Priority!

15 Years of Fulfillment

15YearsofFulfillmentI had worked the daily newspaper grind for 15 years since graduating from college, but I was growing more disillusioned by the day.

I covered government and politics—a prestigious beat at most papers—but suddenly, nothing I wrote seemed to matter. I didn’t get excited about big stories anymore and I couldn’t understand why. It all seemed so trivial and tedious. I was frustrated because I wasn’t using my talents for God, and it gnawed at me every day.

Then I saw a job opening to work for an evangelistic magazine being started by The Salvation Army, an organization I have always felt represented the very best of Christianity. Since I was involved in evangelism at my church, this seemed perfect. I was ecstatic when I actually got the job.

Before leaving my old newspaper, a local radio host wanted to interview me. She made the comment that going to The Salvation Army must seem boring after all of the exciting things I had covered in my career, including interviewing the President. I didn’t quite see it that way.

“Actually,” I said, “I’m going to be writing about people crossing over from death to life. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than that.”

For the last 15 years here at Priority!, that’s exactly what I’ve done, and it has rekindled my spiritual life and, hopefully, the spiritual lives of our readers.

When I showed up in the summer of 1999, Priority! had put out just one issue. I worked with editors Linda Johnson and Warren Maye and art director Peter Hanke, who tragically died about halfway through this journey. I like to think Peter would be proud of what he helped start and the excellence that has continued with art director Keri Johnson and our graphic design team.

I had written many feature stories as a newspaper reporter, but for the most part I was a straight news writer—short sentences, no extraneous words, no nonsense, no fluff, no frills, just the facts. Linda was a huge help as I transitioned to writing longer, more nuanced feature stories.

I would generally fly or drive to cities big and small and interview people. I always wanted to know what made them tick. What motivated them? Why did they get out of bed in the morning? What was their devotional life like? What was their relationship with Christ like?

The people in The Salvation Army have blown me away with their spiritual maturity, their commitment, their fidelity to Scripture, their sacrificial love for others, their kindness, the way they give up their lives for others, and their concern for lost souls. It wasn’t uncommon for me to leave an interview and say, “Wow. I wish I had their spiritual life.”

The story I wrote after spending a week in Honduras on a medical missions trip with the Raymond family remains my favorite. I thought I had “seen it all” during my newspaper days, but witnessing unimaginable poverty was life–changing; I ended up with tears in my eyes more than once. I’ve never quite seen the world the same way since.

Over the years, I’ve interviewed lots of celebrities: Christian singers, artists, athletes, and other famous people. (See “Who’s News: Star Witness”). That’s been fun, but some of my favorite interviews have been with the non–famous—those who toil for God quietly behind the scenes.

Like the nights I went with Salvationists to feed the homeless who live under bridges in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland, Akron, and many other cities. … The time I interviewed Salvationists praying against spiritual darkness in Puerto Rico. … The time I interviewed a man who, while begging for food on the streets of San Juan, saw his own children begging as well.

Every story I wrote I tailored to fit our mission statement of “promoting prayer, holiness, and evangelism through the life stories of God’s people.”

The reason I wanted to know what motivated my subjects or the details of their devotional life was very simple. I wanted to inspire others in their faith. I wanted them to read our magazine and find Christ. I wanted them to say, “If this person can overcome, I can too.” I wanted them to say, “If this person gets up at 5 a.m. to read the Bible, maybe I can too.”

If our stories inspired people, I’m happy. I know they have because we’ve received letters from prisoners and others telling us how much Priority! has blessed their lives.

As we transition to a new publication and in a more digital direction under Lt. Colonel Cheryl Maynor in the new Communications Department, I’m looking forward to telling more stories about our amazing God and the way He moves in our lives.

I left the newspaper business—actually, God called me out of it—and I’ve never looked back. The last 15 years have been extremely fulfilling, and I get excited about every new story I begin, always wondering what God is going to show us next.

by Robert Mitchell

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