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The Stranger

The child was ill. The doctor came

With every-ready skill,

With quickened hand and tender heart,

His mission to fulfil,

His fingers moved with feverish speed,

For Christ within had urged the need.

A widow poor in this world’s goods

Shared from her meager store;

Enough to know her neighbor’s need

Her kindness to outpoor;

It was the Christ within her heart

Constraining her to do her part.

The bombs were falling all around,

Where dead and dying lay,

The chaplain heeding not his life

Rushed in to help and pray;

‘Twas Christ inspired his worthy deed,

Gave strength and courage for the need.

A friendless boy lay very ill,

A stranger came one day

And brought him pretty flowers and fruit

To cheer his lonely way,

The stranger then so kindly smiled,

“Sir, are you Jesus?” said the child.

Thus shall the Christ be seen in us

When He doth there abide,

Our service quickened in His name,

For He will be our Guide,

We shall be fired with fervent zeal

For other hearts our hearts to feel.

— “Sir, Are You Jesus?” by Irena Arnold, More Poems of a Salvationist, 1945

In the early weeks of the year, things seem a little quiet for The Salvation Army. The kettles are gone, the angels have been tended to, and all around, things tend to settle for a spell over here. But it’s in our quietest seasons that the most planning happens, and The Salvation Army is working as hard as ever to see more people’s needs met this year. 2014 was a great year, and we expect 2015 to be even better. Our annual report is soon to be released, and it’s always encouraging to see numbers of those who are fed, sheltered, educated, and most importantly, loved. However, it would do us well to remember that behind each number is a person, a face, and a precious & sacred story.

Stories are what we’re about here. Stories are what keep us coming to work each day. Stories help us to remember that it’s all about the people.

The holidays are a very heavy time for us. So much of our work comes to fruition during those last eight to ten weeks of the year when The Salvation Army’s name is most visible. It is also a very heavy time emotionally as we see firsthand the impact of so much hard work. But the truth is, it is only our donors who lift us up with resources, time, and prayer to accomplish anything at all. Angel Tree just flat-out can’t happen without volunteers giving their time tirelessly every day to provide some kind of Christmas joy to a child. Any service we provide to feed or shelter is only possible because of our donors who work so hard at their jobs and then give of their paycheck to help someone else along. The Nashville poverty rate is astonishingly high, but the Nashville community is astonishingly giving. The Salvation Army is proud to serve such a generous community for 125 years.

The above poem shares a common perception that those who give, help, donate, volunteer, or share are in fact being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. And that is true, but it would do us well to remember that the face of Jesus exists in the marginalized. The homeless, the hungry, the incarcerated, the sick. We are to visit Jesus when he is in prison or when he is ill. We are to feed Jesus when he is hungry. We are to clothe Jesus when he is cold. Jesus may not always look like us or think like us or talk like us or even believe like us. Jesus doesn’t necessarily make as much money as we do, or go to the same schools. But Jesus does exist, even in THAT part of town, or in THAT part of the world. Jesus can be a child fleeing for his life across national borders because of violence in his home state (in fact, he was – Matthew 2:13-23). Jesus can be a single mom struggling to pay off debt, rent, childcare, and utilities while working three part-time jobs with no education. Jesus can be a young man just released from prison, completely lost on how to start over and reclaim a life in the real world. Jesus can be a veteran, struggling to pay his medical bills or that sweet lady in the nursing home that receives no visitors.

To our donors, whether you have given of your time, your resources, or your connections, you have realized the face of Jesus in those who are in the most need. It is your service that opens The Salvation Army as a path toward healing, recovery, and second chances to our society’s most vulnerable. Thank you for locking arms with us and we hope to accomplish great things with all of you in 2015.

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

-Matthew 25

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