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Oct17ThuEight months with the Heilsarmee opened my eyes to the Army's international work. October 17, 2013 by Markus Beveridge
My name is Markus and I'm a 19-year-old soldier of The Salvation Army. I was raised on a ranch outside of Maple Creek, a small town in Saskatchewan. In Grade 12, I decided that after graduation I would set aside some time to volunteer overseas. Thanks to my corps officers, Captains Edward and Charlotte Dean, and divisional commander, Major Wayne Bungay, my application landed on the desk of Germany's chief secretary, Lt-Colonel Marsha-Jean Bowles. I received word that the German Heilsarmee would accept me as a volunteer and that Captains Gert and Rosi Scharf were willing to take me into their corps in the city of Dresden located in Saxony, Germany.
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So in September 2012, I traded the howling of the coyotes on the ranch for the noisy bustle of the Strassenbahn (streetcar) in Dresden and was immediately incorporated into the corps' “family” of volunteers. It was a time of spiritual growth and an opportunity to better understand this Movement of which I am a member.
One of my prayers for this trip was to get a feel for the internationality of the Army. I was thrilled that just two weeks after arriving in Germany, I had the unique opportunity to attend the European Congress of The Salvation Army in Prague, Czech Republic. Having experienced The Salvation Army only in a small town, I now found myself sitting among 1,300 Salvationists from all over the continent. This really opened my eyes to the extent of the Army's work.
Throughout the following months I took part in multiple ministries, one of which was going out with the mobile canteen to serve the homeless. On a cold winter night they were especially grateful for a hot meal. The verse, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'Open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land' ” (Deuteronomy 15:11 ESV), took on real meaning for me. In addition, thanks to generous donors, we were able to have a Christmas party for more than 200 indigent guests. It included a wonderful dinner and Christmas Eve service on a steamboat for people who would have otherwise spent the time alone and with a meagre meal. Celebrating and reminding people of the real reason for Christmas was a blessing.
In January, the Heilsarmee Dresden took responsibility for caring for elderly evacuees after an undetonated Second World War bomb was found in the middle of the city. This experience showed me that the Heilsarmee is ready and willing to help whenever and wherever it is needed. I also had the privilege to take part in the Patchwork Family Camp for single mothers and fathers struggling with the challenges of raising their children. This camp offered great opportunities to share the message of God's love and forgiveness with everyone. It gave us, the leaders, the chance to show people that they are accepted and that we are willing to listen to their concerns. Each of these ministries demonstrated to me how the officers, workers and many volunteers live their faith by serving others. The motto “Glauben, Leben, Handeln” (Believe, Live, Act) was apparent in their daily work, interactions and behaviour toward others.
Looking back over the eight months, one of my favourite parts of volunteering in Germany was to sit and talk with guests who came to our daily café in Dresden. Here, the importance of humbling oneself and meeting people at their level became strikingly evident. An elderly man with a greying beard and friendly demeanour told me how he had turned to drinking after losing his wife. He subsequently lost his job and his home. I had opportunities to hear about the lives and struggles of many and then tell them of our Saviour's love and grace.
My time in an unfamiliar corps was both a challenging and rewarding experience that I would highly recommend to others. Maybe an exchange program between corps could make this more readily accessible to Salvationists.
Coming from small-town Saskatchewan to urbanized Germany was a substantial cultural leap for me. Although the areas of ministry were different, the mission of the Army remained the same. Whether it was Maple Creek's Captain Edward helping someone at the local thrift store or Dresden's Captain Gert handing out a steaming bowl of soup, it was done with unconditional love and acceptance. I believe that this is what it means to be united as one Army in 126 countries worldwide. Everybody brings in their unique talents and God-given abilities to spread the good news about Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name. This is The Salvation Army.