It’s April 7, 1917 and WW1 has been declared by then President Woodrow Wilson. Troops were sent to Europe and in August of that same year The Salvation Army went in as well setting up canteens or “huts” for soldiers to receive food, coffee, writing supplies/stamps and a clothes mending service was made available too.
Imagine soldiers sitting in deeply dug trenches of slick mud and water, the sky overhead gray and unnerving. As they lie positioned; poised for possible attack, their minds wander back home. They reminisce of kitchens where their mom or wife would prepare homemade meals full of love and fresh ingredients. As they reflect on these memories, they can almost make out the scent of baked apple pies, fried chicken and corn on the cob. They can hear the clinking of glasses as they’re being placed on the table, the arranging of silverware at each setting and the chatter of voices as everyone sits down and shares on what their day was like. The soldiers although focused on a mission can’t help but invite thoughts of home into their daily routine. This is what motivates them and strengthens them as they head out into the unknown, armed and ready to protect our freedom!
This is where The Salvation Army chose to step in and offer a little piece of home amidst the war that was looming in every direction. Ladies would spread out the ingredients they were able to gather such as flour, lard, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and canned milk and would busily begin preparing a homemade treat that would offer some familiarity with the troops. The Donut Lassies as they were affectionately called, would sift together the dry ingredients and with nimble fingers carefully knead and mix the dough, then roll it out on the stainless steel tables to a perfect thickness. then with a knife, carefully carve out round pieces of dough and cast them into a iron skillet, usually preparing 7 at a time. As each batch was completed they were placed in a large metal bowl and were handed out as troops lined up as well as being carried out to troops in the field.
The donuts were a huge hit but most importantly to have a group of men and women there; supporting them made an even more lasting impression. The donuts and other foods offered filled a nostalgic and physical need within, but the prayers of The Salvation Army filled a need that nothing else could fill. When soldiers lost their lives, men and women of The Salvation Army prayed at grave sites, when troops were fighting to survive in medic units on the field, The Salvation Army was there to hold their hand and in the name of Jesus ask for healing. When soldiers just needed reassurance and someone to talk to, the men and women of The Salvation Army were there to share with them on how much they are loved by a mighty God so much so that he gave up his only son, Jesus to die on a cross for us so that we may forever live with him!
The sweetness of salvation was prevalent then and it is now as we serve fresh doughnuts to those who are hungry. And as each morsel of goodness is placed in the outstretched hand of another, we let them know they are loved by a creator who by sacrifice exemplified a sweetness and love that could never be emulated in any other form.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8