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A way to ease the heartache

Reaching out to assist others who are hurting helps provide healing for Tennessee volunteer

By Major Frank Duracher

Southern Spirit staff

Tragedy is no stranger to Mattie Mullins, a well-known and respected volunteer in Johnson City, Tenn. However she met a series of heartaches head-on by immersing herself in helping others.

Before trouble started, Mullins and her husband, Kelver, had been faithful Salvation Army volunteers for each Christmas effort over the past 20 years. She eventually became a member of the Army's advisory board in Johnson City and was the obvious choice for Christmas Committee chairman.

Within the last few years, the Army formed a Women's Auxiliary and Mullins was elected the group's first president. Under her leadership, the auxiliary membership has topped 30, performing various projects throughout the year benefiting Salvation Army programs. But her dream of a gigantic annual Christmas bazaar not only captured the community's attention, it proved to be spectacularly effective and has raised no less than $25,000 in each of the three years it has been operating.

However, a series of heartbreaking events began. Mattie and Kelver suddenly had to cope with the tragic loss of her daughter, Judy, who was brutally murdered by the daughter's husband. Judy's husband was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in prison, leaving the family to struggle with, in effect, also losing a son-in-law and caring for the two children left behind.

Supported by the community, their church and friends across northeast Tennessee, Mattie and Kelver found deliverance from their sorrow and anger by turning to their faith in Christ and by reaching out to others in need.

Mattie even wrote a book on her bittersweet experience, Judy: The Murder of Our Daughter; The Healing of Our Family. Because of her testimony, she is a sought-after speaker at churches and civic groups all over the Southeast.

Left: Baked goods attract customers at a Christmas bazaar in Johnson City.

If that weren't enough, husband Kelver was diagnosed with liver cancer. After a successful surgery and treatments, the cancer is in remission - but the uncertainty was yet another ordeal for Mattie to endure. She continued to focus her energy in a positive ways, particularly in her work as women's auxiliary president.

"I thank God for the opportunity to volunteer. It's The Salvation Army bazaars, especially the one at Christmas, that means so very much to me," she said.

The Christmas Bazaar is quite structured. Mullins tapped a rich volunteer resource in a local women's service club, the Monday Club of Johnson City (the oldest federation women's club in Tennessee). The 250 members of that club gladly followed Mullins to work in the process of conducting what has become a community event, an endeavor requiring several months of preparation.

"We formed 28 departments, with six members each and a captain heading up sections like men's clothes, women's clothes, toys, appliances and so on," Mullins said.

Money raised is left to the discretion of the Salvation Army staff and advisory board. An amount may be earmarked for improvements around the corps, but most of the proceeds are used for the Army's varied spiritual and social programs.

Mullins and her volunteers collect items from the community and garner donations for local businesses for the bazaars.

This year the Christmas Bazaar was bigger than ever. Mullins estimates that about 550 people were waiting in line for the store to open on the first morning of the two-day event.

"So many good things have come out of hardship," Mullins observed. "I know that is hard to understand on the surface, but God is so good and He sends healing and help as we reach out to others!"

2006 Red Kettle Kickoff 

The 2006 Salvation Army kicked off its annual Red Kettle Christmas campaign for the 10th straight year at halftime of the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on national TV. Country muic recording artist Carris Underwood was the featured performer in the show. Underwood was recently named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association. (Above) Commissioners Israel and Evas Gaither, national leaders, are joined by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Charlotte Anderson Jones.


 Words and songs to greet the Savior

The opening chapters of the Gospel of Luke hold the divinely inspired record of words and songs that preceded and greeted the glorious birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Today these words and songs still lift our hearts as we celebrate Christmas again. It is a time for speaking the good news of Jesus, and a time for singing in praise of His birth. Let Salvationists declare that the Savior is born! Let the Army rejoice with songs of praise and gladness!

The angel Gabriel spoke to Mary with a message from God: ‘You ... are highly favored! The Lord is with you.' Then words of reassurance: ‘Do not be afraid.' Still God speaks today to affirm and encourage us. Mary was called to a sacred task, a highly privileged task, as the mother of the Savior. Although questioning, she gave her assent: ‘May it be to me as you have said.' Her words of obedient surrender are an example to us all.

Next Elizabeth offered words of blessing to Mary and the child she carried: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!' Mary's instinctive response was to burst into song: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.' What a marvelous picture we have of these two godly women encouraging each other and lifting their hearts and voices to Almighty God.

Elizabeth's child, John, was born first, destined to be the forerunner of the Christ. John's father, Zechariah, had been unable to speak (Luke 1:22), but suddenly he was released from silence to voice words of praise and gratitude to God: ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.' Zechariah recognized that John would be ‘a prophet of the Most High' who would ‘go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him'. Here is a father releasing his child into an unknown future for the sake of the plan of God.

Angelic words accompanied the good news of the birth of Jesus. The angel told the shepherds by night: ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today ... a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.' This same message is the one we are called to declare today. It is simple, yet profound. It happened long ago, but is for all eternity. We join our voices with the song of the angels to proclaim: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'

I urge the Salvationists of the world to speak on, to sing on. Let our telling of the Christmas message be clear, using words that echo the words of old, bringing blessings as of old. Let our songs be as glad and spontaneous as the songs of old that accompanied the news of His coming, songs that give glory to God.

Lift up your hearts, lift up your voices, lift up the Savior of the world! (All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version)



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