Two years ago, my family and I began preparing and serving hot meals in the village of Spring Valley, New York. We joined this ministry, which has been carried out by volunteers representing a collective of religious and community organizations in Rockland County. For the past 25 years, they’ve been helping people in need.
We serve low–income families, and people who are unemployed, seasonal workers, and homeless. On any given Saturday, we go out on a mobile canteen and stop at several locations along the way to distribute hot and hearty meals.
People know when we are coming and line up to receive their portion. I like talking to them. I offer them a smile and a friendly face.
On one occasion, my husband was with me when we saw a man coming out of the bushes. He approached my husband, who directed him to stand in line to receive his lunch. The man said, “Thank you, but I was wondering if you could pray for me.”
We surrounded him and asked him if there was something specific he wanted us to pray for. He then told us his story. He lost his job and consequently lost his apartment and was now sleeping in the bushes near the train tracks. “I know there is a God and I need Him to intervene in this situation and for the wellbeing of my family,” the man said. He cried inconsolably as we prayed for him. At the end of our prayer time, he embraced us. “Thank you,” he said as he continued to cry.
After we prayed, I saw his facial expression change. I often ask myself, “What if this mobile canteen wasn’t available to such people in this community who need food, love, and understanding? What if the open hand of a brother or sister who is the living reflection of God’s unconditional love wasn’t available?”
It is quite easy to judge our neighbors without taking the time to step out of our comfort zone and to listen to the things happening in our communities. Jesus invites us to have an encounter with Him as we look after our brothers and sisters and meet them in their time of need. Matthew 25: 35–40 says, “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes, and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
We are to be Jesus’ ministry partners; His hands and feet, where we go into places of sorrow, need, and hopelessness; touching people who are infirm, alone, and mourning for themselves and others. Through our godly actions and disposition, we can make a difference.
The Salvation Army is readily at the frontlines of our communities to serve and provide time, talents, and opportunities for the good of others in all circumstances. This testimony about an experience with the Spring Valley, N.Y., Corps feeding program is a perfect example of the spiritual disciplines expressed in Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. In it she addresses what she calls the discipline of service. The practices she lists include “walking the talk; being what you profess,” and “using your gifts to build the kingdom of God.”
Calhoun also explains that the discipline of service is “a Spirit of Jesus. He was a compassionate, serving Spirit that always worked for the good of others. Jesus maintains how that radical love for others demonstrates whether we know God or not.”
For us to be likeminded in Jesus we must open our eyes to people around us. If we don’t see what is going on, we will not recognize there is a need. The discipline of service does not have to be in leadership positions. Still, any steps taken to better assist with the outreach to others and its mission is just as valuable.
by Major Santa Correa