Equipping the called
The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”—Exodus 4:11-12.
Everyone in the small town of Kittanning, Pa., knows Gloria Carney and her involvement with The Salvation Army. As the corps sergeant major (CSM) at the local corps, Gloria was approached three years ago by an acquaintance named Mary. Her daughter Wendi needed prayer and Gloria was happy to oblige.
“I said, ‘No problem’ because that’s part of what I do,” said Gloria, who has been the CSM for eight years. “I didn’t know anything was wrong. I just thought it was a prayer for the family.”
Gloria went to Mary’s house and found Wendi, sick and in bed.
“I did what was asked of me,” Gloria says. “I went to the bedside and prayed with her.”
Mary later pulled Gloria aside and told her Wendi was dying from cancer and would be going to hospice the next day. Mary also asked Gloria if she could come by daily and pray for Wendi. Gloria agreed and asked Mary, “How is Wendi’s relationship with God?”
Mary responded, “That’s why I have you over here praying. I don’t want my daughter to die and miss hearing the message from God.”
Gloria, 51, and Wendi were roughly the same age. Gloria came by each day, despite her feelings of inadequacy.
“I didn’t know how to do it,” she recalls. “It was out of my realm at that time.
“I questioned why God would have such an unequipped person, like myself, take on such a responsibility. But despite my hesitancy, I remained faithful to my promise to Wendi’s mother and continued to visit and pray with her.”
Gloria went over each day to sit and talk about their families and pray as Wendi’s health worsened.
“As the weeks passed, I came to know Wendi through her own words and through stories that her mother and daughters would share with me. We all prayed together, laughed together, and at times, even questioned life and life’s tragedies together. It was together as a family that they got to witness Wendi ask God to come into her heart and to be saved.
“I shared the gospel with her,” Gloria added. “I read from the Bible. I had anxiety because it was out of my realm. Then one day, I just came out and told her, ‘I know your life is over, but it doesn’t have to end today. I know you’ve never really had a personal relationship with Jesus, but that can start today.’”
Gloria said Wendi eventually sought forgiveness for her sins and invited Christ into her heart. Gloria also recited the sinner’s prayer with her.
“She responded by squeezing my hand when I asked her questions,” Gloria said.
When Mary heard the news about her daughter’s conversion, she wept. Gloria continued to visit and share with Wendi and believes she was sincere.
Gloria soon had to travel to New York for the Salvation Army’s annual Candidates Seminar weekend. She asked the family to call if anything happened. While on a bus to the city, she got the call she dreaded.
Wendi’s family delayed her funeral until Gloria could return. They also asked her to speak at the ceremony despite Gloria’s short relationship with Wendi. Gloria said she “hesitantly agreed,” as she had never given a eulogy before. Her remarks centered around how Wendi lived her life and ultimately put her faith in Christ.
Gone but not forgotten
“I did emphasize to the family that it was so important that Wendi did this because her life is not over,” Gloria said. “I also gave an altar call and told them, ‘You don’t have to wait until you’re dying to get this saving gift.’ I don’t know if anybody got it, but that wasn’t my job. I got to plant seeds that day.
“I remained faithful to my promise. The words spoken that day were words that God equipped me to say just as He equipped me to pray and visit with Wendi weeks before.”
Gloria maintains a relationship with Mary and the two would sometimes visit prior to COVID-19. The corps also gave Mary a new Bible when she requested one.
Today, Gloria sometimes sees Wendi’s daughters around the small community they all call home. Gloria leads the Bridging the Gap program at the corps and Wendi’s niece, Jasmine, went through the program and is now her assistant.
Gloria, who no longer harbors inadequacy when ministering to others, is happy to see Wendi’s legacy live on.
“Wendi died knowing God and we live knowing that, as a community of believers, we have the ability to reach out to people and do what God has called us to do,” Gloria said.
by Robert Mitchell