On Saturday our family was entertained in the home of some delightful Officers from India who are currently serving on IHQ. We had a quite exceptional day and the hospitality we enjoyed was of the highest standard. These quiet and unassuming Officers left Tracey and myself feeling incredibly humbled. Their willingness to step out of their comfort zone, to embrace another culture and language, to expose their vulnerable daughter to western fashions and values and their readiness to be tied to desks when their hearts long for frontline mission and opportunities to evangelise was truly overwhelming. Indeed it left our own (hitherto considered enthusiastic) passion in the shade.
It was an inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
I asked these Officers (both first generation Christians) if they had been disappointed with the Salvation Army in the west, no doubt they had travelled to London – the birthplace of the Army – with a degree of expectancy – had their expectations been met? Why I asked this question I'm not sure, it's was a bit like an adolescent asking a girl (who is way out of his league) to go out with him when in his heart he knows the best response he is going to get is 'I think you're really nice but I like you like a brother - let's just be friends.' There was an impending sense of pessimism as the Major paused before he confirmed my fears. Of course they had been disappointed. His innate graciousness forbade him from amplifying his answer but it was all there in his eyes. Where was the fire, the vision? Where were the new converts and soldiers? Where was the passion, that burning desire to 'save the sheep'?
In Dartford we have two ministers who are running Methodist churches in the area, both of these gentlemen hail from countries in what we once patronisingly called the third world (i.e. countries that had no political alignment with either capitalism or communism). Post cold-war we often use the adjective 'developing' to describe these countries. A hundred years earlier these areas often attracted the prefix 'dark' or 'darkest' a reference to their unchristianised status. We sent missionaries to these countries to illuminate their apparent darkness with the light of the gospel. Now they are returning the favour; as Africans, Indians, South Americans and Asians answer the call to venture into the remotest reaches of the heathen west preaching the kingdom of God as they go.
Fortunately the simple faith we passed to them they have preserved and now offer back to us, they see (with great sadness) our weary apostate and liberal state and offer the healing balm and energetic tonic of the gospel.
Thank God for their willing obedience, their readiness to sacrifice themselves. May their faith be rewarded with a revival in the west, maybe (God willing) starting in 'Heathen England' – let it be!
As Railton once said 'Courage comrades, it is still the will of God to save our nation.'
Grace and peace