The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is symbolic of the gold, frankincense and myrrh the Wise Men gave to Jesus, as well as a reminder that Jesus was God’s gift to us. Each Christmas, The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda shares this gift of hope in communities across the territory.
From Tears to Joy
by Major Shirley King
When an older woman arrived at the door of Lakeshore Community Church in Toronto last December, I could see she had been crying. In fact, she was still crying, almost unable to talk through her sobs. She was ashamed to be asking for help. She had arrived in Canada, along with her daughter and two grandsons, a month and a half before. They were from Ukraine.
Through her tears, she told me her story of escape from a land where, at one time, she had so much. Before they left, they were living with no water, no lights, no heat. And now, in Canada, she had no food. It’s one thing to hear stories like this on the news, but to experience the rawness of the lives of those who are enduring the reality is heart-wrenching.
She told me about missile and rocket attacks and the constant feeling of fear in her homeland. She declared her appreciation for Canada and her hosts for taking them in, but cried as she told me they would have no place to live in just a short while. “We had such a good life in Ukraine and now war, we have nothing.” She said her grandsons had written a letter to Saint Nicholas but she knew it was futile. There would be nothing for them.
Was she in for a surprise! We loaded her up with food, toys and gift cards for extra Christmas treats. She couldn’t carry everything that was packaged just for her. My co-worker offered her a ride home—not something we usually do. When they arrived and began bringing the parcels inside, the older woman looked straight into my co-worker’s eyes and declared, “You are going to be healthy this year! God is going to answer your prayers!”
What the woman didn’t know was that my coworker is on a significant health journey, with multiple and varied treatments. She was stunned, and texted me to say, “You won’t believe what just happened.” What a God moment. Isn’t it wonderful when God allows us to see the heart of others and there is a connection on a deep level? God always shows up. We may be the answer to someone’s prayer.
Major Shirley King is the corps officer at Acton Community Church, Ont.
by Major Corinne Cameron
For as long as I can remember, I have visited nursing homes in the month of December to share Christ’s joy by singing Christmas carols. Sometimes this was linked with a junior band or a singing company; at other times it was my sister and me accompanying our mom, a Salvation Army officer, with her visits.
When I was a young adult, my grandma started suffering from dementia and moved into a nursing home. I went to visit her, but she no longer remembered who I was. My aunt suggested that I sing to her, and for an hour we sang Christmas carols together. Despite her dementia, she remembered the carols.
It was my last visit with my grandma, as she died just a couple of weeks later. This memory has stayed with me and affirmed the value of the gift of music that God has entrusted to The Salvation Army. It reminds me to view community care ministries at Christmas as acts of hospitality in which we “entertain angels unaware” (see Hebrews 13:2 KJV).
Major Corinne Cameron is the corps officer at Yorkminster Citadel in Toronto.
by Captain Erin Metcalf
A Christmas tree, presents, a delicious dinner with all the trimmings—sometimes we take these things for granted. But when circumstances change, the “extras” that make Christmas special can fall out of reach. Christmas toys—once a joy to shop for—become a burden and source of stress as the reality of affordability and lack of funds hover like dark clouds.
One Christmas I sat across from a woman who had unexpectedly become the primary guardian of her 10-year-old grandson. She explained, through tears of hopelessness, that she had been quite comfortable and self-sufficient, but an increase in rent, the higher cost of groceries and the added expenses of taking on the sole care of her grandson had left her with nothing extra and no way to provide a Christmas for her new little family.
Having never needed assistance before, she found herself asking if there was anything we could do to help. An assurance of gifts for her grandson, a gift card toward a Christmas meal and an invitation to summer camp was the hope she was looking for. Her eyes lit up as she smiled and said, “I don’t know what I would have done without The Salvation Army. Thank you.”
Captain Erin Metcalf is the corps officer at North Toronto Community Church.
by Danielle Bulloch
I have been both the giver and receiver. I have given to others out of my abundance and accepted a blessing in my need. In accepting these gifts, I have been humbled, as sometimes pride keeps us from reaching out for help. Christmas is that one time of year when you can be both giver and receiver, navigating the varied emotions associated with these gestures.
The Salvation Army has been a vehicle of blessing on so many levels. They provide an avenue for people to give of their time and resources to help those who are less fortunate. They also provide opportunities for people to use their gifts to bless, encourage and uplift the bystander and the participant.
I was recently reading a book by Catholic theologian Bishop Robert Barron, who wrote this: “What you have received as a gift, give as a gift—and you will find the original gift multiplied and enhanced.” When I read that statement, I thought of Matthew 10:8: “Freely you have received; freely give.”
The Salvation Army has been an instrument, especially at Christmas, to be both the giver and the receiver. To bless and to be blessed. The Salvation Army has been an integral part of my life, acting as a safe harbour, in so many ways, and the vehicle in which I can extend my hand in service to others. Both the giver and receiver. Freely you have received; freely give.
Danielle Bulloch attends North Street Citadel in Hamilton, Bermuda.
Photos: Lt-Colonel John Murray and WTB Photography
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