Entertaining Angels

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The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree season is upon us here in Nashville and as shoppers shuffle through crowded malls, they may see our tall booths, manned by dedicated volunteers encouraging them to “adopt” an angel.  These angels reflect the needs and wishes of children and senior citizens throughout Middle Tennessee who would otherwise have little to nothing this Christmas.  The gifts that are purchased then delivered to our warehouse, end up in a red or silver bag, as seen in the photo above.  Each bag represents a family in the program and when gifts arrive, they are matched with the family bag by name and assigned code.  On distribution day, we will serve 100 families every 30 minutes for 3 days with the help of hundreds of volunteers who will collect the bags from the warehouse and bring it out to the families who sit patiently for their name to be called.

Where do these families come from?  Who are they?  Let me explain.  They are your neighbors, your co-workers, IMG_3603someone you go to church with, someone you walked past at the grocery store, someone who stands and waits patiently for the bus in frigid temperatures, someone who waits on you at a restaurant, someone who fields your phone call at an office, someone whose high paying position was eliminated due to downsizing, someone who took ill suddenly and drained their savings paying extensive medical bills and the list could go on and on.

If you were to look into the eyes of each person who registered their family for Angel Tree, you would have the opportunity to catch a  glimpse into their world.  Deep within the recesses of their blue, green, brown or hazel eyes, you would see sadness, pain and hopelessness, isolation, abandonment and loss.  You would see frustration, anger and fear  but if you would continue to stare, you would also see a glimmer of belief that someone, somewhere out there cares for them and their many struggles are temporary.  Many of these families, we have had the honor of holding their hand and praying with them as their tears silently fall.  They clutch our hands so tightly with a grip that so desperately seeks reassurance and love.  We are able to smile and let them know that God has them in the palm of his hand and even though they may be walking through a desert, soon enough, an oasis of relief will appear, they just need to remain faithful and trust.  For you, the donor who adopts an angel and purchases items for these families, you are providing them with a light at the end of their darkened tunnel.  You are showing them extraordinary levels of compassion and love for someone you’ve never even met.  This is a life changing event and is never forgotten by the thousands of families served.

We have many ways in which you can help this Christmas.  Adopt an angel at one of our local malls, The Mall at Green Hills, Rivergate and Cool Springs Galleria.  You can adopt by calling in to Mix 92.9 at 615-737-0929 or click here to adopt online from now until Dec 9th.

You can also adopt a “Forgotten Angel” at your Middle TN Dailys/TwiceDaily convenience stores or provide food for our Angel Tree families through the Kroger “Food Angel” initiative.

On behalf of our ‘Angels,” we thank you in advance for giving back and taking care of those who need a little help this Christmas.  You are a blessing!

Hebrews 13.2,”Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Seasons of Love

Retirement-66On a chilly November day, a child was born in a Salvation Army hospital.  As he was placed in his mother’s arms, his eyes opened and he encountered his very first vision of love.  Love from the parents who held him and love from the nurses and doctors who wrapped him in blankets and introduced him to this new world.  Little did the staff, nor his parents know what lay ahead for this young man.  They had no inkling as to the immense impact this one child would have on the lives of everyone he came in contact with.  But God knew……..

This infant soon grew to be a very outgoing and personable child, who never met a stranger, everyone was a friend,  This young boy watched his parents work in a Nashville Salvation Army Community Center and observed the love that each shared with the numerous children who walked through the doors.  He mentally took note of the words that were used, the kind gestures and the absence of judgement.

This child grew into a young man who served heroically in our US Military during Vietnam as a Marine and documented in various articles what was seen and heard amidst the war.  This young man came home, married and soon enough welcomed his own children into the world.  He worked tirelessly to advocate for incarcerated youth, then became head of Buddies of Nashville, now called Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  But, soon enough, where he started, is where he was destined to land and this man began serving at The Salvation Army in Knoxville, cultivating relationships and striving to bring awareness to the many works of “The Army.”

He eventually moved back to Nashville and kick-started the community center where he grew up into the Red Shield Family Initiative and introduced many new agencies to the shield and our mission.  He then moved over to the Nashville Area Command of The Salvation Army and continued his work of sharing the love, mission and ministry of this great Army!

All the while, no matter where he worked or how long he worked, this man always found time to meet a need whenever it presented itself.  Whether it’s driving a bus downtown to pick up those who are homeless and bring them back for a hot Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, or driving a canteen to serve breakfast to members of our street family on Tuesday mornings. Visiting a little buddy at a local elementary school, to help him with homework or just listen to him and encourage him.  Making time for anyone who walked into his office, stopping whatever he was doing, turn around and give his full attention; enabling you to feel heard and understood.  Visiting hospitals whenever he caught wind that someone had been admitted, initiating and managing a daily prayer warrior list and the list could go on and on and on…….

~2697015Now, this man is retiring from his full time work with The Salvation Army but not from serving Others.  On Friday, September 27th, family and friends gathered in the small gym of the local Salvation Army community center to pay homage but not to a career, rather a way of life.  A life that through numerous acts of kindness was able to manifest immense life change in others.  Many people took the podium and shared on how their life was affected by this one man.  Children, who fell under his mentor-ship, now accomplished  adults, wiped away tears as they recalled someone who provided them with hope and let them know they were never alone.

Now, has he stopped working altogether? Is he just relaxing on his back porch, soaking in the early morning sun with a fresh cup of coffee with his lovely bride Jo?  Yes and no.  He is savoring some very special time with his family, but he continues to work part time for The Salvation Army as the Community Relations Director as well as speak on love and hope to inmates at local CCA prisons with his wife Jo.

Full blown retirement is not on Mike’s radar as he feels need is all around us and as long as there is a heartbeat within him, he will constantly seek ways to make a difference and to love the least of these, for Him and Them.

We love you Mike!