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  • Nov7Thu

    In the Trenches

    Where are we fighting today? November 7, 2019 by Captain Laura Van Schaick
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    On May 9, 1912, William Booth gave his famous “I’ll fight” speech. Speaking of the plight of the poor, the marginalized and the imprisoned, Booth’s words served as a call to arms for Salvationists around the world—a call to fight with love-in-action for the sake of the oppressed and the lost.

    He could not have imagined that only a few short years later, Salvationists would assist soldiers in a much different fight in the First World War—also referred to as the Great War.

    Each November 11, Canadians remember the sacrifices made by the many who fought bravely for the freedoms we hold today. Internationally, Salvationists remember the efforts made by their own who served alongside the military in both world wars: the chaplains who shared words of hope on the front lines, the doughnut girls who served warm baked goods to the hungry soldiers and those on mobile canteens who offered a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.

    It’s good that we remember and celebrate this. It’s good that we give out free doughnuts on National Doughnut Day. It’s good that an image of a war canteen was silk-screened on one of the first Salvation Army T-shirts I ever owned. It’s good that we remember the good we have done in the past in literal trenches around the world.

    The past should not be forgotten, but our history is only worth telling if it shapes our present and our future.

    What Are Our Current Trenches?

    Booth’s “I’ll fight” speech is as relevant for us today as it was more than 100 years ago. Women are still marginalized and child hunger is still a concern. Human trafficking is still real, as is the struggle for justice. Church attendance is dwindling, loneliness is at an all-time high and there are many who have not embraced the love of Jesus.

    But is The Salvation Army living in the past or are we embracing the present trenches that surround us? Trenches not filled with military soldiers, but with refugees, foster children, the homeless, the hungry, the evacuated, the trafficked and the addicted. How are we supporting these individuals? How are we fighting for them?

    I posed this question on Facebook, and was inspired by the answers I received:

    Stories from the trenches of camping ministry, where one child ate so much they got sick because they weren’t sure there was going to be food to eat at home.

    Stories from the trenches of street ministry, where relationships are being forged with women who are selling themselves in order to have a place to sleep.

    Stories from the trenches of emergency disaster services, where a hot meal of roast chicken and potatoes was enough to bring an evacuated man to tears.

    Stories from the trenches of community and family services, where a transgender couple seeking food support also found love and hope.

    Stories from the trenches of addiction, where recovery groups are being formed and participants are being welcomed into the worshipping community of the corps.

    These are our trenches. This is where we are fighting.

    Mobilized for Today

    We won’t move forward if we refuse to leave the past. We need to fight in ways that are relevant and innovative. We love our history, and we need to continue to remember it, but we must ensure it’s not to the detriment of present and future victories.

    We need to be brave and bold if we are to remain in the trenches of our world. The trenches aren’t pretty. It takes hard work and grit to make forward gains. We need to be willing to get uncomfortable, to leave the safe walls of our corps buildings and our Sunday morning worship meetings. Soldiers, adherents and all disciples of Jesus—we are called to fight!

    And when we do make gains, we need to tell these stories, too. Because we are fighting. We do have incredible stories to tell, stories that are just as inspiring as the doughnut girls and mobile canteen workers who served on the front lines so bravely in the past.

    May we not be stuck in the past, or afraid of the future. Instead, may our past inspire us to fight for those who are struggling in the trenches that God is calling us to, celebrating our victories in Jesus’ name.

    Captain Laura Van Schaick is the women’s ministries program and resource officer.

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