The other evening I watched a short DVD about the song-writer Fanny Crosby. The narration was interspersed with the singing of some of her songs. As a very young child, she lost her sight because of the incompetence of one posing as a doctor. Though she never regained her physical sight, the Lord opened her spiritual eyes to see life from his perspective. Songs like 'Blessed Assurance', 'To God be the Glory', 'He Hideth my Soul' and 'All the Way my Saviour Leads Me', express this deep faith, resilience and incomparable hope. She has opened our eyes to see the richness of his grace.
Sometimes we are limited by what we see around us. The media keeps us informed on a daily basis of all the events and issues that would cause us to despair. Add to this our own circumstances that often can paint a gloomy picture, and perhaps even our own failures would rob us of any positive perspective about the future. In the healing of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), the probing question of Jesus, 'What do you want me to do for you?' forces us to think soberly about our deepest need. Bartimaeus responded, 'I want to see'. Yes, he was talking about physical sight, but it is a great response for all of us, is it not? 'Lord, I want to see people as you see them; I want to see the world from your point of view; I want to see life realistically but also optimistically; I want to see where you are working in this world and celebrate it; I want to see with eyes of faith, hope and love.'
During recent travels, God opened my eyes many times. In the Norway, Iceland and The Færoes Territory I saw officers and Salvationists, who have a stirring vision of a vibrant, engaged Army, giving exceptional service to their communities. I visited India South Western and India South Eastern Territories in February. My physical sight took in the amazing crowds attending the events, the moving moments as many knelt at the mercy seat, the Army programmes that minister in children's homes, hospitals, to the marginalised women. I saw how important it is to see the individual in the context of thousands of Salvationists milling around you.
Then just recently we held a Zonal Conference in New Zealand for Army leaders in the South Pacific and East Asia area. The most internationally diverse of all the zones, I looked out on officers representing Salvationists in Korea, Japan, The Philippines, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Mongolia, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Macau. Yet we have to see this international Army with our spiritual sight. We talked a lot about our different cultures, wore different uniforms, needed translation to understand and to be understood, and gave witness to our own unique backgrounds. Yet here we were, Salvationists from all over the world, proclaiming the name of Jesus, kneeling together in prayer, serving with hearts for the lost, desiring to be the people God raised us up to be and committed to fulfilling his mission. We were one.
I have no idea of the particular situation of everyone who receives this letter and I certainly don't have personal knowledge of where you worship. But I know I am writing to a majority of Salvationists. When I share this global vision, I am conscious that it must also work on a personal and local level. Diversity is great. Division is tragic. Uniformity is impossible. Unity is a gift. So wherever you find yourself today, may your eyes be wide open to what you, and your corps, can do when we move forward together into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means, with the transforming message of Jesus, bringing freedom, hope and life.
God bless you richly,