We are all carrying the images of the floods in areas of British Columbia over recent days. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been displaced.
What has been remarkable is how many government agencies and charities have stepped in to help — the power of cooperation and care is remarkable. Care, as stories are shared of fleeing a lifetime of home and possessions, cooperation as local churches work together to provide foods for evacuees, generosity as our community donate clothing to those who have left many of their belongings behind.
One of those groups is the work of the Salvation Army. The presence of the Salvation Army is always a deep comfort to those who are facing a crisis. The “Sally Ann,” an affectionate name coined by the troops of the First World War, always aims to reflect the
goodness of Christ through acts of kindness and deeds that make a difference; they are a symbol of charity, a burning heart for good.
Founder William Booth, a passionate Methodist evangelist who preached his first open-air sermon outside the Blind Beggar Pub in London in 1865, felt a compelling call to help the neediest in the East End of London.
He was not your polite well-crafted preacher; he wanted to preach the gospel and, equally, to help those in need. Today there are over 1.6 million members worldwide in a staggering 119 countries. Today, the Salvation Army is famous for its work with
people who have fallen on hard times: it offers help to the elderly, the young, offenders, addicts, it provides food and shelter for the homeless and operates food distribution centres.
I have for a lifetime been inspired by the words of Booth, one of his main worries was, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”
He was looking towards the 20th century when he declared that quote. We could
easily say the same about the 21st Century church, which could be in danger of losing its passion.
The church needs to follow the ancient paths of forgiveness and share the great truths of the Gospel while still caring for those in need; words and deeds go hand in hand.
Booth also famously said, “you cannot warm the hearts of people with God’s love if they have an empty stomach and cold feet.” And there you have the original DNA of a movement that changed the world.
At this time of great need in our province, may the church step into the challenge as William Booth did in 1865.
Phil Collins is a pator at Willow Park Church in Kelowna.