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Feb1ThuWhatever you call it, we are responsible for each other. February 1, 2018 by Commissioner Susan McMillanAt this time of year, when much of the church is thinking about Lent, our thoughts often go to The Salvation Army around the world. In recent years, the Army’s appeal for financial support for its international ministries has been called “Partners in Mission” and, indeed, it is a time when we remember that we serve in 128 countries. In many of those places, serving God is a huge sacrifice. Our people live and work in difficult conditions, some in areas that have been torn apart by conflict, and often where poverty is the norm rather than the affliction of a minority. Yet, the service of God knows no barriers and people’s lives are being transformed and hope restored, even in these difficult situations.
When I was young, we celebrated the “Self-Denial Appeal.” For eight weeks every year, we worked hard to raise funds to send to the international Salvation Army. We washed cars, cleaned instruments, sold candy and collected from our neighbours. But the heart of the appeal was not in the extra work to raise funds, but in denying ourselves something in order to be able to contribute.
This approach began in 1886, when General William Booth was trying to raise funds for the Army’s missionary work. One of his officers, Major John Carleton, pledged to go without dessert for a whole year and give the money to the fund. The General thought this sacrifice was too great, but decided that if many Salvationists denied themselves something for a shorter period of time, the needed funds could be raised. The Self-Denial Appeal was born.
For me, it was always a blessed time. I was fascinated by the accounts of Salvation Army work in other countries. At times we would have a visiting missionary show “slides” and tell us about their work. In one corps, a Sunday school teacher dressed one of the children in a national costume from another country every week, and had them tell the story of the Army there by reading a short report she had researched and prepared. A group of us was once featured in The Young Soldier magazine in various national costumes. For the few years we attended that corps, I was always dressed as a Bolivian. Little did I know that my own service would one day take me to Bolivia!
One of the great outcomes of this special appeal is the knowledge that we are, in fact, partners in the mission of The Salvation Army. And while we have been assigned certain territories to help us focus our partnerships, we are really one Army, with arms stretching around the world. And yes, we are our brother’s keeper. We are responsible for each other and so we all pull together to make a difference.
You may be interested to know that the Self-Denial Appeal/Partners in Mission campaign is supported by Salvationists all over the world. All territories contribute to it. The funds raised are vital to the ongoing ministry of The Salvation Army in many territories where public support is minimal. Without this support, we could not continue in some countries, where the service we provide is so important.
So, I ask you this question: self-denial or partners in mission? Maybe both monikers are important. Self-denial to remind us that we are blessed, and partners in mission to highlight that we are all together in this important work of taking the transforming message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world.
Commissioner Susan McMillan is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Follow her at facebook.com/susanmcmillantc and twitter.com/salvationarmytc.