Over the past few months, I've been surprised by God. Perhaps I should know better, but the Holy Spirit's power never ceases to amaze me. Allow me to relate three experiences from across the territory.
At a Sunday retreat at Oshawa Temple, Ont., I began morning worship by engaging the congregation with a carefully worded covenant card. I opted for a “soft sell,” inviting people to reflect on the words and write their own covenant if desired. To my surprise, the response at the mercy seat was overwhelming. I waited 25 minutes for those standing in the aisles to have a turn, kneeling, praying and writing. It made me wonder: Could this happen at every corps? Are leaders willing to make “the big ask”? Are Salvationists willing to respond?
I was recently in Kentville, N.S., to open new facilities that were prompted by the growth of the corps. In rural Nova Scotia, growth of any kind is often stunted by aging demographics, scarce resources and out-migration. I was unprepared for the significance of the building project, the vibrancy of the corps, the quality of the music, the number of children who sang and played their instruments and the parents who—along with veteran Salvationists—were beaming with pride and hope for the future.
Then there was Aaron. I was touring a multi-faceted men's shelter where some of the space had been transformed into supportive housing. Aaron was sitting on his bed when a small group of visitors walked into his private space. With Aaron's prior consent, the executive director had prepared us for a brief look into his world. As I extended my hand, he asked, “Are you the top man in the Army?”
Unsure of what he might say next, I took a deep breath and responded, “Yes, I am.”
“You saved my life—I would not be alive today if The Salvation Army didn't find me.” Wow! I did not see that coming. The story didn't begin that day. It covered decades of one man's journey. It was a life of destitution, addiction, terrible choices and the loss of personal dignity. Most of the tour fades in my memory, but Aaron's words, “You saved my life,” remain.
As I move about the territory and experience these stories, I often find my spirit is overjoyed. Yet the excitement is overshadowed by questions: Can this not happen everywhere? Is this what revival looks like? Is it possible that each corps and centre could facilitate a move of the Holy Spirit?
I celebrate the General's vision plan as I see it played out in our territory. “We see a God-raised, Spirit-filled Army for the 21st century—convinced of our calling, moving forward together, into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means with the transforming message of Jesus, bringing freedom, hope and life.” Ah, I see it, but I long for more for every corps and centre.
One way we are able to do more is through the new Mission Focus Fund, a territorial surplus that is the result of good stewardship. This year, the fund made $1.2 million available to ministry units across the territory for more than 130 projects. In harmony with the General's vision and our territorial priorities, these new projects will engage youth, develop leaders, spread the gospel and help transform our communities.
These projects will also take us out of our comfort zones, for there is little room for comfort in the battle for souls. I am personally challenged and encouraged when God's current blessings clearly overshadow the “good old days” (surprise!) because he is doing a new thing (see Isaiah 43:19).
I feel as though I should be carrying a scroll with all the greetings and messages from where I have been. I want to share glimpses of the Army that will encourage and remind us of God's surprising blessings. I know there are places where mission is hard and we are losing ground to the enemy, but there are settings where, despite the challenge, obedient faith and personal conviction are enabling bursts of growth, renewal of mission and fresh engagement in building God's kingdom.
Have you been surprised by God lately? Is God doing a new thing where you are?
Commissioner Brian Peddle is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory.
On Wednesday, July 17, 2013, F. Geraldine Harrrow Carruthers said:
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