From the Top: Welcome to the Family
by General John Larsson
It was late at night in the large western city. The captain had completed her rounds at the Salvation Army centre and had settled down in her flat to enjoy a cup of tea before turning in, when she became aware of movement outside. Parting the curtains slightly she saw a young woman place a small bundle on the doorstep before hurrying away into the darkness.
The captain went to the door to check. On lifting the bundle she discovered it was much more than a bundle of clothes. It was a newborn child. The mother, in her despair, knew the child would be safe and cared for at The Salvation Army.
Move the spotlight to a large African city. My wife, Freda, and I are visiting a Salvation Army home for orphaned babies and children – most of them left without mother or father through the scourge of HIV/Aids. A Salvation Army officer arrives carrying a small, beautiful baby with large round eyes. ‘We found her abandoned at the station,’ the officer tells us. The home has many rooms, some with cots, some with small beds. After the baby has been washed and fed, she is placed in a cot in the room for recently-born babies. She is in her new home.
These are two children on opposite sides of the globe who will never know the security of a mother and father to care for them or the joy of family life. Sadly, these are not isolated stories. The number of children who are abandoned or are left orphaned in the world each day is a blot on the human history of the 21st century. Add to their number the children from broken homes who, due to a variety of circumstances, find themselves separated from parents and brothers and sisters and the sad story becomes sadder still.
For The Salvation Army, 2005 is a Year for Children and Youth. Thank God that for nearly 10,000 children in our children’s homes around the world, the Army has literally become their family. For many of them it is the only family they have.
But the year 2005 is also a year in which family life is being celebrated and encouraged. Family life is one of God’s most precious gifts. But we cannot take it for granted. In many parts of the world it is under threat. How vital that the ideal of a family with Christ at its centre is continually taught and promoted. Thank God for the thousands of families that are part of the Salvationist family and for the thousands of other families reached through the Army’s ministry.
The year 2005 is also a time to remember that The Salvation Army itself is part of a much larger family – the family of God. In the spiritual family of God everyone is welcome and is loved and accepted by the Father. The story of the prodigal son assures us of that. Thank God for that family!
The challenge is to live up to the ideal of every Salvation Army corps and centre reflecting here on earth that welcome and love and acceptance of the Father. The vision is of doors standing wide open, with everyone entering being greeted with a warm, welcoming hug, and everyone being accepted for what they are – warts and all – without barriers of age or culture or ethnicity.
‘They shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 13:29 Authorised Version). Thank God for the thousands of Salvation Army corps and centres around the world where that happens literally seven days a week!
General John Larsson is the international leader of The Salvation Army