I am most fond of words and use more than necessary. Photographs speak volumes with no written words necessary. I’ve seen this Wordless Wednesday on a couple of blogs and am captured by the photographs and what it evokes in me. I’m most curious in how you will respond to the images. While I’ll use no words other than a photo caption, I do hope you will grace us in the comments with what the photograph speaks to you. One word, many words, it’s your forum. Let’s begin, shall we?
Several months ago I wrote about Ed. Told you about his first day here, what bad shape he was in. How I didn’t think he’d make it. He was so fragile physically, the addiction taking its toll. He was hallucinating when he came in, still detoxing. He scared me.
That was then. This is now. Two years later. Ed.
Ed has been employed with us long enough to get vacation. His family welcomes him home. He flies to PA to see them, share birthday parties and go to Philly games. His nephew plays hockey and he goes to his game while he’s home.
Ed has never been late for work and to my knowledge, hasn’t called in sick. He rents a room in a sober house run by another former resident of the ARC. He makes his recovery meetings and fishes with his sponsor. His smile is huge. Almost as big as his heart.
We had our annual church in the park last Sunday. A man walked up to me to say hi. I knew the face but it was different. Emaciated. His hand shaky. He was gaunt, far too thin. I greeted him and the customary, “How you doing?” “Not too good.” he said. “I relapsed. I just got out of detox today.” My mind started turning, wondering how he got to the park. Is he living here? It wouldn’t be uncommon. He said he was going to talk to our intake counselor about getting back in the Center. “I need to be there,” he said.
I watched, kept my eye on him. Concern, curiosity.
An hour or so passes and Ed, who arranged his work schedule to help at the park, said to me, “Did you see who I brought home?” Ed saw my confused look and said the name. “OH! I was wondering how he got here.”
You see this is Ed and Mark and Richie and Jeff. This is what they do. They bring a brother “home”.
Driving to the park Ed recognized this man walking. He pulled over to see how he could help. The man was going to the main bus terminal to go to his brothers. The main bus terminal could get him to his brothers but it could also be a detour to more destruction. Ed offered to bring him to the service and picnic at the park. It what he does. He remembers, Ed does. Remembers when it was him.
When God touches a life, it can’t respond except to reach out to touch others. Ed gets this.
Sundays aren’t the same. Never have been. Brought up in a home where church was the center of our week and everything was different on Sunday. I am sensing that with the men. It’s not the same. They are not the same.
Part of it is the obvious: they aren’t working, they must wear a jacket and tie to church service. (It’s about change). It’s more than that for some. It’s an attitude. One more at ease, not having a heavy schedule. At ease with themselves knowing they have life. Their meals will be prepared and waiting for them. Their clothes and bedding will be clean. They can take a hot shower. They can do this every day but on Sundays, they pause and feel it, not just know it.
We meet on level ground Sunday. All together in the same room, singing the same songs, bowed in prayer together.
This week, it got more different. It was our annual Church in the Park day. Each year we have church in the park followed by a cookout and accompanied by other activities. This year we meet in a new place, larger pavilion, closer to the shore. And it’s not the same as the other Sundays.
George comes up to me and says, “Good morning, Mrs. Major”. “Good morning George”. “I wanted to greet you first because you always say it to me first.” he says. And then I knew, Sundays aren’t the same.
Chairs have been set up in an open field near the volleyball net that will get plenty of play soon. We compete with the planes flying over as we’re closer to the airport (and port with cruise ships) than we realized. Songs are sung, scripture read and testimonies shared. It’s Sunday and it’s not the same as the other days.
Family, staff and sponsors have come. We have well over 100, some grab fishing poles to see what’s biting (not much it seems), others take a blow-up raft to the ocean to challenge the rough water and still others toss the football or wait to get into the volleyball game. The clouds have parted and the sun shines fully on this group of addicts and alcoholics, family, all covered by God’s grace. None of us denied the grace we call Amazing.
What matters isn’t that the day isn’t the same but we’re not the same. When God has stepped in, given grace to get you through the grief of loss, love to show the way, healed the hurt and restored the broken, you are not the same. No, not the same at all.
Thanks to movies like Guys and Dolls (I’ve never seen it) and certain iconic images, folks have some interesting ideas about The Salvation Army. Here are a few. Feel free to add to or debunk in the comments section. If you’ve thought any of these, don’t feel bad. You’r not alone. Most people think one thing about The Salvation Army:” You do good things.” That’s good enough for me. It’s a lot to live up to and I hope we do day after day. But if you want to know a little more than your neighbor or win some obscure trivia question on Jeopardy, keep reading :D
Myth #1 We’re not a church
I’ve been explaining this one for half a century. Really. We are part of the evangelical church and do what we do motivated by the love of God and his command to take this love to others. We meet in church buildings, sing hymns, have ordained ministers leading the congregations and all the other things that make a church church. We just happen to do a little more.
Myth #2 We buy our clothes (or have church) at the thrift store
This thought was one reason I didn’t want to tell friends at school my parents worked with (let alone were pastors!) The Salvation Army.
Myth #3 We have brass bands waiting to be called to play Christmas songs
During Christmas season someone will call and ask if our band can go play at an event. They don’t ask if we have a band but can we go play. I guess some people think there is a band (all volunteers, of course) sitting around the thrift store waiting for someone to call and ask them to go play Christmas music. Oh, they also ask if we have Santa suits they can borrow or rent. True story.
Myth #4 We’re the same as the Red Cross or Goodwill
No, we’re not. It’s not easy to explain that to someone on the phone trying to tell me about a problem in our store we don’t have. Even when I point out it’s a Goodwill store it doesn’t connect. Same with Red Cross. When both are asking for money during disaster times many donors think we’re all the same and it goes the same place. Wrong again.
Myth #5 We are run by volunteers
Yes, we do have lots of volunteers. Most of them are seasonal and many are volunteers in our church activities. Today, with two-career families and the demands of our needs we can’t run the entire organization or even local units on volunteers.
Myth #6 You get stuff free
See myth #5. Your free donation of clothes or furniture costs us labor to process the items, gas for the trucks that pick up donations and all the taxes and benefits associated with payroll. It’s a service we are glad to provide. Keep calling :D
The Salvation Army is a complex organization with many layers that wants to do one thing: serve those in need without discrimination and in so doing, show them the love of Christ. Grace. God’s grace.
We drive 40 miles south on this unseasonably warm weekend. It’s the Coconut Grove Art Festival, one of my favorites. Henry is a willing companion though he’s doing it more for me. He knows I enjoy the looking. The drive to an area we seldom go with its older look. The Grove is in south Miami and still has that old Florida charm with tree-lined streets and independent shops.
We miss our turn and end up driving through some of the neighborhoods enjoying the serene. Art before art. Natures art, the most beautiful of all.
The crowd got thick fast, must be the beautiful day. Some booths hold no interest and we walk on by. Others are fascinating either by creativity of thought or extreme skill. Both draw me in.
The sculpture garden was filled with such beautiful colors and more pieces of whimsy. Children explored while moms corralled their curious ones.
I am an art lover. I see it all around. In the creations of skilled artists and in the heart of parents caring for their young. The internet is filled with art from gifted bloggers (I read several :) ) to expressive pictures posted on Instagram, Flickr and others. We are surrounded by art.
My heart bows to the greatest art – creation. The Creator of art draws a sky like no other and paints the moon a shade of golden-yellow that can’t be duplicated. Yes, my heart cries out in praise to the Artist for his wondrous gifts.
The hills are the Cascade mountains that are green and forested on one side but give way to smaller barren hills of brown. An apt description of me in preparation for this journey.
The reservations are made. The airline ones and emotional ones. When did visiting mama get so hard? It’s not an easy trip. The flights between Seattle and Yakima are limited to three a day. Getting those connections to work with ones in Seattle coming home are challenging. My presence at my sister’s house puts a burden on their space and schedule. It will be my first visit to my mother not living in her own home. There is nothing about this trip that is comfortable or an easy. But I need to go. For me.
Five years ago we gathered for a happier visit. We spent time walking around the market place in Seattle before driving to Yakima. The scenery beautiful as we headed east. Family and friends gathered for mom’s retirement. A tribute, really, to over thirty years of service to this community.
We met again the next summer. Another place but gathered still. We could see the changes. Slight but recognition of family she should know wasn’t there. Yes, it had been a long time since she’d seen some but mama always knew them. Not now. Still, she knew me. She knew us. We laughed and took in some sites like tourists.
This disease, the dementia, doesn’t get easier. Surely not for her. For any of us. This time there is no home. Not like there has been. Home for her is now a studio in assisted living. It’s a better environment for her. Better than by herself in her home too big not to be shared with laughter and living. But even better is hard. For me. All of us I suppose.
Visits with mama use to bring such excited anticipation and preparation. The places we would visit and conversation we would share. Going through a box of old photo’s for her to share a memory of that time is where I would get the family stories. Lost now. Lost to confusion for both of us. What if I call her mama? Will that confuse her more?
Another dream came last night. This one where I was visiting mama and everything was good. I told my sister I didn’t notice any decline in mama’s mental status since my last visit seven months ago. I want that dream to be true. One day it will. One day all will be restored by God’s hand. His grace. And only through his grace can this journey be done.
Thanks will always be on our lips in our hearts for God’s provision. For seeing us from there to here. For sustaining us, guiding us, showing us and never-failing us.
We met, all of us. A full Center of 99 residents, several counselors and employees gathered to fill the chapel with our first prayer. We started with the prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles:
“Bless me, O bless me! Give me land, large tracts of land. And provide your personal protection—don’t let evil hurt me.” God gave him what he asked.”
And then it began. Some called it a prayer march. Together we set out to walk the ten acres we’re asking God to bless and provide. He has provided the land, now provide the funds and wisdom for the next step.
We walked to where the plans call for a new chapel with more seating for family to be. Our new chaplain prayed for the lives who are and will be touched by this program. Healing and restoration now and to come.
We walked on past a tent along the river where someone has been camped the past couple of months. Word is she goes to vocational rehab but doesn’t want to live in a shelter. We’ve seen a car there, usually in front of the tent. There are others, camping in the bushes. The homeless the City says we don’t have. They watch us, some suspiciously and some acknowledging. I think of how this was some of our men at one time. It’s hard to see, to know the choices some made and others…well, we don’t know their stories.
We stop where the transitional living apartments will be. A next step for graduates to help them re-enter life on their own. Then to the new residence and warehouse areas. Each place we stop and a graduate/employee reads scripture and prays.
We end next to the existing building. This will be turned into outdoor space. Actual green space to play ball and maybe a walking path. Our program director speaks and shares his dream, his prayer. He’s been at this for 30 years. He has big dreams. I think God’s dreams are even bigger.
And it hits me. God’s dreams are bigger than ours. Many never thought this land purchase would go through. I hold no hope for anything being done short of five years. But God…he’s a big planner. Bigger than us. We leave it in his hands. Gladly we leave this to God. Praying along the way, God is great, God is good, let us thank Him…..and thank Him …. and thank Him….