A Salvation Army ChristmasMagazineMagazine Features

A Knock at the Door

knock-at-the-DoorOn a cold winter evening, a tattered silver Christmas tree lay bare in the trash. Most of its branches remained, as well as a pinwheel light that had once lit the tree in red, yellow, blue, and green. When seven kids found the tree, they decided to drag it home.

“Home” was a living room on the first floor of a four–bedroom house. The siblings worked together, setting up the tree. One kid found a light bulb, and thought, when we get electricity, this will look nice on the tree. The entire family huddled around an old creaky kerosene heater because it could keep only one room warm. Their father huddled too, longing for the day when he could again have a job and help his family to survive this tough time.

By Christmas Eve, there was plenty of snow on the ground and the outside temperature was frigid. In the corner of the living room sat the old silver Christmas tree, now decorated with colored paper, chains, and handmade ornaments. But the floor underneath it remained bare.

Around 4 P.M. as the sun set against a dismally grey sky, it seemed as if the family’s spirit would sink with it.

Then someone knocked at the door. A little boy opened it and was surprised to see Captain Peter Stritzinger, pastor (corps officer) of the Salvation Army corps (church) just a block away where the kids were frequently seen hanging out.

Captain Stritzinger stood on the front step, and held a huge black plastic bag with gift–wrapped presents peering over the top. With treasure in hand, he burst through the door with a loud “Merry Christmas!”

Then he returned to his station wagon. The boys went too and helped him unload even more bags containing gifts and boxes of food—including the largest turkey they had ever seen.

The little boy looked at the monstrous turkey and wondered, “How in the world do you cook that on the camping stove?” Seeing this miracle unfold, their mother sat and wept.

After an hour, the electricity turned on. The pinwheel illuminated the tree. It came alive in red, then yellow, then blue, and then green light. The wheel also illuminated the presents. They were now piled so high, they dwarfed the old tree.

Moments later, a man in an oil truck arrived. He parked it in front of the house and then filled the old tank. Soon, the furnace roared back to life.

On Christmas morning, the children awoke in their beds. The air was filled with the aroma of turkey cooking in the oven. And everyone in the family enjoyed a Christmas that they will always remember.

To this day, I still wonder how The Salvation Army found out how tough that season was on our family—one that was too proud to ask for help. But I’m so glad someone told them about a “family in need.”

Through the years, I’ve included my wife and children in a special Christmas ministry. While the children were growing up, we loaded them into the minivan on Christmas Eve, and brought along many presents, including a huge Christmas dinner, and delivered the items to a family that we had “adopted” for Christmas.

And every year in my house, the kids would hear again the story of how Captain Peter Stritzinger* brought Christmas to the Gingrich family.

*Major Peter Stritzinger was promoted to Glory in 2013. 
Major James Gingrich is the corps officer in East Stroudsburg, Pa.

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