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    For the Birds

    Our mission: rescue 250 airborne evaders in five hours. March 19, 2020 by Richard Smith
    Filed Under:
    Faith & Friends
    Richard Smith, his niece, Amanda, and a fine-feathered friend
    Richard Smith, his niece, Amanda, and a fine-feathered friend
    Have you ever had a budgie or cockatiel escape from its cage and tried to catch the avian escapee as it flew from perch to perch, just out of your reach?

    Imagine, then, trying to catch hundreds of birds with nothing more than a butterfly net. And they all have to be retrieved by sundown.

    This was the situation my niece, Amanda, and I found ourselves in recently.

    “I’ll Help”
    It all started one evening when I was attending an Alpha session (alpha.org) at The Salvation Army’s Belleville Community Church in Ontario. These weekly introduction to Christianity meetings were something my wife, Beth, Amanda and I looked forward to.

    Not only had our group grown closer as friends but we had also become stronger Christians. For my wife and Amanda, Alpha had brought them to God. For me, Alpha introduced a whole different perspective to my life, almost as if I was walking with Jesus.

    We had just wrapped up our meeting for the night when one of our group appeared at the doorway.

    She told us that her apartment was slated for renovation and that she had less than a day to vacate the premises, and that there were a “fair number” of exotic birds she needed help moving.

    Before I knew it, I blurted out, “I’ll help you with your birds.”

    After all, how long could it take?

    Tight Timeline
    We should have realized that this task was not going to be as easy as we thought when we escorted the woman back to her car in the church parking lot, only to be met by a police cruiser.

    They had followed her and planned to ticket her for distracted driving. It turned out that she had 13 dogs and a dozen birds in her little car. (She was en route to drop them off at a nearby animal hospital, which she’d already arranged.) That certainly would have been enough to distract anyone!

    Fortunately, Amanda and I and a few others managed to persuade the police not to arrest her, on condition that she not use the car until the dogs and birds had been cared for.

    Early the next morning, I picked up my niece (she had volunteered to help me), and we proceeded to take the menagerie to the local animal hospital. Then, Amanda and I and a couple of Alpha volunteers borrowed a van to pick up the dozen or so birds we thought were there.

    We had less than a day to do what we needed to do before the renovations would start.

    A bird landed on Amanda's head“Almost as soon as Amanda opened the door, a bird landed on her head. All she needed was a pirate’s hat!”
    Surreal Scene
    We quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a simple matter of retrieving a “fair number” of birds.

    Almost as soon as Amanda opened the door, a bird landed on her head—all she needed was a pirate’s hat!

    The scene inside was pandemonium. Dozens of birds were careering around the house, startled by our sudden appearance. Bird feed and waste were scattered about. In the middle of the main room was a huge parrot perched serenely in a cage that was much too small for it.

    All the while, dozens of birds flew around. The surreal scene reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

    Mission Accomplished
    Armed with what looked like big butterfly nets, we started after the fluttering flock. It was hot work. The windows were shut and it was the height of summer. We were wilting, and the birds weren’t making things easy for us. We’d open up a cage to put one bird in and two would promptly fly out.

    An exhausting three hours and 150 birds later, we had completed the task of corralling the birds on the first floor.

    We then tackled the second floor, which took two more hours, retrieving a hundred more birds in the process.

    By the end of the day, we’d captured all the birds in the house.

    (Or almost all. Despite our best efforts, one lone determined bird remained uncaught, but we were allowed to go back the next day to finish the job we’d started.)

    It took another four hours to deliver the birds to the animal hospital.

    We were tired, dirty, sweaty and grungy from slip-sliding around, but we finally accomplished our task.

    New Resolve
    Looking back, I still can’t believe that all this actually happened.

    Our Salvation Army pastor, Major Wil Brown-Ratcliffe, told us that we showed “compassion in action” by helping our fellow Alpha participant on such short notice. I joked that this was God testing my resolve to my new Christian commitment!

    But if there is one thing I learned in Alpha, it is that, as Christians, we are supposed to be there for one another. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2) is just one of a number of Scripture references in the New Testament on how I should act. I try to learn and grow in God’s Word and His expectations for my life and lifestyle every day.

    When we took on the task, I thought we were just helping the woman out, but looking back, I realized we helped a lot of animals, too. I thank God for giving me a “bird’s-eye view” of ministry.



    What Is Alpha?
    Alpha is a course that seeks to introduce the basics of Christianity through a series of talks and discussions. Alpha courses are conducted in churches, homes, workplaces, prisons, universities and a wide variety of other locations. Contact your local Salvation Army church for a course near you.

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