An NSE Love Story

The National Seminar on Evangelism (NSE) is held every year in early-August. Its venue is the breathtaking countryside of Glen Eyrie, Colorado. As the name implies, NSE is a weeklong format of instruction and practical application for Salvationists from all four USA Territories to utilize to sharpen skills in evangelism.

One would not necessarily think of NSE as a place to find love—but that is exactly what happened to Majors Mike and Cathy Himes, currently stationed as corps officers in Schenectady, New York.

“We met here at NSE 35 years ago,” Mike explains. “Both of us delegates from two different territories.”

Mike was at that time the divisional music director in Pittsburgh and Cathy Litherland was a soldier of the Sedalia, Missouri Corps.

“It was love at first sight—at least for me,” Mike says laughing. “It took her a little bit longer.”

Their fairy tale began early in the week, when walking behind Cathy up a flight of stairs, she dropped a shoe.

“I quickly picked it up and handed it to her, saying, ‘Here’s your shoe, Cinderella!’”

“We were assigned to the same evangelism class and even practiced one-on-one witnessing techniques on each other,” Cathy adds.

By the end of NSE, they had grown close, but still unsure of God’s will for them was, they decided to make a pact.

Major Mike & Cindy Himes (at left) sing in the Praise & Worship group at the National Seminar on Evangelism (NSE).

“Before we all left, Mike and I sat in the Great Hall and promised each other we’d stay in touch. And remember, this was way before cell phones or computers,” she says.

“Yep,” Mike chimes in, “it was all pay phones and letter writing.”

Mike admits the old adage that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and after a month, he drove out to Missouri and asked Cathy to marry him.

She said yes. A year later, they married.

“I had a job (in Pittsburgh) and Cathy was just getting out of school, so after we married she came to Pennsylvania,” Mike says.

A year later the couple moved to Sedalia, and then spent a few years in St Louis.

When asked to serve as Envoys in Ohio, they agreed—soon entering the training college in New York as members of the Followers Of Jesus Session.

“We’ve been Salvation Army Officers now for over 25 years, and have been in four appointments!” Cathy continues.

Mike then lists them as though they were only yesterday: Spring Valley Corps (New York), Divisional Youth Leaders (Western Pennsylvania), Asbury College Student Fellowship Center Directors (Wilmore, Kentucky), and now at Schenectady.

Over the years, Cathy and Mike have returned to NSE—but not at the same time. Cathy taught Child Evangelism and also attended with several of her soldiers. Mike attended with soldiers as well, but it was not until 2016 that they were both assigned as instructors and session facilitators.

And so this iRonic episode of déjà vu came upon this lovely couple as they walked again together through The Castle at Glen Eyrie. They climbed the same staircase where Cathy lost her shoe; and they sat in the same Great Hall where they said goodbye but promised to give love a chance.

“It’s a great feeling to return here with her after all these years,” Mike says.

When asked if he recommended NSE as a place to find love, Mike laughs and asserts, “Sure—what better place to find someone who is like-minded with you about the Lord?”

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

Do You Have A Mission?

“Our personal mission is not something we do for ourselves.” 

When I ask “Do you have a mission?” I mean you personally. Let me presume to answer: You do. As a Christian, you do. As a Salvationist, you do.

The word mission comes from the Latin word missio, which means “I send.” If you are on a mission, you have been sent. Disciples of Jesus are those He sends on a mission.

When Jesus prayed to God in the disciples’ presence, He “looked up to heaven and said… ‘Just as You sent Me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give Myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by Your truth.’” And when the disciples huddled together in fear after Jesus had been crucified and buried, we read that “Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! ‘Peace be with you,’ He said. As He spoke, He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again He said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you”(John 17:18-19; 20:19-21).

Jesus does the sending and we are the sent. As missiologist Michael Frost keeps reminding us, we Christians, all of us, need to come to terms with our “sentness.”

Well, if we Christians are a sent people, what are we sent for? What is our personal mission? Are we sent on a mission to make us better Christians?

It is certainly important that we are attentive to our own growth in grace, but this is not our mission. It is also important that our involvement in mission helps to free us from a narrow, self-centered spirituality. But this is not why we are sent on a mission.

Our personal mission is not something we do for ourselves. Neither is it something Salvationists do for the local corps. The life of the corps is important, and every Salvationist is called to use his or her gifts and resources for the health, unity and minis-tries of Christ’s Body on earth, the church (1 Corinthians 12). But corps programs are not the primary location of our mission. The corps is our spiritual family where we share the love of Christ and receive spiritual nurture, preparing us for a larger mission field.

So is our personal mission something we do for the world? Christ does send us into the world on a mission. The fact is, however, we have precious little to offer the world.

We are a kind of laughingstock, God’s weak-chosen of the world. “God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).

No matter how hard we may work to help others, what we do is paltry in comparison to what this desperate world needs. Jesus sends every one of us to the world, but we go with empty hands. There’s nothing we can do for the world to redeem it.

However, there’s plenty Jesus can do. Our mission is to follow Him into the world. He’s given His life for it. None of us is a savior, only Jesus. We initiate nothing. We follow. We don’t even bring Him into the world with us; He’s already there through His Spirit. Our mission is what we do for Jesus, for the world.

What He’s asking of us is this: to be the flesh and blood of His continuing work in and for the world—to act like Him, speak out for Him, to let Him get sufficiently under our skin for us to resemble and represent Him. This is incarnational living, Christ literally “enfleshed” in us so that our lives are suggestive of Him. We, all of us, have this very mission to embody Christ—or as Luther put it, to become “little Christs.”

As individuals, we’re all different—different backgrounds, gifts, experiences, interests, capacities, personalities, advantages and locations. All those differences mean that every one of us is uniquely positioned to serve Jesus in a strategic way. But what we share is our mission for Jesus in and for the world. That is your mission, and it is mine.

Sunshine is a soldier in our corps.  She and Daniel have a profound love for the young people of our corps, many of whom come from poor or immigrant families. John and Leah share that same love for the youthof our corps.  Both couples spend hours each week at the corps working in youth ministries. What about the rest of the week, the majority of their time?  Well, Sunshine is an elementary school teacher, meaning: She is in contact with a lot of children and administrators! Would that not be the major part of her mission field?  John owns a successful storage business. He interacts with numerous customers every day. Is this not the major part of his mission field?  And by the way, John and Leah themselves started attending the Army because a very talkative Salvationist named Janell was one of John’s customers.

How we participate in the life and mission of the Salvation Army corps is important. We all, however, need to claim our larger mission field: the places where we spend the great majority of our time—home, neighborhood, workplace and places of entertainment or recreation. Jesus wants us, His salt of the earth, scattered evenly across all parts of life, not concentrated in a bitter lump. Think of all the people you know and meet during a week. That is your mission field! That is where Jesus is calling us all. That is God’s plan to save the world!

We have each been sent on a personal mission to be a disciple, an imitator of Jesus, by confronting the culture of consumerism and embracing the enduring reality of the kingdom of God. Confronted by a world that worships extreme self-interest, we choose to risk costly compassion. Confronted by the drive to win and achieve, we follow the lowly Nazarene. Confronted by the enslavement of addictions, we nurture a healthy holiness. Confronting the lure of the most attractive, we worship the One “without form or comeliness.” As best we can, we follow and speak out about Jesus. We claim nothing for ourselves and everything for Him.

This is a calling we don’t have to pump ourselves up for. We don’t need to be clever debaters or persuaders. We just need to  live like Jesus as best we can wherever we are. Let the Holy Spirit take over, and the Father will use the almost-adequate witness of our words and actions to open hearts to Him.

____________________

Commissioner Phil Needham lives in retirement in Decatur, GA. His published works include the books “When God Becomes Small” (Abingdon Press, 2014) and “He Who Laughed First: Delighting in a Holy God” (Crest Books, 2000, www.crestbooks.com).

Outgrowing the Boy

If, as the poet says, “the child is father to man,” what kind of men will boys of today become? Little girls are known to develop social skills at a more rapid pace than boys. Boys are often considered unruly, hyperactive, aggressive—more interested in video games and following their impulses. It is easy to dismiss them with a shrug: “oh well, boys will be boys.”

The dilemma in their young psyches is exacerbated by society’s expectations that boys conform to acceptable standards of behavior, whether it be treating a sister with respect or putting together a sentence of over five words, let alone abiding by the golden rule of treating others as they want to be treated. Not that boys have an over-abundance of adult role models to emulate.

From sitcoms to greeting cards, men are often portrayed as incompetent, irresponsible, beer-drinking oafs who hog the TV remote and growl at their kids. In such a culture, it is a daunting task to raise godly kids of either gender, and to guide our sons to become strong, God-fearing leaders might seem almost impossible.

As a gardener carefully prunes a fruit tree for better yield, so Christian parents need to nurture their sons. It takes courage to confront areas in their lives that need correction, the kind of courage demonstrated by King Lemuel’s mother as she grappled with his dark side, as well as her own.

Centuries ago, she offered what advice she could to shape and guide her boy king. Knowing he was destined for the throne, she wanted him to develop strength of character so he could rule with a firm hand, yet be compassionate—act decisively, yet remain circumspect.

Many Bible commentators believe Lemuel was a nickname for Solomon. If that is the case, his mother was Bathsheba, whose scandalous history is recorded in the eleventh chapter of 2 Samuel. Perhaps she seduced King David, perhaps not—maybe she had no choice but to do the king’s bidding. Either way, one sin stacked on top of another until the tower of lust, conspiracy and murder toppled. David, and presumably Bathsheba, repented and God mercifully granted forgiveness. Still, a decade or so later Bathsheba surely had regrets and longed to spare her son similar moral failure. Her words in chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs identify three potential inhibitors to her son’s ability to lead in a God-honoring way:

1. Lust

“Do not waste your strength on women, on those who ruin kings,” King Lemuel’s mother cautioned in Proverbs 31:3. But today’s sex-saturated culture bombards our sons incessantly with ungodly messages about women. Psalm 119:9 asks, “How can a young person stay pure?” The answer: “By obeying Your word.”

Deuteronomy 6:7 also emphasizes the need to teach scriptural principles to children: “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Even before they enter kindergarten, we need to teach our sons to respect girls, to run from temptation and to set biblical standards for themselves that will win out over raging hormones. Self-discipline and delayed gratification are crucial elements of godly leadership.

2. Wine

While the Bible soundly condemns immorality of any kind, many Christians do not believe it speaks as clearly on alcohol use. Pew Research Center found that 42% of evangelical leaders say drinking is compatible with being a good evangelical Christian. Little wonder that alcohol consumption and its peripheral issues create problems even among faithful churchgoers.

But knowing how alcohol obstructs and perverts good judgment, the king’s mother warned, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol.” (Proverbs 31:4). Clear thinking and sound judgment are essential for godly leaders.

3. Power

British politician Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” King Lemuel’s mother understood that a person’s character is often revealed in how he treats the underprivileged.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed,” she urged (Proverbs 31:8).

If our sons are to govern others, they must first learn to govern themselves. It’s a pathetic reality that our children often adopt our weaknesses. How are we measuring up against the standards King Lemuel’s mother set for him? Are we heeding her pleas regarding sexual integrity? Do we set an example of sobriety? Do we demonstrate compassion, especially for the downtrodden?

We would do well to echo the prayer in Psalm 139:23-24:

“Search me, O God, and know
my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out
anything in me that offends
You, and lead me along the path
of everlasting life.”

We tend to withdraw from such painful searching of our own hearts, and our natural tendency is to minimize our child’s character flaws and to excuse with a sigh, saying, “Boys will be boys.” It takes courage to confront that which needs correction in our children and ourselves, but it is only by godly living and teaching that we can guide our boys to become the men that God designed them to be.

____________________

Esther Zeiset lives in Newmanstown, PA

 

A Trophy of Grace

Ramona Carrothers was a prostitute and an addict for 18 years, selling herself on the streets of South Atlanta on the same block where the Army’s Kroc Corps Community Center now stands. Today, Ramona is a “trophy of grace” and a uniformed Salvation Army soldier in that corps.

Far from her home city of Washington, DC, Ramona’s life was unraveling. She was dancing in a New Orleans strip club to feed her growing alcohol and drug habits.

One night, she got into a car with a man who promised her $200, but when they walked into the hotel room she quickly discovered that he was an undercover police officer. She was arrested for prostitution, which at that time in Louisiana was considered a “crime against nature” and carried along with it a three-year registry as a sex offender.

So what did she do?

“I ran,” Ramona says without hesitation. “I didn’t want to be registered as a sex offender and I kept running away from the law for 15 years—all the while a warrant was out for my arrest.”

She was able to evade the law for so long because she carried no identification, and she went by her stage name, Gabriella—“Gabby” for short.

“In the streets, you never tell your real name,” she explains.

In addition, prostitution in Atlanta was merely a city misdemeanor and whenever the law picked her up, she was usually freed quickly.

“I went to jail,” she muses, “a lot!”

Enter The Salvation Army in Ramona’s life.

“I was walking down the street and came upon a lady cadet (from the nearby Evangeline Booth College), and she stopped to talk to me,” Ramona says. “I asked her, ‘Are you sure you want to be seen talking to me?’”

The cadet’s heart was touched by Ramona’s plight, and she immediately went to Captain Marion Platt and told him about her.

“Don’t you know, Captain Platt walked right up those front steps of the brothel where I was staying, and took me out of there!” Ramona exclaims. “He wasn’t afraid at all, although he could have easily been killed.”

Captains Marion and Everette Platt took Ramona to lunch and arranged for her to enter an Army shelter designed to extract women and children from sex trafficking. The love they continued to show for her led to her coming to the Kroc Corps for worship.

Unfortunately, she continued to relapse until one night a man attempted to drag her into the woods.

“I just knew he was going to kill me, and I screamed and fought back. Someone passing by came to my rescue and attacked him, which allowed me to run away. I had cuts and bruises all over, and I cried out to God that I can’t do this no more and I wanted to change.”

Ramona had become very close to Captain Sandra Pawar, who once told her, “Ramona, this is what you do; this isn’t who you are!” She says her whole attitude changed when she heard the captain’s words. Her relationships with Salvationists at the Kroc Corps became the focal point of her new life.

“Lieutenant Bethany [Yocum] knelt with me at that altar right there, and I became a born-again believer in Jesus!” She now guides others to find the Savior, pointing to the exact spot in the Kroc Chapel where she and her corps officer prayed.

“I’m telling you, the taste for alcohol and drugs is gone!” she beams. “I got a job with the City of Atlanta—and I serve the [Atlanta] mayor his lunch every day. I got my drivers license, and I own a truck. I have a savings account, and I am attending school to someday become a phlebotomist.”

Ramona’s criminal record is completely clean, and she calls herself “a walking testimony” for what Christ can do for everyone who calls upon His name.

“I’m not scarred up, I have no teeth missing, and, thank God, I have no diseases,” she is amazed to confirm. “That is nothing but God having His hand over me! I learned how to love myself.”

“And best of all,” she adds, “Gabriella no longer exists… my name is Ramona!”

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor