Body, Mind and Soul
'THE hallmark of The Salvation Army,' wrote General John Larsson in the preface to the booklet Mission in Community, 'is integrated mission. Salvationists are called to minister to the whole person ... The Salvation Army is the very embodiment of integrated mission.'
He continues: 'Every unit, every programme, however specialised, should reflect to some degree the breadth of vision that integrated mission represents – salvation as physical, mental, social and spiritual health for every person.'
But what is 'integrated mission'? And how does it affect the worldwide Salvation Army? Mission in Community, a beautifully-produced 40-page booklet published through the Programme Resources Department of International Headquarters, attempts to answer those questions – not through simple answers but by showing how Salvationists from across the globe are seeking to minister to the whole person.
The guidelines at the beginning of Mission in Community are clear: 'Look at [the booklet] as a framework, not as a manual. It is a distillation of experience, meant as a stimulus to discussion, and a catalyst to action ... Think of your own experience or desire in ministry as you read it. Explore, and find out how it resonates with your own experience ... Discover what you can draw from this framework, and what you can add.' In other words, see how other people have found and put into practice their calling – and go and do likewise.
In the end, the hope is that every Salvation Army centre – church or social centre, school or hospital – will engage in integrated mission and that every Salvationist, every employee and volunteer, will try to minister to the whole person. In time it should become natural for the person who worships at The Salvation Army to look to provide for people's physical needs just as it should be second nature for a worker at a Salvation Army hospital to care for his or her patients' spiritual welfare. Ideally, this should involve not only building-based ministry but seizing opportunities to reach out to people where they are, in their homes and in places where they feel comfortable.
In lots of ways, such total care is already taking place. To many Salvationists and to the movement's supporters this type of attitude is what The Salvation Army is all about. The historic 'Soup, soap and salvation' and 'Heart to God, hand to man' slogans back this up. What the Mission in Community booklet tries to do is provide a framework – and some practical suggestions – which will help The Salvation Army minister to the whole person in a culturally relevant way and in the person's own environment.
The booklet falls into four sections, each showing a different concept or aspect of integrated mission: Care, Community, Change and Hope. Within each section, real-life stories are mixed with a table of 'beliefs' relating to the respective concept, a list of 'behaviours' which show how to put the concept into practice and a selection of Bible verses showing its theological basis.
Among the 'beliefs' in the Care section is the phrase 'Active care (not just “meeting needs”) influences people to hope and change'. This is borne out by an illustration from Russia:
'Beslam will remain a name forever associated with brutality, horror and death. On the first day of the school year in 2004, terrorists took more than 1,000 people hostage in a Beslam school. Three days later, more than 300 hostages were dead. More than 100 of these were children and infants.
'In 2005 The Salvation Army's Eastern Europe Command [now a territory] held a camp for more than 100 surviving children and their parents. The mothers, still deep in sorrow and with a great sense of hopelessness, went in black clothing.
'Towards the conclusion of the 10-day camp they had a celebration, wearing colourful clothing and singing and dancing.
'The scars remain. The loss remains. But there are signs of hope because people cared, listened, cried.'
The 'behaviour' section adds to this story and others with suggestions that include 'Participate in the life of people – in their suffering and joys,' and, tellingly, 'Care as a natural overflow of life in Christ.' Attention is drawn to John 3:16, 17, the incarnational idea of God being with us – in the form of Jesus but also in the presence and care of his followers today.
The acknowledgement that 'Relationships are the persuasive environment where grace is felt and people respond to faith' is demonstrated clearly in a story from the USA:
'I was doing pick-ups for the kids' programme when a mother got into the van, which was full
of kids, and started talking to me about issues including relationships, racism and money. Before long she was weeping. After I and all the kids in the van had listened to her, we prayed.
'I could not offer her the money she needed, I could not eliminate the discrimination she and her children were experiencing, I couldn't mend her abusive relationship but – going before the Lord together – in a mysterious and yet real way the Spirit began moving and restoring hope. A healing and strength came over her to stay strong in the separation from a violent man. An assurance that she and her children belong to a community of faith seemed to encourage her to keep going.'
Among the 'behaviours' suggested for building strong community links are 'Participate with people in their life' and 'Work by relationship', both of which are shown strongly as playing a part in the success of the unnamed van driver in the story. There is a strong emphasis on togetherness. There is no 'them' and 'us' but, rather, 'we' work together, much as the apostle Paul teaches in his letter to the Romans – all part of one body and each part needing the other to function completely.
Change is rarely easy but, as the Mission in Community booklet explains, 'Change is possible: no person, culture or community is beyond redemption' and 'We are changed by our relationships with others'. The theological statements give strong emphasis to God's grace, given freely even if it seems undeserved, which makes possible personal and corporate redemption.
An unnamed Salvation Army officer from Latin America writes about how they have had a change of attitude:
'In our first appointment we set up a mission-orientated community-based programme which worked with the community but that, in retrospect, was still very building-based and with not enough involvement of the community itself.
'Two appointments further on I began to grasp a lot more the concept of working with the community and the fact that the community could respond. My role should be much more one of facilitation rather than providing.
'The experience that really revolutionised my understanding was going to Africa and ...
seeing communities organising themselves and working with nothing – a couple of rabbits and a bag of charcoal.
'I realised that, although we had probably helped lots of people, we had not empowered them as we could have, because we had not started from their standpoint or even from the “empty-handed” standpoint.'
The 'behaviour' suggestions cover a broad range of ideas, from the difficult but important 'Share change – if we facilitate and accompany others in change, we ourselves change' to the profound 'In humility, be with each other as equals: “In honour prefer one another.”'
The last section of the booklet is possibly the most difficult to conceptualise, yet it is tied in with so much of what makes integrated mission work. One of the 'beliefs' in the Hope section spells this out: 'Hope is a catalyst, giving energy for change and faith.' It is also suggested that 'Capacity for hope can expand: hope grows within individuals and communities' and that, vitally, 'Hope in God is our security'.
For the Salvationist, driven to live out his or her faith, hope is more than the offer of a better life now – it's the promise of an eternal peace. Hope is one of the Christian's most powerful tools.
The growth of hope in the most trying of circumstances is shown in a story from Zimbabwe:
'Visitors to a community – having been briefed on a situation which included three years of drought, shortages of basic commodities and multiple deaths in most families – were surprised and somewhat sceptical at the obvious joy of women attending a rally.
'Following the rally we visited three homes in the village community. The testimony of “shared suffering” and the strength found in community life were articulated very clearly. The visitors struggled to believe the joy and confidence expressed but they could not deny it.
'Post-visit reflections raised the response of what could be done to provide (materials) for community needs. The discussion that followed led to a moment of truth, in the realisation that the community had discovered something better.
'Mutual caring and support were keeping them going, and there was plenty of evidence that they were making their own way in finding what they needed.'
The suggested 'behaviours' in the Hope section back up the lessons learned from this story: 'Expect the unexpected – don't imagine we can control all the outcomes' and 'Be patient as people find their steps towards hope: trust God in the process'.
This is only a brief taste of what the Mission in Community booklet has to offer. It's a rallying call for The Salvation Army to do what it's always done best – minister to the whole person.
The concept – in its present form – may have started out in the International Health Services Section but it's about far more than health. It contains much that is good practice in development work, but its reach goes way beyond the developing world. It's the base on which can be built a Salvation Army that truly has something for everyone – a practical outpouring of Christian faith with the ability to build relationships and offer healing of body, mind and soul.
Jesus himself practised integrated mission. Healing, preaching, feeding, counselling – they were all natural parts of his ministry. As his followers, Salvationists and supporters of The Salvation Army can do no better than to look to his example.
One last story from the booklet – this time from India:
A woman was found lying on the street. Some Salvationists took her in and then – after bathing her and giving her clothes from their own supply – took her to hospital.
When visiting her in hospital the Salvationists offered to pray with her – this was the first mention or indication that they were Christians yet she said she knew.
'How?' the Salvationists wanted to know. 'Because,' she said, 'I saw Jesus in you.'
Copies of the Mission in Community booklet are available from the International Health Services Section of International Headquarters. Write to International Health Services, The Salvation Army International Headquarters, 101 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4P 4EP, United Kingdom or email IHQ-IntHealth@salvationarmy.org. A printable pdf version of the booklet can be downloaded here (right-click and 'Save Target As...' to save to your hard disk).
Photographs used in this article are from the Mission in Community booklet and are used for illustration only