Salvation Army Responds to San Bernardino Mass Shooting

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting in San Bernardino, The Salvation Army responded by offering food, snacks, water and Gatorade to those gathered in The Rudy Hernandez Community Center, the designated family reunification area.

As survivors were bussed to the building to be reunited with family members and others waited to find out if their loved ones were alive or dead, Salvation Army officers and volunteers were there with words of comfort, prayer and something to eat and drink.

The Army set up three tables and served hamburgers donated by McDonalds, sandwiches donated by Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, pastries & nuts donated by Costco, chips, licorice, Gatorade and water. Salvation Army officers and volunteers arrived at 3 pm. They stayed after the last bus arrived to comfort those whose loved ones had not been located.

“These are our neighbors and each and every one is beloved to us,” says Major Daniel Henderson of the San Bernardino Salvation Army Corps Community Center. “This is a devastating tragedy, but I firmly believe that by working together, our community will be able to move on from this time, stronger and more united than ever before.”

Salvation Army locations in San Bernardino went on lock-down as a safety precaution and all Bell Ringers were picked up from local stores.

By Rachael Fowler
Photos by Ricardo Tomboc

The Wise Still Seek Him

They pushed through the ancient rutted roads trod upon by generations of traders and travelers. How long or far they journeyed can only be imagined. Tradition says there were three kings, but even this basic fact is lost in the fog of history. We know they not only persisted through the heat and hazards of a desert and fickle weather but also braved bands of robbers. They paid the frequent taxes to collectors who blocked the roads and all the while protected their costly gifts. They knew their journey would not end one footstep before they found Him.

It was strange that when the Magi reached Palestine, the ones who should have known about Him were baffled as to where the King of kings was born. They hurriedly consulted Scriptures and discovered that He was to be born in Bethlehem, only seven miles distant! They had also missed the angels’ song and the confused but excited tale of the shepherds.

The Magi must have wondered how they, foreigners and Gentiles, could be acutely aware of Christ’s birth when the host people were not. In the end, they had to find Him on their own. Fortunately, God intervened. The Bible says, “The star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9). They found Christ and honored Him with their worship and presented Him with their gifts.

Suppose the Magi lived in the 21st century. How would they go about their search? No doubt they would pull out their smartphones to get directions. They would consult GPS as they trekked through busy city streets. What would they enter as their destination? “Birthplace of the Messiah?”

If the electronic wonders failed them, how would they proceed next? Perhaps they would walk through crowds of people, stopping this one or that one to ask where the Lord Christ was born. What kind of answers would they get in American neighborhoods or shopping centers? Who would know what to tell them?

Would the Magi be left to wander, wondering how to find Christ? Would you tell them? Could you tell them? Or would you be as befuddled as the religious leaders in Jerusalem? Christ might very well be near at hand but like then, He might as well be on the far side of the moon for as much as some people seem to know.

The good news is that Christ came, not to be hidden away among us but to take His place beside us. John got it right when he wrote, “The Word [Jesus] became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness” (John 1:14). Among us. Here. Now.

The Magi could find Him and so can you. Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Call on Him to have your sins forgiven. Call on Him to enter your heart and live. Call on Him to find that His presence remains and your real life begins.

A New Perspective

It is with hearts filled with thanksgiving and praise to God that we should enter this Christmas season. I hope we will all take time to reflect and contemplate the everlasting love and eternal plan of salvation that God has prepared since the beginning of time for all mankind.

We certainly have had ample opportunity to reflect on the boundless love of God to The Salvation Army throughout this milestone year of the 150th anniversary celebrations. Once again, now, we think of the extravagant love of God, who gave us the greatest gift of all, knowing full well that most of us would not realize the value.

Isaiah wrote: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:2-3, NIV).

Despite it all, God still went ahead with His plan of salvation for the world! That is why Christmas is such a special time. The extraordinary revelation is that God sees things differently from us.

One of the first things Mary says in her song of thanksgiving to God is: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant” (Luke 1:46-48, NIV).

We see here a clear distinction between the values of God and those of mankind. God is ready to give His all to save men and women like you and me. God is the God of eternity, He is the Almighty and yet He shows His love and concern for weak, imperfect human beings.

The subject of great joy expressed by Mary is a subject of great joy for us all. Yet she continues with another outpouring of thanksgiving and joy: “For the Mighty One has done great things for me” (Luke 1:49, NIV).

One of the elements of the Christmas story which never ceases to amaze me is to think that God is such a great and powerful being, yet He still is interested in us. That is why Mary rejoices and why we should rejoice as we look forward to celebrating the coming of Christ that changed the course of human history. God is ready to stoop down and even to use imperfect men and women to accomplish His plan.

Despite His power, God is happy to show mercy to the small, insignificant and imperfect people that we are. People give honor and glory to what appears to be powerful and wealthy in this world. God does exactly the opposite. God looks at humanity with love and mercy, which is what the story of Christmas is all about.

God turns the value scales upside down and shows His love for the small, the humble and the seemingly insignificant. We need to examine our hearts as we prepare for Christmas so we can eliminate all thoughts of pride and any spirit of materialism because, in reality, whether we are princes or paupers— or the General of The Salvation Army—we are pretty insignificant!

Christmas is about the fact that God came specifically to establish a relationship with us, and His glory is manifested in the lives of ordinary humble people. Christmas is a time of great joy and peace for all mankind.

I pray that we will experience the wonder of that reality in our lives this Christmas time and that we will show it wherever we are!

By General André Cox

A Christmas Story

It was September 1996. I had just begun my very first job at Gold’s Gym. I was thrilled to belong to a health club, work out with state-of-the-art fitness equipment and make some money. During one of my very first workouts at Gold’s, I was bench-pressing and asked a guy nearby for a spot. He obliged, and after my set I thanked him and introduced myself, “By the way, my name’s Dan.”

“Tom,” he said.

“Nice to meet you, Tom.”

He forced a smile, we shook hands and that was that.

Tom was probably in his 40s, blond with a short, well-trimmed goatee and dark circles around his eyes, as if he were constantly sleep-deprived. He was lean yet muscular. I saw him nearly every day and I would always greet him with, “Hi Tom!” or “What’s up, Tom?” But I hardly ever got a response from him, and when I did it was merely a “Hey.” Also, he never called me by name. What was this guy’s problem?

Sure, in his eyes, I was probably just some snot-nosed, 15-year-old kid, but does that justify rudeness? I didn’t think so.

Normally, I would have just stopped talking to Tom, but I prayed about it and God told me quite clearly: Continue to talk to him, Daniel. Show him love. Show him My love.

So I did. Every time I saw Tom I made a point to speak to him, and every time he ignored me.

Fast forward over three years. It was almost 10 p.m. on December 23. I was going to be off for the next three days, and I found myself daydreaming about the joyous holiday activities that would take place over the break: watching Christmas specials, relaxing at home, going to Grandma Ginny’s with the family, exchanging gifts and, of course, feasting on Christmas dinner. My shift at the gym couldn’t end fast enough.

It was just about closing time when, in the middle of my daydreaming, I happened to look up and see Tom. He had his head down and was walking quickly towards the exit. Oh great, I thought, Here comes Ebenezer Scrooge now. Guess I’ll wish him “Merry Christmas!” and brace myself for his “Bah humbug!” Or, more likely, his usual silent treatment.

So, as he neared the door, I said with a smile, “Merry Christmas Tom!”

But instead of continuing on his way, he froze. He slowly looked up from the floor and turned toward me. With tears running down his face, he said, “Merry Christmas, Dan!”

Not only did he not ignore me, but he actually used my name for the first time since we met three years earlier!

I came around the counter and gave him a big hug. As if he was reading my thoughts, he proceeded to tell me all he had been through recently: a bitter divorce, losing custody of his four kids and, one week prior, being fired from his job.

He then told me he had grown up in the church but hadn’t prayed to God in decades, but he did for the first time the night before. He asked God if there was anyone on earth who still cared about him. He told God that if one person reached out to him he would have a reason to live. The catch was it had to happen by the night of Christmas Eve.

What he said next sent chills up my spine. He confessed that he had just bought a gun and was preparing to shoot himself the following night. Then he thanked me for my unconditional kindness and for saving his life. And for the first time since we met, he smiled.

Suddenly, the three years of him ignoring me seemed worth it. Never underestimate the impact the smallest gestures of kindness can have!

Until I went to work at another gym, I saw Tom regularly for several years. We always greeted each other by name.