Senior Army Officials Meet with President Obama

President Barack Obama welcomed The Salvation Army’s national leaders to the White House for a brief visit on August 5.

Commissioners David and Barbara Jeffrey and Lt. Colonels Ron and Carol Busroe met with President Obama on a number of issues relating to the Army’s role as a faith-based organization working with the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Under the Domestic Policy Council, this office works to build bridges between the federal government and non-profit organizations to more effectively serve Americans in need.

Prior to meeting with Mr. Obama, the Jeffreys and Busroes spoke with Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the White House Faith-Based Initiative, and Paulette Aniskoff, Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office for Public Engagements. The preliminary meeting with Rogers and Aniskoff focused on the following: “Pathway of Hope,” the Army’s national initiative to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty; Addiction & Recovery, including Adult Rehabilitation Centers, corps rehabilitation centers, and Harbor Lights; and youth programs such as the Kroc Centers, youth clubs and educational and character-building programs. Also on the agenda were disaster preparedness, religious exemptions and charitable deductions. The session with senior White House officials sought to discern how the Obama Administration’s priorities intersect with The Salvation Army’s mission and ministry.

“The Salvation Army has been committed to solving issues that mirror the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative,” Commissioner David Jeffrey said. Through this initiative, the Administration partners with cities, businesses and foundations to assist young people of color with mentoring, support networks and the skills they need to find a good job or attend college, and then work their way into the middle class.

The four officials told President Obama that The Salvation Army values its partnership with Domestic Policy Council priorities—a coalition that is independent of the federal government.

The president thanked The Salvation Army for its “untiring efforts” to serve the public during times of both national and personal disaster.

Commissioner David Jeffrey asked President Obama to protect charitable tax deductions and to enhance Salvation Army visibility before the American public. He ended the meeting with a prayer for the president’s leadership as well as for his family (see prayer below).

“The Salvation Army has been serving the American public since 1880 through programs like Pathway Of Hope and My Brother’s Keeper,” said Lt. Colonel Carol Busroe, the Army’s National Director for White House Relations.”This is nothing new to us; we’ve been at it for a very long time.”

By Major Frank Duracher

Who Changed the Cultural Channel

In the last forty years — within the short span of two generations — a brand new culture has arisen just beyond the lawns and driveways of our homes and churches, transforming the cultural landscape around us from familiar territory into a foreign land — one that is resistant to our long-accustomed ways of sharing the Gospel.

It’s called postmodernism, and as God’s ambassadors, we would be wise to study this new culture, its language and its customs. As the late Dr. Rick Ferguson, senior pastor of Denver’s Riverside Baptist Church, said, “we need to be good missiologists and adapt to our postmodern culture, so that we can clearly communicate in [a postmodern] context.” But how?

First, we can relax a little. God still speaks to the hearts of men and women by His Holy Spirit, to “convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8, NASB). The salvation of our postmodern friends, neighbors and strangers is not completely — nor even primarily — our responsibility.

Still, we are called to be faithful, and God can help us become more effective at sharing the Gospel in a postmodern context, particularly as we understand a few key contrasts.

Spiritual v. Christian
Capitalize on the spiritual curiosity of the day. “America is more spiritual today,” Ferguson says, “but less Christian.” Many postmoderns are spiritually hungry and thus willing to talk openly about spiritual things; questions such as “Do you have any interest in spiritual things?” and “May I tell you how my spiritual life has changed?” will usually open doors better than “If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?”

Personal v. Propositional
Focus your Christian witness on the personal. Today’s seekers are not so much asking whether the Gospel is credible; they are asking whether it is relevant. “Is it true?” has been replaced by “Will it work for me?” Thus, there has never been a better time to share our personal testimonies. As Discipleship Journal editor Sue Kline says, “Most postmoderns are interested in hearing people’s stories. If we listen with genuine interest to the stories of non-Christians, they will listen to our stories, which are just like theirs but with the added surprise of redemption.”

Process v. Presentation
View your witness as a process. Postmoderns tend to be process oriented. “Many will come to Christ inch by inch, not mile by mile,” says Ferguson. “They have to process the Gospel, and so, the goal is not to immediately give them a gospel presentation but to form a relationship with them and begin to build a bridge.”

Dialogue v. Monologue
Contrary to popular belief, postmoderns are not won solely by emotion; they are attracted to reason and rational thinking. However, they will not be persuaded by argumentation but by dialogue. “Most of us,” Kline adds, “learned to ‘do evangelism’ as a monologue: we share a presentation and ask the listener to pray a prayer. But in every friendship I have with a non-Christian, I entered that relationship mostly as a listener.”

Community v. Institution
Present the church as a community, not an institution. Many postmoderns are repelled by “organized religion” but starved for community. True Christian community—what the Bible calls koinonia — is winsome and powerful. Many people today crave the kind of community we Christians often take for granted: eating in one another’s homes, sharing material blessings with each other, supporting and encouraging each other, praying together, weeping together and celebrating together. The joy of Christian community is one of our most powerful witnessing tools in a postmodern culture.

Multicultural v. Homogenousd
Emphasize the universal nature of the church. Postmoderns are “turned off ” by denominations, which they interpret as a sign of discord, not diversity. Take every opportunity to emphasize, as Peter Tze Ming Ng of the Chinese University of Hong Kong says, that “The real Church is — and always has been — multicultural… When we think of the Church we must conjure up a picture not of people like ourselves, but of people of all colors and shapes and ages, women and men speaking different tongues, following different customs, practicing different habits, but all worshiping the same Lord.”

Followers of Jesus today face an opportunity that comes roughly once a millennium: to not only witness but respond to a major shift in the cultural climate of the world around us. May we respond, like Paul, in a way that prompts those around us to say, “We want to hear more” (Acts 17:32, NLT).

By Bob Hostetler

Reborn, Reunited, Repurposed

Henry Williams can tell you the exact moment of his rebirth. It was January 5th, 2014, the first night of the polar vortex that plunged Chicago into a lethal deep freeze. Henry was asleep in his usual spot outside the delivery door of a CVS pharmacy. The buzz of the heroin he had snorted was telling his brain he was toasty and warm, when in reality he was probably freezing to death.

All he had covering him were two thin sheets. He wore no gloves. When two Salvation Army workers tried to wake him, they got no response and called 911, believing he was dead.

The paramedics successfully roused Henry, who only remembers them saying: “Sir, we have some people here who are willing to take you to a warm place.”

“And I can remember extending my hand and saying, ‘Yes, sir. Yes, sir.’”

Extending his hand wasn’t part of the plan the 54 year-old had made for himself during eight years of living homeless on the streets of the Windy City. In that plan, he would live outdoors apart from society, do his drugs and die in the process.

But in that moment, Williams reached for something more—more from life, more from himself, more from the society he had chosen to shun and that shunned him.

I met Henry at the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center at Monroe and Ashland Streets, which he calls home. Except for a telltale mouth of missing and tangled teeth, it was hard to imagine this was the same man whom Captain Nancy Powers, Harbor Light corps officer, described bringing here that frigid winter night.

At the time, Williams was a fright by his own admission, with a “haystack” of unkempt hair atop his head and a “Rip Van Winkle beard.” He had lost about 70 pounds, dropping from his normal weight of 185 down to 115.

He needed help to walk, and by the next morning when the drug withdrawal kicked in, he became so ill he had to be taken to the hospital. The doctors would later tell him they thought he was gone.

But when I met him he looked strong, fit and well–groomed. Although emphasizing the addict’s mantra of taking life a day at a time, he also spoke of finishing his GED, finding a job and maybe going to college.

He confided that this was probably his longest stretch of sobriety. His addict father began injecting him with heroin when he was 11 years old for reasons Henry has quit trying to fathom so he can concentrate on forgiving him.

There were jobs, stints in jail and treatment programs. But this was the first time he ever told himself: “Whatever I have to do, I have to do. I’m not going back out on the streets.”

For many years, he said he would wake up in a daze on the sidewalks as Chicagoans bustled to work and think to himself: “Life is passing you by.” Now, there might still be an opportunity for him to make a contribution, “to do what normal people do,” as he puts it.

Williams saw the elements of a miracle in his story, the hand of divine intervention leading the Salvation Army workers to find him. Captain Powers said a wrong turn brought her and a co-worker to the spot where Williams was sleeping that night as they scoured lower Wacker Drive for homeless people in need of shelter. Henry’s shopping cart, overflowing with everything he owned, caught their eye. He said he normally kept the cart hidden at night so nothing would be stolen while he slept. But that night he left it out.

Later, as he clung to life at the hospital, Henry found himself trapped in a highlight reel with his life flashing in front of him —”the things I did wrong, the things I did right, faster and faster, until the light popped through.”

At the end of the light were the doctors. They asked him what happened. He said he didn’t know. He told the hospital staff that he had no family.

Williams said he believed God intervened that January night “not just to restore me but to get me to help other people.” He told of riding the Chicago Transit Authority to visit a doctor recently and running across one of his homeless acquaintances from the street.

“What you done?” the man demanded to know.

“I told him I gave up,” Henry said. He heard later the man had checked into rehab. Henry Williams had found his purpose in life.

About a week after Easter, Dorothy Cosby, 29, of Richmond, Virginia, got out of bed around two a.m. with a sudden urge to Google the name of her long lost uncle — Henry Williams.

It wasn’t the first time she’d tried to track down a lead on the man she calls my “favorite uncle,” even trying unsuccessfully a few years ago to get help from Chicago police, but that night something told her to take another stab at it.

Up popped my column in the Chicago Sun Times with a photo of Henry, and Dorothy found herself looking into a face she hadn’t seen in more than ten years, the face of someone she had started to believe was dead.

She was so excited she got on the phone and woke her mother, Mary Cosby, to share news of the discovery. Dorothy read her the story aloud. Mary, Henry’s sister, said she was so excited afterward that she couldn’t sleep the rest of the night.

The next morning, Dorothy came to visit Mary and together they watched a Salvation Army video on the Internet, featuring Henry’s story. “He seemed more happy than I’ve seen him. I’ve never seen him smile that way,” Mary said.

Not ten minutes later, Mary was on the telephone speaking with her brother. And with that phone call, ten years of worrying, ten years of not knowing what had become of her little brother melted away.

“God bless you for putting this out here, because we would have never found him,” she told me.

If Mary is that grateful to me, imagine how grateful she is to the people of The Salvation Army, who actually saved her brother and brought him this far in his recovery. “I think it’s a blessing,” she said. “He could not be in a better place today.” She has stayed in touch regularly with Henry since she found him.

Henry’s transformation took another big step forward when he returned to work.

Captain Powers, the Salvation Army officer who helped bring Williams in from the cold that January night, reports that the Army gave him a lead on a part-time job and the employer was “so pleased with his work that after three days they hired him full–time!” His sister said Williams “always loved working and taking care of himself.” She said that’s why she was surprised he fell so far into the drug life that he would be living on the street.

Mary confirmed her brother’s account that he had been the victim of abuse as a young child, although she told the story a little differently. She said she never thought of Williams as being homeless when he was still living in Virginia, even though he never had a place of his own. “He used to live with me. He used to live with his niece. He always lived with family,” she said.

Henry has learned a lot in eight months, including what it means to be clean and sober and to let go of old hurts. On, June 4, he was reunited with the family he had once denied.

“I’m pretty overwhelmed, but I’m good. This was meant to happen. This is the way life is supposed to be. I’m actually back on earth again,” he told me. With a tear dampening his cheek he expressed his thanks, with family gathered round in a room at the Harbor Light Center.

Henry’s sister Mary made the trip from Richmond to Chicago along with her daughter, Dorothy, and Henry’s two brothers, Able and Ivory.

“There’s a lot of change in him,” observed his sister, noting her brother was thinner and grayer than when she last saw him, but also something more important. “He’s different on the inside. His heart is different. He thinks different,” she said.

A Chicago businessman paid for a minivan for the family to drive from Virginia and put them up in a hotel. He asked to remain anonymous, but said he was motivated by a sense of family. “Family is very important,” he said.

Williams knows that now. “Everyone needs a family,” he told me.

That reality started to dawn on him during his recovery as he saw relatives come to visit other residents of the Salvation Army treatment center.

He wondered if there might still be somebody out there who cared about him, a thought he had given up long ago as he buried himself deeper and deeper in Chicago’s street life and his drug addiction. “I didn’t really want to deal with a lot of memories, you know,” said Henry of his withdrawal from society. He says he harbored resentment over being abused as a child.

A trip down memory lane led to a family argument, one of those who-did-what-to-whom things. They got past it. “We worked through some rocky memories, and it all turned out to be a beautiful moment,” said Henry. He said he’s rediscovered there’s a “natural bond you get from family you really can’t get nowhere else. It’s like an empty spot that was missing has been filled.”

Just the same, Williams said he now has two families: his biological family and The Salvation Army.

His Virginia family is only too happy to share him with the Salvation Army folks that they credit with turning his life around, but his sister wanted to make sure he understood something. “Guess what, we always loved you, and we always cared about you,” she said. “I always want you to know you are not by yourself.”

I wonder how many other people out there could benefit from hearing those words.

By Mark Brown

What Must I Do To Be Lost?

The Apostle Paul and his companion Silas were in jail. They had been accused of “throwing our city [Philippi] into an uproar,” and consequently were placed in stocks in the innermost cell to prevent any possibility of escape. At midnight, while Paul and Silas were singing songs of praise to God, a severe earthquake struck the vicinity. “The foundations of the prison were shaken… all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:26 NIV).

The jailer, fearing the worst, was about to kill himself when Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

As a result of the actions of the apostles, the jailer realized his sinful condition and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”

Here was a man involved in the criminal justice system of his day. He knew a good deal about crime and punishment. Now he was aware of his unregenerate spiritual condition and begged for help in finding a right relationship with God, so that he might escape eternal doom.

For centuries following that incident, millions of souls have asked the same question: What must I do to be saved? And the answer has remained constant: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

In the 21st century, however, it seems the question is being asked less than ever for two reasons.

First, there is a lack of conviction on the part of most people that they are sinners.

Second, there is an assumption that a loving God would not eternally punish those who deny or neglect Him.

The lack of conviction of sin has many causes.

Even people who are less than thirty years–old remember when the norm in our society was that couples married — and then had sex. Today just the opposite is true for most of our society. Casual sex by unmarried couples is common. For a man and woman to live together without the benefit of marriage is “normal.” There is no sense of shame in having a baby out of wedlock.

Concurrently, there is a lack of discipline on television and in the press in language and in subject matter. Ads which were unthinkable a quarter century ago are played every day. Language banned by common consent a few years ago is now used prolifically. The use of mind-altering drugs has increased astronomically, so that now even grade school and middle school children are addicted. Along with the drug trade, the number of murders — including mass shootings — has skyrocketed. All too often, we hear of such things and are unmoved. They’ve become commonplace. They’re expected.

Lacking a sense of sin, few people are inclined to ask, “What must I do to be saved?”

Even among those who do ask and are given the proper response, there is grave danger that “Believe in the Lord Jesus” may be misunderstood. Saving faith involves much more than intellectual acknowledgement. “Even the demons believe” in God (James 2:19).

True belief includes not only intellect but also action. A believing person becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The ninth of The Salvation Army’s eleven doctrines makes this clear. “We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ” (emphasis added).

Most people in America believe that when they die, they will automatically go to Heaven. They may believe that the Hitlers and the Idi Amins and even the John Dillingers of the world could not make it to Heaven; but to ordinary citizens like themselves, Heaven could not be denied.

Perhaps, then, the question to be asked is, “What must I do to be lost?”

If the evil I do outweighs the good, will I be eternally lost?

If I commit the most horrible sins, like murder or adultery, will those exclude me from Heaven? If I’m meaner or less loving than my neighbors, will that bar me from eternal bliss?

If I drink too much or use illicit drugs, will that send me to Hell?

If I’m mean to children and/or kill pet animals, will that make me fit for torment?

There’s a really simple and uncomplicated answer.

What must I do to be lost? The answer is absolutely nothing. You don’t have to be a serial killer or the world’s most prolific liar or a drug addict or a prostitute or a curser of God in order to be eternally lost.

You don’t have to do anything except fail to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned.” And since there is no sin in Heaven (Revelation 1:27), only those who are redeemed will enter.

The wise thing, then, is to ask, “What must I do to be saved?” and to follow through by accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.”

By Commissioner Robert E. Thomson