying things on credit simply because we want them now; giving up if we don’t see quick results in dieting, studying, or saving; prone to take shortcuts, making decisions too quickly, tending to value instancy more than quality.

Celebrity Worship
CelebritiesMany of our homes (and our children’s bedroom walls) reveal that Christians are as prone to celebrity worship as everyone around us—perhaps more so! We idolize famous authors, famous preachers, famous singers… and not always because of how God is using them, but often just because they’re famous. And worse, we impart such celebrity worship to our children, encouraging their adulation of the latest Christian star or singing group. Marva Dawn, in her book Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, writes:

Several years ago… a teenager who had heard me speak at a large youth convention saw me in a store in Portland and begged for my autograph. I asked her why my signature was more valuable than hers. We are all equally significant members of the Body of Christ, are we not? We all have crucial parts to play in the church’s ministry to the world. The church should be the last place where anyone is thought to be more important than anyone else.

Casting Down Our Idols
These are just some of the idols we worship, just a few that have crept into our homes and families. They may be harder to recognize than a golden calf or a stone idol. They may also be harder to correct. But our modern, American idols are as abhorrent to God as the idols that tempted and afflicted ancient Israel. And if we don’t do something about them, they will corrupt and devastate us just as they did the Israelites.

So how do we cast down our idols? The first step, obviously, is acknowledgment. We must let God show us those idols we have adopted—or adapted—from the behavior of those around us. And when we recognize an idol, we must choose humility and repentance (instead of defensiveness), call our pet idolatries by their proper name—sin—and confess each one to God.

Once we are aware of an idol, we must not only refuse to bow to it any longer, but also avoid reinforcing it. We must clearly and consciously “set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15) in our own lives and in our parenting decisions.

Finally, casting down our idols will mean giving ourselves anew to prayer and devoting ourselves to the cultivation of new beliefs and new behaviors. We must beg God to replace our false gods with His sufficiency. We must yield to God our allegiance to convenience. We must ask Him to cleanse us of consumerism and celebrity worship ourselves, so we might be better examples to our children. We must seek God’s help in countering our children’s attachment to instant gratification. Such steps may not be easy. But they will bear fruit in children who “shine like stars” in the midst of an otherwise “crooked and depraved generation” (Philippians 2:15).

By Bob Hostetler

An Ever Present Sentry

Mount Ararat, where Noah landed the ark and viewed the rainbow, represents God’s faithful promise.

When Abraham was called upon to offer Isaac in sacrifice, his faithfulness was rewarded with both the promise of God and his beloved son at his side. Mount Moriah is the mount of faith.

With the newly freed nation of Israel waiting below, Moses climbed the side of Mount Sinai, where he met face to face with God. When he returned he had in his hands the tablets containing the Law of God. Mount Sinai is the mount of obedience.

Standing alone on Mount Carmel before the host of Israel and the apostate King Ahab, Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to prove both their devotion to the false god as well as the boasted power that god claimed to have. Their defeat was absolute. Elijah then worked alone to rebuild the abandoned altar of God, standing in faith as the fire from heaven consumed the waiting sacrifice. Mount Carmel is the mount of victory.

Grace, Not Disgrace
Later, on an agonizing Friday afternoon, the heavens convulsed and the earth shook as the eternal Son of God was dying. Riveted to the cross while mocking crowds gathered to watch Him die. In addition to extreme physical suffering He endured humiliation and shame. But Mount Calvary has come to stand not for disgrace but for His grace.

The Psalmist may have had these mountains in his mind when praise surged from his soul. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1,2). The nations surrounding tiny Israel worshipped a host of gods whose religion was marked by strange rituals laced with superstition. They believed that the gods were born and inhabited the mountains such as Greece’s Mount Olympus. But the Psalmist testifies that the hills are neither divine or the habitat of the gods. The Creator of those mountains is the only one who lives and rules over all.

The Psalmist then outlines how God acts toward His children.“He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you…” (vs. 3-5a). Think of a father helping his child cross a creek full of slippery rocks. Not content to trust the child’s skill alone or to advise him how to negotiate the stream, the father holds her hand. And when she starts to fall, instead of splashing down in the water she finds the strength of her father keeping her up. Child of God, no matter how treacherous the path is that you tread, the Father will hold you up with the strength of His almighty hand.

A Silent Sentry
ChristWe are told that our Lord watches over us. As a mother never tires of seeing her child, our Father regards His child with eyes that are refreshed with the sight of the one He loves. Because this last point is so important, the Psalmist restates it: “The Lord watches over you.” There is a silent sentry whose eyes do not dim nor do they become heavy. In the darkest night there is safety.

But the protection of the child of God is not just in inky darkness but in the blazing sun as well. “The Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night” (vs. 5b, 6). When the sun is blistering, what is more welcome than a shady place? When the believer finds that conditions are so difficult that the slightest movement is a battle, the Lord provides a reprieve. But there is another thought as well.

Shielded from Hell’s Demons
The Psalmist speaks of being protected from both the sun during the day and the moon at night. Again, both the Jews and others believed that the world was full of demons who sought to attack at any moment but particularly when the person was asleep. The heathens believed that the demons did so at the bidding of the gods, whose intentions toward humans were as often punitive as they were protective. But the believer in the one true God need not fear these unseen powers of darkness. In his sleeping or waking hours, God protects His child. Those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit have no fear of being possessed by demons though Hell itself mount an offensive against him.

The psalm closes in summary, “The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (vs.7,8). God will guard His child even when that person is off guard. If he stays in one place, God is with him. If he could get in a rocket ship and travel the beams of light to the other side of the unknown universe, he would find that God awaits him there. There is no end, there is no limit, there is no boundary to God’s care for His child.

By Major Allen Satterlee

I Need A Savior

It’s become a familiar scene for Jason Hanson and his anxious Detroit Lion fans.

As he kicks a field goal and the football spins end-over-end toward the uprights in the closing moments of a game, nervous fans rise to their feet, quietly waiting Hanson’s status – hero or goat?

Worshiped – “You’re awesome, Jason.” Or cursed – “You’re an idiot. How could you miss that.”

“Yeah, there’s pressure,” Hanson said.

Welcome to Hanson’s world.

And no one wearing a Detroit Lions uniform has done it better. Or longer.

Now retired after 21 seasons with the Lions, Hanson broke the NFL record for most years with the same team. He’s the first player in NFL history to play 300-plus games with one team. Last season, he had shared the record with Darrell Green (Washington Redskins) and Jackie Slater (LA/St. Louis Rams).

As a NFL kicker, he’s heard the boos. And the cheers. He’s kicked 17 game-winning field goals. Last season, Hanson moved past George Blanda into fourth place on the NFL’s all-time leading scorer’s list.

But all the fame, all the notoriety can’t top what his Christian faith gives him – peace.

“In 20 years in the NFL, I’ve found that there’s no peace apart from Jesus Christ,” Hanson said. “There’s no performance. There’s no paycheck. There’s no glory. There’s no fame that satisfies. And most of it leaves you empty in the long run. It’s only knowing Jesus and being forgiven. There’s nothing on the football field that can do that.”

Hanson has the same spiritual needs as the banker or barber. Or the guy sitting in jail, doing his time.

“I’m a sinner. I need a savior,” Hanson said. “There’s no self-help technique. There’s no performance that does that. Jesus does it. That’s where my faith and hope is.”

Hanson knows he’s not going to heaven because he’s a kicker in the NFL. Or that he’s the Detroit Lion’s all-time leading scorer.

Jason Hanson“I’m just like everyone else,” Hanson said. “I need a savior.”

Hanson, who grew up in a Christian home, accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior when he was in junior high while growing up in Spokane. Even though he was in church every Sunday morning, sitting by his parents in church and singing the songs and listening to the pastor’s message, he knew something was missing.

“It was then that I realized I wasn’t a Christian just because I went to church with my parents,” Hanson said. “I realized I needed to commit my life to following him. It had to be my decision.”

From the beginning, Hanson realized being a Christian is a relationship and not a religion. And that it’s not just a one-time, forget-about-it commitment.

“For sure it’s a day-to-day walk,” Hanson said. “It’s like yeah, I’ve got this down and a week later it’s like I’m blowing it.”

It’s an on-going commitment, filled with struggles.

“I’ve discovered that God is always faithful,” Hanson said. “Through all the years of sports, of marriage and of kids in my life, He’s faithful. I feel more certain now of the truth than I did when I was in junior high school.”

Hanson has kicked the most 50-yard field goals in NFL history. His eight 50-yarders in one season ties him for a NFL record. Despite all his success, Hanson said he still listens to his coach, still does what his coach tells him. He said he depends on an on-going conversation with his coach to stay sharp as a kicker. His said his prayer life – talking with God – is equally important in his Christian walk.

“It’s all about being plugged in,” Hanson said. “Praying, that’s the plug in right there. It’s the electrical outlet of a Christian’s life. There are so many things in my life where I feel powerless. I’ve got to go to God. It’s a real challenge. I just need to seek deeper and go to God.”

By Gail Wood