Even when finances are tight and resources limited, we can give of our time to help, to lead, to reach out, to serve, to meet human needs and demonstrate our love for our neighbours. Our time is one of the most beautiful gifts we can offer. And God can use that time to transform the lives of those around us. And I actually have a story that can speak into this.
Mission From God
I’ve often heard the story of Majors Woodrow and Maxine Boyde, a young Salvation Army officer couple who were transferred to a small town with a large church.
After working hard and settling into their new church and community, the pastors were preparing to go on a short and well-deserved holiday. They were approached by their corps sergeant-major, the chief lay leader in any Salvation Army church who assists the pastors.
He asked if they would go and visit his daughter before they went on vacation. According to the corps sergeant-major, she was in serious trouble, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The worried father didn’t even think she’d be there when they returned from vacation.
The pastors promised to go see her but as sometimes happens, the couple found themselves sidetracked with other pressing ministry demands on their time, and the visit slipped their minds.
As they were pulling their car out of the driveway to leave for their long-anticipated vacation, God whispered a reminder of the promise they’d made to go see their local leader’s daughter. They knew they had to make the time to do what they had promised. So the young couple pulled back into the driveway. Major Woodrow stayed with their children while Major Maxine went back into their house, changed into her Salvation Army uniform and headed out on her mission.
Retreat and Defeat
What Major Maxine walked into on that day was horrible.
She knocked on the door to enter a dirty, broken home where the mother, the corps sergeant-major’s daughter, was drinking, chain-smoking, and obviously high on drugs. She held a little boy who looked to be about a year old, and next to her was a little girl who seemed to be about three. The girl was dressed in a dirty blue bathing suit and she looked like she’d been wearing it for days.
At that moment, the woman’s husband returned home. Extremely embarrassed that the Salvation Army pastor had walked in uninvited into this mess, he wasn’t friendly or welcoming to her.
The young pastor spent a few moments taking it all in, the mother high on drugs and alcohol, the dishevelled children, the surly father.
Totally overwhelmed and at a loss as to what she could possibly do or say, Major Maxine could only think of three words.
“God loves you,” she said.
As the pastor left the house and retreated home to her family, she felt defeated and wondered why God had ever sent them to that church and community.
Changed and Transformed
When Major Maxine and her family returned from their vacation, the last thing she expected to see was the mother and father and their two children at the Sunday night service.
But there they were.
And as the congregation started singing Amazing Grace, that broken couple walked to the mercy seat, that simple wooden bench at the front of the church where sinners and saints confess their sins. There, they made the decision to follow Jesus and to become Christians, and they promised they would serve God for the rest of their days.
The two were instantly transformed by the power of God’s Spirit, and from that moment on, they were set free from their addictions. They went on to live a life that was spiritually rich, full and free.
Time Well Spent
The little boy and girl grew up knowing God. Like their parents, they started attending The Salvation Army. The children became involved in the church band and the youth programs, and they both became official members of the organization.
Today, the son is married with an amazing wife and two beautiful children, and they all attend The Salvation Army, giving of their time and resources to impact the world.
And I am the little girl in the dirty blue bathing suit. I grew up to become a Salvation Army pastor sharing my story.
Through the haze of alcohol and drugs, my mother heard a Salvation Army officer tell her that she was loved and valued. She heard three words—“God loves you”—three words used by God to change three generations of my family.
I have no idea where I’d be today if that Salvation Army officer hadn’t told my mother that God loved her. Major Maxine sacrificed time from her vacation to step into a broken home, to minister to a family who many in the community had written off as hopeless. That officer could never have known the impact she would make as she stepped into that house.
But because she did, three generations of a family were changed forever.
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