|William Booth in about 1862|
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
“While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight;
while children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight;
while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now,
while there is a drunkard left,
while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets,
while there remains one dark soul without the light of God,
I'll fight to the very end!”
I try to remember that Christianity did not begin with my generation. There have been many who have gone before and left footsteps for me and others to follow. Their journeys of faith and the legacies they have left have been a great inspiration to me at various times in my life. One of these who I would share with you today, is William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.
He starts his life out in a fairly well of family in England but due to some poor financial decisions the family ends up bankrupt. His father has to take William out of school at age 13 because they can no longer afford the tuition. He is apprenticed to a pawnbroker and his father's alcoholism soon leads to his untimely demise. Six years later his apprenticeship ends, during which he has studied and read and trained himself to be a lay preacher. He goes on to find that he is much more passionate about street ministry and preaching than the asignments given through the Methodist Reformed Church. Probably as a result of his own first hand experience with poverty he has a deep heart for the poor and the destitute.
One article that he wrote profoundly impacted my life back in my early 20's and stays with me even to this day. It is an article called Who Cares? (Here's the link). It is a vision that he had one day while traveling and was pondering the condition of the people he saw. I have never been able to shake the images created by that article. It is part of what moves me to reach out to the basket cases of the world. Even yesterday a friend, I know only from writing back and forth for a year commented. "YOU HAVE BEEN SO SUPPORTIVE...HOW DO YOU PUT UP WITH ME I AM SUCH A BASKET CASE!" I replied "I seem to specialize in basket cases. It seems to be part of how God wired me. I make sense to basket cases or maybe its just that I see people with eyes of faith and hope, most people only see the surface mess." I think it is partly how God has wired me but it is also images from Who Cares? by Willaim Booth have always stuck in my head. I remember that Jesus rescued me. He has picked me up when I have fallen, he has restored my heart and life time and time again. I want to be doing what He is doing. In the following quote from the article Who Cares? I captured His heart at an early age and I hope as you read this devotional and that article that your heart will also be moved to hear His call.
"And then I saw something more wonderful still. The miseries and agonies, and perils and
blasphemies, of these poor struggling people in this dark sea moved the pity of the great God in Heaven; moved it so much that He sent a Great Being to deliver them. And I thought that this Great Being whom Jehovah sent came straight from His palace, right through the black clouds, and leaped right into the raging sea among the drowning, sinking people; and there I saw Him toiling to rescue them, with tears and cries, until the sweat of His great anguish ran down in blood. And as He toiled and embraced the poor wretches, and tried to lift them on to the rock, He was continually crying to those already rescued - to those whom He had helped up with His own bleeding hands - to come and help Him in the painful and laborious task of saving their fellows."
I know with the work with the homeless and poor that I am involved in through my inner city church that it is hard to find help. We cry out for laborers from our fellow suburb churches to come and lend a hand. The response is very small for the most part. We get a big influx of help around Thanksgiving but the homeless and poor are here struggling all year long. Its as if people do their good dead for the year by giving a few old coats or a turkey and check their concern for others off their to do list for the year. I know we all have our own things that we feel called to give our time and energy to- but as I read my Bible and look to see what Jesus was doing - he was not cloistered away in the Temple. He was out on the streets meeting the needs of the sick, the demon possessed, the poor and the broken. I guess I am challenging you to look beyond your own circumstances - you will always find others who's situation is far worse than your own.
I will end with Psalm 41:1 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble. Your own situation may be a mess today but there is something wonderful that happens when we lay down our own concerns and leave them in the hands of Jesus and go about his Kingdom work reaching out to others who are struggling. These words of William Booth's compel me to put aside my own concerns and make myself available to the Lord and His work.
He was continually crying to those already rescued - to those whom He had helped up with His own bleeding hands - to come and help Him
Help me as I spend time with you to catch your vision and your heart. That when I hear you call I will be quick to respond - Lord send me!. You know my own concerns and struggles and I want to intrust them to your care and change my focus from myself to your Kingdom and the needs of others.
Lead me by your Holy Spirit, I make myself available to you.