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Priorities

Years ago we had a speaker at the Southern Bible Conference who told a story from World War II. A weathered seaman was home on leave, a member of a freighter crew that crossed the North Atlantic. Carrying supplies to the Allies, the crew's mission was vital in the war effort against the evils of Nazism. The ocean was already perilous and made even moreso by roving "wolfpacks" - large groups of German submarines that lay in wait for the convoys. When a ship sank it was a death sentence. The water was so cold that it was estimated that a man's life would be snuffed out in less than three minutes. Asked what the seaman thought about now that he was home, he said, "I hear the people complaining about the prices in the shops and compare it to the cries at night of the dying in the ocean." Priorities.

That story came to mind again when I was at a recent gathering of officers. Because of some innovative thinking by our divisional Finance Department, our division has managed to raise the amount submitted to World Services without raising the goals for the individual corps. There was audible approval that the World Services goals would not be raised. Meanwhile, we discussed raising employees' salaries, new software and equipment, benefits and related issues with nary a word of objection about these costs going up. Having recently come from a place where the territory struggles to pay pensions of $60 a month to its retired officers, I could not help but wonder why we would be so firm in holding the line on World Services while lavishing ourselves with more and more. Priorities.

It is one thing to talk about how important mission is and quite another thing to translate that talk into action. It has become quite fashionable to talk about mission, resurrect the songs about mission, sprinkle references to it in our rhetoric. We love to hear speakers expound about mission and fill our publications with articles about it. But how has that translated into actual souls won into the Kingdom? How many more of our people now claim to be living holy lives? If mission is so eminently important, where is the fruit? Where, pray tell, are we storming the forts of darkness? Talking about mission and doing it is as far apart as whining over prices or hearing the heart cries of a dying man. Talking about mission and doing it is as far apart as upping the figures on the latest technologies or giving selflessly to the world. Priorities.

The mission involves digging deep and not just skimming off the top. The mission involves going out instead of sitting in yet one more seminar. The mission involves moving beyond words printed on a page to the gospel burned in hearts. The mission involves people not asking, "What will you do to entertain us?" but "What must I do to be saved?" The mission is real when on this day you do something, anything beyond yourself for the lost in the world. Priorities.

Another day in paradise

Any day in paradise is priceless. Long sandy beaches, warm ocean breezes, magnificent sunsets, amazing food - any tropical locale will do.

Still, a day in an earthly paradise pales in comparison to what awaits us in heaven.

The stage was set. Christ was on the Cross, and in a span of time too short for the Gospels to even mention, His earthly life would be over. That's when it happened for the first time. A condemned thief, also being crucified, saw Jesus as Savior and Lord.

"Just think of me when You enter Your kingdom today," the first convert said to Jesus. Our Lord's response must have surprised the penitent thief: "Today you will be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).

That hour, a convicted criminal became the first to be washed in the blood of the Lamb. The moment he died, he was ushered into heaven. That day was his. And because there is no day or night in heaven, it still is.

Millions have had their day since then. Sinners who have accepted Christ as Savior, now "asleep" by earthly standards, have already awakened to begin their morning in Paradise.

My day is coming. So is yours. I'm not afraid of it, nor do I want to die prematurely to bring it on - but I'm ready, just in case today is the day.

I don't think about the alternative; I don't worry about eternity in hell because I no longer have a reservation there. That was cancelled the same day as that other thief.

On my day in Paradise I plan to walk and talk with Jesus, feel the aura of God's presence all around me, see His majesty with my own eyes, and feast at His banquet table.

Mine will be yet another day in Paradise. Now, that's priceless!

Damaris Frick, a German Salvationist, is currently deployed by The Salvation Army's International Emergency Services in Chennai, India, where she has been preparing reports on previous relief work. At the beginning of November, as the region of Andhra Pradesh was hit by major flooding, she found herself in the middle of a new crisis. At first hand she is discovering how cyclones impact many of the world's most vulnerable communities every year. Here she tells her story:

Disasters happen regularly in some parts of the world. From the end of October until mid-December there are monsoon rains in India. But this year has seen more rain than for the past 40 years. The heavy rains flooded whole areas. Many houses are under water and some have been completely destroyed. Some villages are still inaccessible from outside - for some people the only means of transport is boat, and in other villages people had to be evacuated.

The rains have been falling for 10 days and I have met people who have not eaten for a long time. Food is the most urgent need.

The Salvation Army saw the need and reacted quickly by sending assessment teams. Relief work started in nine areas. Captain John Kumar, the local emergency relief manager, formed nine teams. Salvationists - from the most senior staff members to local officers and helpers - willingly volunteered to go and get their feet wet and uniforms dirty in order to help people in need.

I was sent to Machilipatnam, where over 10,400 houses were destroyed. A further 25,000 were badly damaged. Almost 38,000 people found themselves seeking refuge in 300 temporary shelters. According to local newspaper reports, 120,000 people were affected by the monsoon in the Machilipatnam area alone. Some villages are still impossible to reach.

After buying rice we hired a tractor - the flooded roads made it impossible to reach Chinnapuram by car.

We made our first stop in Saradanagar. When we arrived it was too late to distribute the rice, so we left bags to be distributed the next day. One woman, Javeamma, took me to see her house. The roof fell in when the heavy rains came. Javeamma's husband is deaf, mute and blind. Neither he nor his elderly father will be of much help to Javeamma with the repairing of the roof, but she is grateful that her sons will be able to help. "Please don't forget the people of our village," she begged when we had to leave.

The trip to Chinnapuram took us more than an hour. We drove through unreal scenery. Where there used to be fields there were now lakes, and little canals had become rivers. Sometimes you couldn't even tell where the road was.

Finally we made it to the village, where our tractor was immediately surrounded by crowds. Every family would get five kilos of rice. We transferred the rice into the bags and vessels which each beneficiary brought.

One resident told me that around 70% of the houses in his village were under water. Most people in the community work as agricultural day laborers. There will be no work in the near future - the entire crop in this area is destroyed and the farmers themselves will suffer a huge loss.

The full moon was shining when we drove back. That was the only light as the whole area is without electricity since the heavy rains came. Today the sun had been shining but there may be another rainy day tomorrow. Everything was dark and silent around us and I felt both shaken and moved by the experiences of the day.

There was still so much to do, still so many hungry people without food. It was very sad to realize our limitations. But at least some people will be enjoying a warm meal tonight.

 






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