THE bright morning sun had not been shining long enough to dry up the rain-soaked unpaved roads. The mud was deep, slippery and hazardous. But we took the risk in order to visit two homes. It was a Saturday morning in April, in a village in Moldova. The purpose of all this was to show me the work of our mobile clinic and then to accompany the project team, territorial leaders and divisional commander to see just how practical their outreach is. The mayor of the village joined us. The first home was that of a young family. The parents were dead and the older children were caring for their younger siblings. Poor and marginalised? Without a doubt! So The Salvation Army comes alongside regularly to help and bring provisions.
It was bad enough slithering through the mud on foot (and in my case, high heels). But the prospect of delivering a wheelchair down the long road to the second home made some wonder if we (the visitors) should not leave this task to the Moldovan Salvation Army team. No, of course we were up for the challenge, because this was more than curiosity or a sightseeing excursion. We wanted to be part of this ministry. And it was worth it! The recipient, a father who had lost his leg to frostbite, now sat in the wheelchair, smiling at the prospect of new mobility. No doubt he would have to wait for the mud to dry before venturing far. Prayer sealed both visits.
Before we set out on the home visits, Dr Caraman, a Salvationist, introduced us to a most amazing ministry. He and his wife (who is also a physician) invite other doctors who are specialists and Christians to join them as they visit villages where medical services are minimal or non-existent. In the long hallway of an old building from the Soviet era, about 200 people of all ages were crammed, with different needs, all waiting to see a doctor. Before any consultations take place, Dr Caraman opens the Word of God and shares the gospel and prays. He believes in the New Testament miracles and firmly believes that they are still taking place as Jesus uses the skills of his team to bring about healing.
Our mission priority to stand for and serve the marginalised comes alive when we actually see it happening. Just days later, I would see it again. This time it was in Denmark. The congress and commissioning weekend was historical. The announcement that the territory would open the work in Greenland was news enough to cause rapturous applause. But then to commission and appoint the first Danish officer-couple to pioneer the work was a high point in the congress weekend. There they stood in their bright new lieutenants’ trim ready to salute and march on, and on either side of mum and dad, their two teenage sons.
It is one thing to ask officers to take on the daring and the tough assignments, but now, looking into the eyes of their sons, the cost went far beyond two covenants. These were not little children nor grown adults ready to strike out on their own. These were young gentlemen who themselves had to see their dedication as integral to their parents’ obedience and trust. So this pioneer family concurred with the Territorial Commander, Colonel Birgitte Brekke, that this was God’s divine moment to move into Greenland and ‘we must seize this opportunity’. The urgent social needs, family violence, substance abuse, and even despair, were like the Macedonian call to Paul. As Lars Lydholm, Secretary for Public Relations, told a news reporter: ‘The need was so huge, that if The Salvation Army were not to be in Greenland, where should it then be?’
Greenland’s desire for the Army was not only because our track record in social work is exemplary, but also because the community leaders want the Army of salvation. Our heart for the gospel and transformation is needed. There is no expectation that the road ahead will be easy or without its challenges, but the One whose timepiece is perfect is also the One who goes before and leads the way.
To determine that we will stand for and serve the marginalised is not borne out of new or radical thinking. It is our calling. Whether in Moldova, Greenland or where you serve, hearing the cry and seeing the need will be the siren call to do something.
First published in The Officer, July 2012