A One-On-One Intervention

For 12 years, Benjamin Segura lived a life that took him to “some very dark places.” Then a friend intervened for him and forced Benjamin to take an honest look at himself.

“I had just come out of county jail from a one-year sentence,” Benjamin says. “My life totally revolved around abusing drugs and alcohol. I was a mess.”

That’s when Benjamin encountered Georgia, who was a friend of his dad.

“Georgia was the intake counselor and office clerk at The Salvation Army in my hometown of Albert Lea, Minnesota. I know now that she was speaking to me through the Holy Spirit,” Benjamin explains.

Apparently, Georgia pulled no punches with Benjamin—she challenged him to take a step back and to take a hard look at his life.

“She forced me to look at all my sins and all the doors that were closed to me because of my disobedience to God,” he says. “And then she told me to take a look at all the people I had hurt along the way!”

That’s when Benjamin says he felt his knees start to buckle.

“It all stood before me—I couldn’t deny any of it any longer,” Benjamin admits. “I knew then that what I was hearing was God speaking to me through her.”

Georgia wasted no time to allow Benjamin make a decision.

“She said to me, ‘I’m calling the ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Center) in Minneapolis to speak to Janna, the program director!’”

Georgia made the phone call that changed Benjamin’s life. Her friend’s son was in desperate need of help; and she just wasn’t going to let him go on like this.

Immediately, Janna told Georgia to “send him my way!”

“The day I arrived at the Minneapolis ARC—June 17, 2007—was a new beginning for me,” Benjamin explains. “My time there allowed me to work on my issues, and to find the Lord Jesus as my Savior!”

Benjamin graduated from the program, and went on to be an employee there, first as house steward and eventually as lead resident manager of the center.

“From there on, my life was only a ride up!”

As Benjamin’s relationship with Christ grew, so did the path of service the Lord was leading him to take. He began attending the Albert Lea Corps, became a uniformed soldier, and now works there—the very place where Georgia boldly confronted him.

“I want to help others the way Georgia helped me,” he says.

“For 12 years I was lost in the addiction and criminal way of living I fell into. Someone reached out to me and pulled me up; giving me a second chance in life. So now the fact that I am able to help people do the same means everything to me.”

Benjamin sees people mired in the same pit he was in ten years ago. His message to them is simple.

“You can’t give up. God does have a plan for you; you do have a purpose in this life! Lean on Him to help you find it!”

____________________ 

—Major Frank Duracher

Transplant Sisters

Major Donna Leedom needed a kidney. Without a donor, her future was uncertain, to say the least. Problem was, Donna’s blood type is O-negative; making it much harder to find a match. She was placed on a nationwide list, hoping and praying for a miracle.

God sent a miracle, all right—just from an unexpected source.

Enter Angela Nesley, who also happens to have an O-negative blood type. Both ladies agree that what happened over the course of three years is nothing short of God’s incredible plan to answer prayer, even before prayers were lifted up on Donna’s behalf.

“I’m friends on Facebook with Lt. Colonel David Kelly, who along with his wife, Lt. Colonel Naomi Kelly, are very close friends with Donna,” Angela says. “I read his heartfelt post on Facebook on Donna’s behalf, begging anyone with O-negative blood type to consider donating a kidney to save her life.”

Angela says that as soon as she read about the blood type, she knew what she had to do.

“I hope that someone would do the same for me,” she adds.

Angela privately contacted Donna’s doctors and initial testing was begun—all without anyone’s knowledge except for Angela’s adult children and her mother.

Despite being the same blood type, the odds of a perfect match were very low.

“Ninety percent of O-negative people are ruled out,” Angela explains, “but tests showed that I fell into that 10% that would match with what Donna needed.”

So far, so good.

Another critical factor was concerning Angela. Three years ago, she had decided to have a gastric sleeve surgery—helping her to lose 100 pounds.

“God knew I needed to lose that weight in anticipation of this transplant—not because of anything to do with Donna, but because one kidney would not be able to support a five-foot, two-inch person weighing 250 pounds!”

Other stringent tests followed, and each time things looked positive. Each step only confirmed further for Angela that God’s hand was in all of this process.

“At the end of June, the doctors came into the examining room grinning from ear-to-ear,” Angela says. “They told me that both kidneys were ‘a match made in Heaven,’ and that either of them would work!”

Not wanting to get Donna’s hopes up, she was not informed for a few weeks thereafter. Angela kept reading posts on Facebook of people imploring others to pray for a donor. “I kept wanting to shout out—Don’t worry, God’s got this!” Angela recalls.

When Donna’s doctors were finally deliver the great news to her, Donna phoned Angela—but couldn’t even speak because of the tears. Angela was driving at the time, and had to pull over as she began crying tears of joy too.

“I couldn’t imagine how to thank Angela for this gift,” Donna says. “She asked me not to, and to just live well. That’s my intention!”

The operation went without a problem, and Donna’s prognosis is excellent.

Despite a nationwide search for the perfect kidney for Donna, the best-possible match came from Angela—who is also a Salvationist; formerly a member of a corps in Wichita, Kansas, where Major Donna once pastored; and most iRonically, at the time of the transplant process, living only a few miles apart!

“I attend the Alexandria (Virginia) Corps and Angela was going to the corps in nearby Fairfax,” Donna says with a healthy shine on her face. “And we were overwhelmed by the wave of prayer that covered us; people who knew us and those who only knew of the need. Even members of the medical team lifted us in prayer, and calling on their church members to join them on our behalf!”

Now that part of Angela is now a part of Donna, the two women consider themselves something like sisters. In keeping with Angela’s keen sense of humor, she even named the kidney “Beatrice.”

These “transplant sisters” also agree that “God had everything worked out, every step along the way!”

____________________

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

Bible Study: Rich Man, Poor Man

The danger of wealth is not in possessing money but in being possessed by it. It can make someone think he is smarter, more talented, more deserving than those who are without. There are many, many examples of wealthy people who understand what money can and cannot do, who live humbly as children of God and are aware of their obligations to others. But too many seem to assume that they have what they do because God or the fates have favored them above all others. The Bible clearly teaches that this is not so. If anything, wealth is like fire than can be used as a tool, either to create or to destroy. It can be as addictive as any drug, a remorseless master that cares little for the ruin it leaves in its wake.

There is no clearer story to illustrate this than the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Jesus described their separate situations by saying, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores” (Luke 16:19-21).

The words used to describe the rich man’s lifestyle in the original Greek are the same used to refer to gluttony. In describing this man, the Bible does not accuse him of any kind of open or flagrant sin. In many ways, he was quite respectable. He was likely admired by his family and friends and trusted in business. He apparently was not openly cruel to Lazarus. He simply ignored him. He considered Lazarus merely a part of the scenery, like scrub brush or litter.

Lazarus’ condition could not have been more desperate. Sitting so close to the opulence of the rich man’s home, he would have seen the trappings of wealth and the privileged guests coming and going and heard the parties at night, but would never find comfort in them. Jesus also mentioned a particular custom that emphasizes the difference between the two men. In those days, people ate with their hands. In place of napkins, hosts would provide pieces of bread that guests would use to wipe their fingers. The bread was then tossed aside for the dogs. The Bible says that Lazarus longed for these filthy scraps, but instead lay weakened by hunger. A further indication of his misery were the dogs themselves. These were not the pets that we know, but street dogs — often vicious, wandering in packs and universally despised. When Lazarus was covered with ulcerated sores, these savage animals showed the only pity Lazarus knew by licking his sores clean.

Death is known as the great equalizer, but in this story it is something different. Lazarus died, just as the rich man did, but it caused a huge reversal in their fortunes. In the afterlife, Lazarus was cradled in the bosom of Abraham, a lovely reference to being in the presence of God, while the rich man was sentenced to a place of flame and torment. This was not because one was rich and the other poor, but because, in his poverty and hopelessness, Lazarus had trusted in God in spite of every outside indication that God had not cared for him at all. The rich man, thinking he was self-sufficient, found he had no capital in eternity.

Even in eternity, there was still evidence of the rich man’s arrogance in his plaintive cries for help. Twice he asked Abraham to send Lazarus. The first time, he asked for Lazarus to fetch some water (vs. 24). The second time, he asked for Lazarus to leave his place of comfort and bliss, to re-enter the world where he had known little but pain and to go to his five brothers, who, like the rich man, had very likely ignored him all his life. He asked all of this, simply to deliver a personal message of warning to the brothers (vs. 27-28). It was as if the rich man, now without any of the servants who had waited on him in life, thought he could employ poor Lazarus as a butler to do his bidding.

Both the rich man’s requests were denied. The first was rejected because in eternity there is a huge gulf separating the righteous and the wicked (vs. 26). Those who say they want to go to Hell because all their friends will be there need to read of the rich man’s anguish. The second request, also denied, was not to have a party with his brothers but to warn them to at all costs to avoid a similar fate. The sad truth behind the denial is outlined here, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (vs. 31). People have the Bible in every format imaginable and in almost every part of North America. Even the shortest road trip involves passing numerous churches. To flip through TV channels or to scan the radio involves passing by stations dedicated to spreading the good news of salvation. Most people are given at least 70–80 years to decide for Christ. Those who die without Christ will not do so because of lack of opportunity to turn toward Him but by purposely sidestepping Him.

Will you open the door to His call to you? Or will you, like the rich man, decide that, as long as things are manageable, you’ve got this whole thing figured out? It’s not what you have in your hand that matters but who you have in your heart.

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Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee is Editor–in–Chief and National Literary Secretary.

Bible Correspondence Course: A Life Changing Experience

When my parents were active Salvation Army officers in Texas, they were responsible for working with parolees upon release from prison.

I vividly recall playing on the floor of my mother’s tiny office as a six-year-old and watching her working with parolees, ministering to them, praying with them and distributing and collecting their little Bible lesson booklets.

That was my introduction to The Salvation Army’s Bible Correspondence Courses.

Today I have the awesome opportunity to minister through the Bible Correspondence Courses as the coordinator for the USA Southern Territory. Having taken this appointment over a year ago, I have come to fully appreciate the capacity in which I am serving the Lord and His reason for placing me here as we connect with inmates through the courses.

I plead with God to always give me eyes to see not just names written across a Bible lesson, but each person’s soul, to see them as He would. Many of the inmates I work with are clinging to their last remnants of hope. They are lost and desperate. They pour out their deepest and darkest secrets in quiet confidence, searching for that ultimate healing balm of our Savior. I note each name and the correctional institution to which they are assigned. Most importantly, I pray over every single person, no matter how involved or time-consuming it might be to bring each one’s situation before our Lord.

The extent of the program’s influence came through in an email I received from an officer about a new Salvation Army soldier in his corps who is committed to forming relationships with prison inmates.

This individual calls the inmates, writes to them, visits with them and even welcomes them into his home upon their release from prison. The soldier shared a letter he received from an inmate who had been especially touched by the comments one of our graders made on the lessons he had submitted. The grader had written individualized remarks on every page and included a hand–written letter on the back of each lesson. The inmate spoke of how truly meaningful the lessons and personalized notes were to him and how touched he was by the spiritual and pastoral care it represented.

While our ministry efforts may go unnoticed by many, they are seen by those who matter most, those Jesus referred to in teaching His followers:

“‘Master, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’… ‘Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:37–40).

___________________ 

Major Debra Flores, Coordinator, USA Southern Territory

SK Squared = Smart Kids, Strong Kids at Dayton Kroc

A new equation in youth ministries is blossoming at the Dayton, Ohio Kroc Corps. The ministry called SK2= Smart Kids, Strong Kids, or SK–Squared for short attracts a wide range of children, teens and young adults to the corps through programs at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

Majors Thomas and Barbara Duperree conducted a strategy session with their soldiers, expressly addressing how the corps youth programs could be revamped into something relevant and current.

From that brainstorming, SK2 was born.

“There are wonderful, talented kids here,” says Corrine Duperree, one of several youth leaders of SK2. “Our After–School program is offered Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and has about 80 kids per session.”

The sessions end with a dinner, but if the parent needs more time after dinner, the kids are directed to traditional youth programs like Sunbeams, Girl Guards and Adventure Corps. The corps also provides non-traditional classes—karate, cooking, homework help, “J.A.M.” (Jesus and Me), loom knitting design, “LOL” (Love of Literacy) and team–building, just to name a few.

“These [classes] have given us a direct link into the corps. They have proven to be very successful for several of our Army programs and very well received by our Kroc family,” Corinne adds.

SK2 is built on three pillars: Education, Nutrition and Family.

Education involves training for parents and children alike. Topics and activities foster a culture of curiosity and interest in learning. Parents are prompted on topics so they can better assist their children in school. SK2 partners with parents by holding regular reviews of each child’s progress.

Nutrition recognizes the decline of health among our nation’s children. This pillar strengthens families by providing healthy, homemade meals each day, which improve the child’s overall health.

Family provides an environment for bringing parents and their children together at the close of each day. Parents receive updates on their child’s progress, receive educational materials and attend classes. Families also enjoy a meal around the table, as well as physical and recreational activities that foster growth and togetherness.

“Our Kroc center brings a whole new population of children and families to draw from for the corps,” adds Major Barbara Duperree. “SK2 is a bridge between the Kroc Center and the corps.”

For instance, a “Star Search” contest revealed an abundance of talent. One girl, Ariel, sang one of Adele’s hit songs, and her performance brought the house down. Ariel became very involved in the corps program through Sunbeams and is now a Junior Soldier. And her dad has become a Senior Soldier.

Corinne and the other leaders see a lot of brokenness in the lives of some of the youth attending SK2.

“Many children are in single–parent families and SK2 leaders are something of a parent figure,” Major Barbara says.

This meaningful link is proving to be a beneficial equation for everyone involved.

____________________

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor