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Compelled to 'Do something!'

Compelled to 'Do something!'

Compelled to 'Do something!'

21 October 2019

Salvation Army Emergency Services (SAES) volunteers provide meals for fire-fighters at the Ballandean fire staging area in southern Queensland earlier this month.

By Richard Munn

In the eyes of the general public around most of the world, it is the social outreach of The Salvation Army that is most readily recognised and affirmed.

At the heart of this compassionate ministry is the cherished belief that in reaching out to the hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, sick and imprisoned we are actually reaching out to Christ himself.

Salvationists see Jesus in the homeless dormitory, in the rehabilitation centre, in the hospital ward and in the refugee shelter.

The international Salvation Army has innumerable social service programs reaching out to the poor and disenfranchised of the world.

The list is seemingly limitless in character and scope: schools for the blind in Africa, orphanages in South America, safe houses for trafficked women in Australia, soup kitchens in India, ministry with prostituted women in Europe, day-care centres for children in North America.

This diversity is an expression of the one holistic gospel in which the Army so passionately believes. The spiritual and social aspects of the Christian Gospel combine to form an integrated or total ministry.

We perceive it artificial and unscriptural to separate the two. Giving a cup of hot chocolate to a shivering fireman can be a powerful spiritual experience.

Military veterans who received a doughnut amidst the horrors of warfare testify to the love of God experienced in that simple action.

General Frederick Coutts, the world leader of The Salvation Army from 1963-1969, describes this holistic concept of social work and evangelical work: “It is not that these are two distinct entities which could operate one without the other. They are but two activities of the one and the same salvation, which is concerned with the total redemption of man. Both rely upon the same grace; both are inspired with the same motive; both have the same end in mind. And as the Gospel has joined them together, we do not propose to put them asunder.”

The founding days of The Salvation Army saw rapid and practical responses to the poverty of Victorian England.

Salvation Army founder William Booth’s 1890 book, In Darkest England And The Way Out, is regarded as a landmark publication in the articulation of Salvation Army relief work.

It resulted in homes for single mothers, orphanages for abandoned children, farm colonies for unemployed men, the ministry of ‘Slum Sisters’, quietly working in city ghettos tending the sick, cleaning the streets and homes and cooking meals.

Upon seeing homeless men sleeping under London Bridge, William Booth instructed his son, Bramwell, “Do something!” Ever since, Salvationists have felt compelled to respond in practical ways.

General Eva Burrows once recalled an African student who commented on the parable of the Good Samaritan. “In the story you have the robber who does bad, you have the Samaritan who does good and you have the religious people who do nothing.”

Salvationists are religious people who ‘Do something!’

Colonel Richard Munn is a director of the Army’s International Social Justice Commission.

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