Before leaving for vacation, I had to take care of the usual pre-trip details – stop the mail….. take the dog to the kennel….. have lunch at the Salvation Army…. Well, that last one might not be on everyone’s pre-trip list, but this time it was on mine. You see, recently I had the opportunity to meet the captain of the Salvation Army in my local area (in Ottumwa) and get a tour of their church/community center. Every weekday they serve a free noon meal to seniors (people under a certain age can have lunch for a $5 charge). While I was there, I did have lunch with the captain along with the gal who runs the feeding program. And, I was able to briefly meet some of the folks who frequent the center.
You see, one of the organizations that Growing Hope has provided financial support for over the past three years has been the Salvation Army in the Albert Lea, MN area. We have enjoyed playing a role in helping them help others.
So, when I moved to Fairfield, IA, we thought it would be good to consider supporting the Salvation Army in my new local area as well. The first step in deciding if we should do that was for me to get to know the folks there better. Which is why I met with the captain and toured the facility. And, even though we had already had some history supporting the Salvation Army, and not only that, but I have known of the Salvation Army for as long as I can remember, it was not until that visit that I learned the history of how the Salvation Army came into existence.
It was Victorian England, and there was this Methodist minister, William Booth, who began to notice that the poor people of society were not being admitted into the places of worship. Apparently the people of that time saw the church as a place for “proper people”. (They must not have gotten to that story in Luke’s gospel where Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners and made that famous declaration, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” – that’s the New Living Translation. I like how it captures the meaning of Jesus’ words in this situation.) Anyway, Booth implored the church to allow these poor and downtrodden folks to worship, but to no avail. And so, believing in their right to gather to worship Christ and receive the forgiveness of sins, he started a church just for them. And thus was born the Salvation Army church. What a beautiful reflection of what Jesus intended the church to be, a refuge for people who felt they lived on the fringe.
That’s when I decided to start having lunch each week with the seniors who gather at the community center every day. It has been a real pleasure for me. I have met some interesting folks. They keep track of one another, making note if someone is absent and deciding who is going to call to be sure they’re okay. They provide company for one another when their days might otherwise be spent alone.
I will admit I still feel a little conspicuous when I walk in – I am easily 20 years younger than the next youngest person. But, they say it’s okay that I join them – and they say it with more than just words; they say it with their smiles and the looks in their eyes.
I’m glad I got to have lunch with them before leaving on vacation. After the second time I ate lunch with them, the thought hit me that, “oh no, these are elderly people; I am going to get to know some special people who are nearing the end of their lives.” And, I briefly wondered if I really wanted to go down this path. But, I shook that feeling in a hurry and I’m glad I did. It will be good to see my new friends when I return. And, after all, what’s life without friends?
Blessings to you, my friends!