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Aug4FriBehind the food banks, shelters and addiction centres. August 4, 2017 by Lt-Colonel Marsha-Jean Bowles
I hope we can go camping this weekend. I hope Mom bought ice cream. I hope Dad will play catch with me tonight. We use the word hope, most commonly, to express our wish for something to happen or for a particular thing to be true.
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I grew up in Essex, Ont. My parents were not professionals, but they worked hard and provided for their family: a home, nutritious meals, family fun. I wore hand-me-downs, ate my share of potato corn soup (not my favourite) and stayed home for vacation. Although I do remember hoping that Dad had stopped in at the Dutch bakery on his way home from work, I had all I needed. This is not the case for many men, women and children in Canada today.
In March 2016, more than 863,000 people received help from food banks in Canada. Of those, 36 percent were children and youth. In 2013, up to one million children and youth were growing up in economically deprived families. I hope we have breakfast today. I hope I can concentrate at school. I hope Mom doesn’t lose her job. I hope we can pay the rent.
Our culture values independence and self-reliance as markers of success. We hesitate to ask for help. We are also staying single longer, and living alone more than ever before. Social isolation is a serious problem in Canada. Most commonly, social isolation affects seniors, but this is not exclusive. Teens, immigrants, those living in poverty and those living in isolation due to geography, language or cultural expectations, may also be impacted.
I hope someone calls me today. I hope my daughter comes for a visit. I hope they understand my English. How often are these hopes dashed? When is the supply of hope exhausted and replaced by hopelessness?
The Bible says, “Hope postponed grieves the heart; but when a dream comes true, life is full and sweet” (Proverbs 13:12 VOICE). The Message translation reads, “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick.” Hope postponed grieves the heart. Disappointment after disappointment causes broken dreams. Where can people turn when their hope is gone?
Pastor and author Bill Hybels says, “When the local church stewards the message of Christ, it truly is the hope of the world.” It’s not because we have food banks, nor is it because we can supply affordable clothing through thrift stores. The designation “hope of the world” is not ours due to summer camps, music lessons or women’s groups. It is only when we convey our hope in Jesus that we can consider ourselves the “hope of the world.” Jesus Christ alone empowers his followers to give hope and lead people to life-change.
When hope grows weary, the local church—you and me—faithfully living for Jesus in this world will renew hope. We who know the reality of Christ our Saviour, who transformed us and by whose Spirit we live, are the hope for those who have little hope left. We can hope for them, with them and, in serving Jesus, we can have a part in fulfilling their hope.
The program services department is committed to supporting those who bring hope—not just any hope, but hope in Jesus Christ, the only One who can transform a man, woman or child. We know transformation is possible. We are inspired when we visit ministry units: the 10-year-old leading devotions at Kung Fu for Christ; the atheist singing in the community choir; the chaplain recounting the conversion of an inmate; the young woman who is mastering life in the Pathway of Hope ministry.
Together, we will bring significant change to our communities as we connect with our neighbours—building relationships, sharing their concerns and happiness, showing there is a way of unending hope.
Follower of Jesus, whatever your connection to The Salvation Army, Christ in you is the hope of the world. “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all” (Psalm 71:14-15).
Lt-Colonel Marsha-Jean Bowles is the secretary for program in the Canada and Bermuda Territory.