June 2022 Craft: Sea Glass Ideas

By Major Nancy Helms
Spiritual Care Director – College for Officer Training

Any of the ideas below can easily be made from sea glass/pottery.  If you can’t get to the beach to find your own, you can purchase it in bulk at a good price online.  It might be faux, but that’s okay. Make sure to look for smooth pieces that aren’t too big.  If you want to be exact with the technical pieces like the cross or hummingbird, you can tape a template to the other side of the glass and then remove it once pieces are glued in place.  Really, you can make anything you want with a good template.  For the song and notes, I just glued pieces onto a scrap block of wood I previously sanded down.  My manger scene is made with sea pottery, but you can use glass, too.

For pictures you will need:

  • Small frame (purchase at Joanne Fabrics or Michaels)
  • Sea glass
  • E 6000 glue
  • Or a block of scrap wood
  • Windex and small cotton device to remove excess glue

I also enjoy creating temporary sea glass stackers. I find it to be good spiritual therapy. I pray for myself and others as I place each piece in the stack. It reminds me of the body of Christ, and how we all fit together to form God’s Church.

If you aren’t crafty, but like coastal décor, it’s fun just to collect glass and place it in jars, vases, bowls, etc., to place around the house.

Sometimes, I will take a piece like this, that has a little groove and rub it between my fingers while I ponder God’s amazing grace and deep ocean of love for me.

Note: Check out this month’s Bible study, Transformed Treasures, and this month’s devotional, Sea Glass and Souls, that coordinates with this craft.

Facing Change

By Major Beth Desplancke

June is finally here! As a child June was probably my favorite month. It meant the end of school, and the beginning of summer vacation! I loved school, don’t get me wrong, but I loved the change that summer would bring: a change in pace, a change of schedule, and a change of habits (summer meant not waking up so early to get to school, lots of sunshine and for me lots of swimming).

Sometimes June doesn’t feel like a good change. The June I finished 6th grade (the end of elementary school where I lived), there was already anxiety about what 7th grade was like. How would I ever get used to going to 6 different classes with 6 different teachers each day?

In The Salvation Army, June is also a month of transition for a lot of the corps (local churches). I remember many Junes as a kid, where I was having to say goodbye to a corps officer that I knew and loved, and either at the end of June or the first week in July, we would be welcoming someone new into our church and into our hearts.

No matter what kind of change takes place – change is scary. And to be honest, we have all endured a lot of change the past two years, since the words “COVID” and “global pandemic” became buzz words in our daily vocabulary.

I don’t know about you, but the amount of change that was taking place at such a fast pace was becoming exhausting. At one point, I felt completely overwhelmed, anxious and fearful about what the future held. The rules seemed to change daily, so I turned to what was familiar to me – the Bible.
As the world began to shut down in March of 2020, I decided to camp in the book of Psalms. Over the past two years, I have lost count of how many times I have read the 150 chapters of Psalms. I simply started reading at chapter 1, and would go through until the end, and then begin again. Some days I read several chapters, and others maybe a few verses. Early on in the pandemic I had trouble sleeping and, too many nights to count I actually read all 150 psalms.

One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 46, v. 1-3 says this: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. And in verse 10, which most of us probably know well, says, He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Change is inevitable. Even though change is hard, there is one thing I can do – I can obey what verse 10 says and be still and know that God is God. I do this by focusing on who He is. First, God is constant! No matter what changes life brings, God does not change. He is constant in a world of never-ending changes. Hebrews 13:8 says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. everything else changes, He does not. He is my constant source of help, refuge and strength.

When life changes, I can also be still and know that God is in control! God was and is and always will be in control. He is never taken by surprise or caught off guard. When changes seem sudden to us, He is unfazed. God was and is and will always be on the throne. COVID did not usurp His authority as Creator, King and Ruler of all!

John C. Maxwell writes, “Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.” Changes come in our lives whether we like it or not, but how we respond to change is up to us. Any change feels uncomfortable and even chaotic. Whatever changes we will face this month, we can be still and know that God is a God who is constant and in control!

June 2022 Bible Study: Transformed Treasures

By Major Nancy Helms
Spiritual Care Director – College for Officer Training

Transformation in the life of the believer is an ongoing process, which takes intentionality and willingness to submit one’s life to the will of the Father. In the New Testament, the Greek word for transformation is metamorphosis. It means “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.” Spiritual formation is the process of Christ being formed in us or transforming us – for God’s glory, for our benefit and for the sake of others. The gospel message drives this truth home. As children of God, we are redeemed and made new by the power of the cross, through the death and resurrection of Christ. “The old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As Christians, we have a role in the ongoing process of transformation.

A beautiful story of transformation in the Bible took place in the life of Saul, who was once a radical persecutor of Christians. Read about his transformation in Acts 9: 1-19. Christ got ahold of Saul, and he became a new and transformed creature. The man who was once a passionate and radical persecutor of Christians, became a passionate and radical defender of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This same transformation is possible in the life of anyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior to humankind. For Paul, who was once Saul, this transformation was immediate; yet, it took the rest of his life to wrestle with and work out his salvation.

Our lives are not that different than Paul’s. We are initially saved through the grace and love of God, through His Son, Jesus, and we continue to work out our salvation as He works in us. Like sea glass being tossed in the ocean, we are constantly being refined and restored. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Restoration requires action. I have a cabinet in my garage I intend to restore; however, if I never touch it, it will never change. If we don’t nurture our spiritual well-being, we will never change. In fact, we will eventually return to the old self. Consider three biblical reminders from Paul, which help us become the transformed treasures God created us to be.

Transformed through Prayer

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7).

Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, says, “Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life. Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father…Real prayer is life creating and life changing” (transforming). So often, prayer is put on the back burner of our lives and replaced with meaningless pursuits. Transformation is not possible without persistent and consistent prayer. Paul speaks often on the importance of a life devoted to prayer. Reflect on the following questions as you consider your personal prayer journey.

  • Do I have a specific and regular time set aside to meet with and commune with God?
  • Do my prayers offer sincere praise and thanksgiving?
  • Do my prayers include a time confession, creating a space for cleansing and purity?
  • Do my prayers include petitions and intercession for myself and others?
  • Do I stop to listen to God when I pray?
  • Do my prayers draw me closer to God?
  • How can I create more space in my life for communing with God?
  • What does Paul mean when he says, “Pray in every situation”?

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado
“Pray without ceasing.” ~ Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Transformed through Scripture

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”
(2 Timothy 3:16,17).

The word of God equips us for the mission of God. His word is a powerful source of transformation, as individuals and as a body of believers growing together. It’s one thing to know the Scripture cerebrally. It’s a completely different thing to live in the Scriptures and ponder it in our hearts. We can memorize the Bible from front to back without being transformed. Reading for information is much different than ingesting and digesting for transformation. Scripture is a place where, when approached with the right heart-set and mindset, can become a source for sacred encounters with our holy God, where transformation can be deep and rich.

Ruth Haley Barton, in her book, Sacred Rhythms, Arranging Our lives for Spiritual Transformation, wrote, “Many of us approach the Scriptures more like a textbook than a love letter. In Western culture in particular, we are predisposed to a certain kind of reading. We have been schooled in an information reading process that establishes the reader as the master of the text…The information-gathering mindset is very appropriate and helpful for a student in an academic or a learning environment. But when applied to Scripture, this approach does not serve the deeper longing of our heart – the longing to hear a word from God that is personal and intimate and takes us deeper into the love that our soul craves. The study of Scripture is important, but if we stop there, we will eventually hit a wall spiritually.” When we read Scripture for transformation, we engage our minds as well as our hearts. Examine the following Scripture and ruminate on the questions below:

The author of Hebrews says that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)

  • When has the word of God felt most alive to you?
  • Do you have moments in each day where you ponder God’s word in your heart and consider how it is speaking to you personally?
  • Can you describe a time where God’s word has changed you from the inside out?
  • Consider reading a passage of Scripture and placing yourself in the narrative. Choose your own passage or try Luke 2: 1-21. Imagine yourself in this story as one of the characters. How did God meet your in this narrative? Can you relate to the shepherds, angels, Mary or Joseph?

Transformed through Fellowship

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 1:26).

Christian community is isn’t just gathering on a Sunday morning for worship. It’s a continual fellowship, in which the love of Christ binds us together in unity. The early Church met together daily, opening the Scriptures, praying, serving and living their lives in common. Acts 4: 32 says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” This meant they loved with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. They carried each other’s burdens. What a beautiful picture of fellowship. In our hurried world, this type of fellowship is rare in the 21st century. Too often, we barely have time to meet our own critical needs, let alone the needs of our neighbor.

Adele Calhoun, in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, writes, “We belong together, not apart. God is not a bachelor who lives alone. The Almighty One is a holy community of three. And we express this divine nature best when we are in a community committed to growing and being transformed into Christlikeness.” When we belong to Christian community, we become stronger together and part of a living organism. We need one another to be complete and to experience transformation to the fullest. Think about the following questions as you reflect on your life in community with the body of Christ.

  • When has the body of Christ encouraged your walk with God?
  • How have you been an encourager within the body of Christ?
  • What gifts do you use to edify the body of Christ?
  • Are you a part of a small group, that meets together on a regular basis for fellowship, breaking open the word of God and prayer?
  • What thoughts do you have when you think about the following words? 1) dependent 2) independent 3) interdependent
  • What kind of connection do you think God wants you to have with other believers that might be lacking now?

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).

Download a printable version of this Bible study:

Note: Check out this month’s craft, Sea Glass Ideas, and this month’s devotional, Sea Glass and Souls, that coordinates with this Bible study.

June 2022 Devotional: Sea Glass and Souls

By Major Nancy Helms
Spiritual Care Director – College for Officer Training

I LOVE SEA GLASS. Some might even say I’m obsessed. That is a claim I absolutely will NOT deny. The process by which sea glass becomes a smooth and beautiful gem over time never ceases to amaze me. At a point in time, a piece of garbage is tossed on the shore or over the side of a cliff or sea vessel. That piece of garbage breaks into pieces that becomes shards of glass. After years of being tumbled and tossed about in water, sand and rocks, what was once a dangerous object that could harm, becomes refined and smooth. Doesn’t that just excite you? I know it does.

I can literally spend hours upon hours combing the beach in search of someone’s old, lost marble, a piece of broken bottle, or a beautiful chunk of pottery. My curious mind will make up stories about who has played with the marble, taken a drink out of the bottle or eaten off the china. Get my sister out there with me, and we are like two crazy middle-aged women on a critical mission, with hope in our eyes and renewed breath in our lungs. It’s like a huge treasure hunt, only without the map.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I were able to make a dream come true when we traveled to the North Sea, in England, finding glass, marbles and pottery dating back to the 19th century. We would leave our place at the crack of dawn and stay until we could no longer see the sea. Our backs had this beautiful ache from bending over to get the best view of what was in front of us. At one point, I found myself climbing a large wall covered in seaweed, only to get to the top where I lost my footing and slid all the way down. I was bruised, cut, smelled like fish and covered in seaweed, but not deterred. Praying nobody saw me, I hurriedly collected my loot that had spilled and moved on.

I’m not sure I have ever found a “perfect” piece of sea glass. Even the best pieces usually have some sort of flaw. It may take a microscope to see them, but they exist. There are some colors and shapes more coveted than others. To me, each piece has value, as well as a story to tell.

I think what I love most about sea glass is the way it reminds me of my own broken and restored life. Because of dumb choices I have made, falls from metaphorical ladders I had no business climbing, selfish desires and unpredictable storms, I have been tossed and turned in God’s immense ocean of love, where he has refined me, and continues the refining process. He has made beauty from the broken pieces of my life. Some of the refining has taken years, while some of it is still taking place. Some flaws are still visible, and others God has to show me. I don’t dare leave this ocean of love, because He who began a good work is still faithfully restoring my soul to His perfect image. What was once an individual that was broken has been healed and made new and beautiful through God’s deep ocean of love. If nothing else excites you, I hope the idea of a transformed life from the inside out does.

O ocean of mercy, oft longing I’ve stood
On the brink of Thy wonderful, life giving flood!
Once more I have reached this soul cleansing sea,
I will not go back till it rolls over me.
William Booth

Note: Check out this month’s craft, Sea Glass Ideas, and this month’s Bibles study, Transformed Treasures, that coordinates with this devotional.

September 2022 Bible Study: Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Sunday School

By Major Cathi Boyd
Las Vegas, NV Adult Rehabilitation Center

“Share your crayons,” “Don’t take cuts in line,” “If you make a mess, clean it up.”
These are the simple rules we learned in Kindergarten, and according to Robert Fulgrum in his book, Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, these rules that served us well as youngsters will serve us just as well as adults. The secret of the book’s back to basics appeal is in a return to a kinder, gentler time when right was right and wrong was wrong; and even if you disagreed with your neighbor, cookies and milk would make everything better.

What rules do you remember from your kindergarten days? Do you agree or disagree that living by these kinds of principles would make life better today? Why or why not?

Life today can be very confusing. What once was right is now called wrong and vice versa. I recently saw a cartoon where a man complained to his neighbor, “The trouble with kids today is that they don’t play by the rules.” The neighbor replied, “How can they when we grownups keep changing the rules!”

As Christians living in a complicated world, we look to God’s Word for rules to live by. The book of Micah shares some of these back-to-basics principles. Micah was a prophet living in the country of Judah, a country that appeared strong economically, but had fallen to the depths of spiritual depravity. The rich grew richer and lived the lush lifestyle seemingly unaware or uncaring of the impoverished people living around them. People went to the Temple to be seen worshipping God, but practiced all sorts of idolatry and lived their lives doing whatever pleased them. A nation that once proudly called itself the people of God had in fact turned its back on the One who has founded it.

Do you see any parallels between Judah at the time, and America today? What sorts of things do people idolize (put in the place of God) today? What things in your life might be called an idol?

When bad things happened to the people of Judah they began crying out about injustice. They asked questions like: “How could a loving God allows children to die of hunger?” “Where is God when brother is killing brother in the streets?” “Why did God allow my wife to suffer with cancer?” “I’m a good person, I’ve worked hard all my life, why won’t God cut me a break?” Questions that people are still asking today. “What does God want from me?” The prophet Micah had an answer for the people then and for us today. He shared three principles that are so simple that even the kindergarten Sunday School class could understand them:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humble with your God.” Micah 6:8

Micah tells us plainly that God requires three things of us: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Let’s look at each of these three.

To Act Justly. To do the right thing regardless of circumstances or situations. To do the right thing when no one is looking. (Actually, that’s not true, because God is always looking. I almost stole a candy bar when I was a little kid, but our Sunday School memory verse came to mind: “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 33:18) I didn’t understand that to fear God meant to revere Him, but I sure was afraid of Him seeing me take the candy and telling my mom. She was the one whose wrath I feared!).

To act justly is putting into practice the Golden Rule all the time, towards everyone, even when it doesn’t seem fair. It’s seeking to be pure in thought as well as deed; pure of motive as well as action. No white lies, no sneaking things from the office, no saying one thing to a person and stabbing them in the back to the another. It means speaking truthfully, keeping our word, and standing up for what is right even when it is unpopular. It’s treating all people with dignity due them as fellow creations made in the image of God. Acting justly is what sent Jesus to the cross.

Can you think of a time when Scripture helped you make the right choice?
Justice is a hot topic. Here are some other verses from God’s Word that talks about justice. Which one speaks to your heart today? Why? Isaiah 1:17, Amos 5:24, Romans 12:19, Isaiah 30:18, Jeremiah 23:5.

To Love Mercy. The story is told of a mother who sought from Napoleon the pardon of her son. Napoleon said it was the man’s second offense and justice demanded his death. “I don’t ask for justice,” said the mother, “I please for mercy.” “But” the emperor said, “he does not deserve mercy.” “Sir,” cried the mother, “It would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.” “Well then,” Napoleon replied, “I will show mercy.”

What a clever mother. Mercy is not something any one of us deserves. God, however, is full of mercy towards us. Another translation of the word mercy is loving kindness and the Bible speaks often of God’s loving kindness towards us. (see Psalm 63:3, Psalm 117:2, Isaiah 54:8, Nehemiah 9:17). Eternal salvation is ours only through the mercy of God and this underserved, unearned gift is given freely to all who ask (see Titus 3:3-5).

We in turn are to show mercy, loving kindness to others from the overflow of gratitude we have for what God has done for us. We love because He first loved us. Yet this idea of mercy is more than feeling. Loving kindness is a verb, an action word.

Read Mark 12:29-31. How do the word of Jesus fulfill the words of Micah? How can we live these words – how do we love mercy with our actions? What can you do this week?

Loving justly and loving mercy go hand in hand. Without mercy, justice becomes intolerant, harsh or self-righteous. Without justice, even handedness, and the ever-present sense of who we would be if God had not forgiven us, mercy becomes self-serving smug do-gooding. But neither of these has nay lasting meaning with the third thing God requires.

To Walk Humbly with Our God. Walking with God is the driving force behind all we do. To walk humbly literally means walking with attentiveness, thoughtfulness, and watchfulness. We need to follow closely in our Father’s footsteps. It is, like Jesus said, loving the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It is also growing to know God so that you can know how He wants you to live each day.

My husband is 11 inches taller than me. After 41 years of walking together we have learned to compromise. He shortens his stride and I walk a little faster. When we hike, he takes the lead to warn me of hidden roots or slippery places, and he stops and lends a hand when I need it. When we went cross country skiing, he broke the trail through the snow because I was the weaker skier. Can you see the connection to walking with God? Sometimes He will seem to be ahead of us, showing the way, breaking the trail, and warning us of dangers in the road. We can listen and avoid trouble, or we can be stubborn and face the consequences. He will always be there to pick us up if we fall. As we grow to know Him, we begin to match strides with Him. We begin to know instinctively the way He would have us go. And as the popular poem Footprints suggests, when we look behind us and see only one set of footprints it will be because God was carrying us during a difficult time. We know we are never alone when we are walking humbly with God.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21

Have you ever sensed God was telling you what you should do, or which way you should turn in a particular situation? Did you pay attention, or did you go your own way? What happened? Was there any lasting change from this experience?

So, everything I needed to know I learned in Sunday School. What does God require of us? To act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. And yes, milk and cookies are still a good way to smooth things over with someone with whom you’ve had a disagreement.

Download a printable version of this Bible study

September 2022 Devotional: Making Head Knowledge into HEART Knowledge

By Major Ronalee Fenrich
Honolulu, HI Adult Rehabilitation Center

Everyone has favorite foods, and I am no exception. I love avocados! But I had really only been exposed to one type of avocado my entire life. Spending nearly all of my 52 years on the West Coast, I was familiar with the Haas avocado. To be honest, I hadn’t even considered the fact there may be other types of avocados to choose from!

Two years ago, I moved to Hawaii. That has been an adventure in and of itself! I am surrounded by plant and animal life I had never been exposed to before, and it has been quite the project to learn all about these beautiful creations so new to me. One of the things I have had to learn more about – Avocados!
There is a large and very old avocado tree in my backyard. However, the avocados growing on it are very different that what I am used to. This tree grows Dominican avocados, most commonly found in Florida. Unlike Haas avocados, when Dominicans are fully ripe, they do not fit nicely in the palm of your hand. They grow so large they take tow hands to hold. They are HUGE, and it takes skill to harvest them off the tree, because one wrong move means you will get whacked in the head with a heavy piece of fruit! When Haas avocados are too soft to the touch, that is a sign they are rotting. However, Dominican avocados need to be soft to the touch. If you try to cut one open before that point, all you find inside is rock hard fruit that can’t be used.

It may seem strange I would invest so much time in trying to understand more about avocados, but when I realized what was growing on the tree was different than what I was accustomed to, I had to start doing some learning!

I think it is human nature to gravitate toward what is familiar, and what we already know to be true. There is often comfort in “knowing what we know.” The downside to that, however, is when we are too comfortable in our knowledge, we are often unwilling to consider there may be more information we need to take into account. This is especially true when we are learning God’s Word and working to apply it to our lives.

When I was in college, I moved to the city of Seattle. I was a Salvation Army Officer’s kid who had moved around a lot, but never in my life had I lived somewhere so big! The Corps I attended was at least four times larger than the last one I had attended before leaving home, and the congregation was so diverse! It was all an enormous adjustment. For the first time in my life, I was being exposed to various viewpoints and opinions I had never heard before. I remember being in some sort of friendly debate with other young adults in the Corps about a Biblical concept. Someone in the group said something to the effect of, “I was taught to believe this way.” Another said something about the importance of Church traditions. I eventually said something like, “I was always told to do it like this.” One of the Corps Officers who had been standing by listening to us, popped his head into the group, smiled, and said, “But what does the Bible say about it?”

That was a wakeup call for me! After some reflection, I realized I had been basing my entire belief system on what I had always heard and was guilty of not really studying the Bible for myself. Perhaps what I had always believed to be true was correct, but how would I truly know until I compared it against God’s Word?

Recently, I was looking at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. It is one of the most basic and easy to understand sermons Jesus ever taught. It is a sermon I had heard and read so many times, I admittedly had started just “speed reading” through it rather than taking the time to reflect on each word.

This time when I read, I tried to really focus on what Jesus was saying, and you know what? There were some important things I had been missing!

First of all, I was reminded Jesus was talking to a large group of mostly Jewish people who had grown up hearing the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. He knew they had most likely been basing their beliefs on what they had always been taught about the law, rather than learning the law itself. Jesus made sure they understood the purpose of His teaching about the law, when in Matthew 5:17 He says, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” He then went on to challenge their understanding of what God taught through Moses.

As Jesus preached, he would begin by saying, “You have heard.” You can see this beginning in Matthew 5:21. Basically, Jesus was saying, “You may think you understand what the law is about, but there is so much more you need to know!” He would then immediately follow the statement, “You have heard” with “But I say.” He pointed His listeners to God’s true intent of the law, and covered areas of life such as anger, family life and marriage, making promises, revenge, and how to deal with our enemies.

Matthew Chapter 5 ends with words from Jesus about how to apply God’s law in our interaction with those we see as our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust alike.”

In today’s deeply troubled world, we are almost encouraged to be divided and live-in opposition with one another. But that isn’t what Jesus taught us to do. He taught us a better way, and that is to reflect His pure love in the way we interact with our enemies. This can’t be a phony or half-hearted kindness. Jesus says we are to pray for them, and sincerely ask God to work in their lives. We are to show true and intentional love toward them. This is they way God requires us to live.

Jesus taught it wasn’t enough to show up in Church regularly so we can know ABOUT God’s Word. Jesus taught it was vital we know God’s Word so intimately that we LIVE it! The only way to make that a reality is to be active students of His Word, asking God to help it take root in our heart so it will change the way we live.

“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Romans 10:2

Let’s all vow to become committed students of God’s Word, and let it plant deep in our hearts!

Download a printable version of this devotional

Program Resource: Red Flags and Responses

By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director
Territorial Social Justice Department

Human Trafficking is an evil that happens all around us, but as we pray for God to open our eyes to see those being held captive in our own communities, it is vital that we are able to see the signs, recognize the red flags, but also understand the best ways to respond! It is very common for those being held in trafficking situations not to identify as victims – they will often feel that this was their choice, or their mistake, and although this may have been their only option – it was their chosen survival journey. Pimps and traffickers will make the men, women, and children they are trafficking believe that this situation is their best option, that if they escape then they will be worse off with nowhere to go, and no one to “take care of them”. Victims/survivors are made to feel unworthy, that they owe a huge debt to their traffickers, and if they try to leave, they are often “punished” physically, but also made to feel that they can’t return home as they are doing nothing more than letting their loved ones down. It is a lose, lose situation but if we, the responders, are uninformed and enter the situation with an intent to “rescue” the person being trafficked, we can sometimes do more harm than good, for example, we should not try to persuade the person being trafficked to leave their current situation, and if we give them resources there and then, we may in fact be putting them in more danger.

We need to ask questions, such as:

  • What is your job like?
  • Can you leave your situation/job if you want to?
  • Are there rules at your job? What happens if someone doesn’t follow the rules?
  • Has anyone harmed (or threatened to harm) you or your family in order to make you do something that you did not want to do?
  • Has anyone threatened to call the police/immigration on you in order to make you do something you did not want to do?
  • Are you allowed to talk to people outside of your home/job?
  • Have you ever exchanged sex for something of value?
  • Do you have an ID? Does someone else hold your ID?
  • Do you have control over the money you earn?
  • Is anyone forcing or pressuring you to do anything you do not want to do?
  • Do you feel safe where you are living?
  • Can you come and go as you please?

Please check out this snap-shot resource with helpful tips about red flags, how the survivors may feel, things to avoid, ways in which to respond according to whether they want help at this time/how old they are, and the National Hotline information.

For more information, to arrange a training session, or find out how you can get involved in this Fight for Freedom, please contact your Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director, Jacqui Larsson. www.SAJustice.US

Note: Check out the following items on our website that coordinates with this resource: To Be Seen By God Bible Study, Eyes Wide Open Devotional, and Lights Shining in the Darkness Craft.

August 2022 Craft: Lights Shining in the Darkness

By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director
Territorial Social Justice Department

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40

Basic Idea:
Men, women, and children who are caught in trafficking situations are imprisoned, bound, tied to the person who has them in their grip, oppressing them from the freedoms God would want each of us to experience. We are surrounded by people in need, we see the hungry and destitute people on the streets, those who are sick and suffering, but we are often blind to the world of human trafficking as, although it happens all around us, it happens in the shadows, in places of darkness, and increasingly on the internet behind closed doors. Just as God saw Hagar in the desert and appeared to her, offering comfort, and calling her by name, and just as Jesus saw the outcasts in society and crossed boundaries to talk to them and offer love and healing, so we are called to open our eyes and see the hurting world around us. May we look in the darkness and see those in need as we shine God’s love into the shadows of despair.

The rubber bands, twine, string, or yarn in this craft represent the imprisonment of those trapped in human trafficking. The act of cutting these from the jars, represents what God can do through us, “to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:7). The light placed inside the vase/jar, represents His healing and restoration – creating a new life of beauty. The light shining through the vase represents the love of God, like rays of sun, shining into the darkness.

Pray silently through each step of the craft you will be making. Think about those who are suffering. Pray that wherever they are, they may find freedom and healing. Pray that God would open our eyes to see those around us who are hurting, and that we would be his hands and feet for the trafficking victims and survivors hidden in the darkness!

Supplies:

  • Vases or Jars – various sizes (places to buy: Dollar Store, Walmart, TSA Family Stores)
  • Straight Razor to remove stickers from the bottom (optional)
  • Something to create lines on the vases – various thicknesses of ⦁ rubber bands, twine, string, or yarn (maybe not too thin)
  • Scissors
  • Krylon/Montana Cans Spray Paint in the color of your choice
  • Gloves (optional – if you don’t like getting paint all over your hands and nails)
  • Tea Lights

Instructions:

I have to start by saying that I am not a “crafty” person, in fact I think this is the first time in my life that I have sat down by myself and created a craft in my spare time – so if I can do this craft…anyone can 12 There were moments of frustration for me as a “crafting newbie” (my blue paint did not cooperate) but as I put this together I intentionally used the time to pray for those caught in trafficking, and the moments of messiness reminded me that life is messy and the journey of a trafficking survivor is often filled with twists, turns and challenges! I hope you enjoy the process as much as I did!

  1. Use a straight razor and scrape off any price tags and remove any sticky residue with soap and sponge, giving it a good cleaning overall.
  2. Tightly wrap the rubber bands, twine, yarn, etc. around the vases/jars – far apart or close together. Feel free to overlap them, leaving a cute criss-cross look.

(If using yarn or string, tape the ends on the underside or the inside so they stay in place.  Don’t place the tape on the outside of the jar where you will be painting.)

  1. Cover an area in newspaper so you’re ready to paint! Spray one coat for a more sheer, frosted look. Spray more coats for a more opaque look, but paint each coat lightly, waiting 5-10 minutes in between. Let dry. (My blue spray pain was a different brand and did not work well, so I covered it in gold which gave an “interesting” two-tone effect).
  2. After the paint is fully dry cut the rubber bands, twine, etc., off.

My rubber bands were very tight so when I cut them, they “pinged off” and I had to go back and remove some of the paint, but it came away from the glass easily. The blue/gold paint left a slightly jagged line (because of the paint layering), but looked beautiful when the tea light was lit.

  1. Place tea lights inside. And…enjoy the beautiful rays of light shining into the darkness! So pretty!

Chorus Suggestion:
To be like Jesus!
To be like Jesus! This hope possesses me, 
In every thought and deed,
This is my aim, my creed; 
To be like Jesus! This hope possesses me, 
His Spirit helping me,
Like him I’ll be.

(Song #328, The Salvation Army Songbook 2016 North American Edition)

Enjoy your beautiful vases! I hope that every time you light yours you will remember those trapped in human trafficking, spend a little time in prayer for them, and seek God to guide you in ways you can make a difference in their lives.

Download printable directions for this craft:

Note: Check out this month’s Bible Study, To Be Seen By God, and this month’s devotional, Eyes Wide Open, that coordinates with this craft. Also check out the resource Red Flags and Responses.

August 2022 Bible Study: To Be Seen By God

By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director
Territorial Social Justice Department

Hagar might not be someone who stands out to you from scriptures, but her story has always stuck with me. She was a slave who was held in a situation she hadn’t asked for or wanted with no other options or choices available to her, and after being forced to become a surrogate for Abraham and Sarah, Hagar finally got to the point that she was so tired of being treated badly by her mistress, Sarah, that she fled. She soon found herself alone and desperate, without food or shelter… and pregnant! It would be an understatement to say that she felt scared, alone, and unloved – wondering, in her despair, if anyone cared about her or her unborn baby.

You can read Hagar’s story in Genesis 16:1-13.

Maybe we can relate to Hagar in our own lives, and we can certainly relate her story to trafficking victims who are forced into situations against their will every day! But we’ve all experienced feelings of fear, loneliness, and feeling unloved – maybe you have been abandoned by people you love, betrayed by a friend, been laid off or furloughed from a job, neglected or abused as a child, or just overlooked for the hard work you have completed or the time you have put into a project. Maybe you’ve wondered the same as Hagar when she found herself alone at a desert well: “Does anyone actually see me? Does anyone really understand what I’m going through?” Perhaps you’ve even wondered if God sees you.

But praise God! Just as Hagar cried out to God, we can cry out today too and know that, as with Hagar: God sees us!

God Sees You
Have you ever wondered whether, out of approximately 7.7 billion people in this world, does God really know that you exist? Could he single you out as an individual, or are we all just seen as a mass of humanity? Scripture tells us that God knows the number of hairs on our head (Matt 10:30), and if he cares for the sparrows, how much more will he care for us? (Luke 12:7). We were formed in our Mother’s womb and each of us are “fearfully and wonderfully made – all of His “works [that’s you & me!] are wonderful” (Psalm 139:13-14).

He loves you so much, that He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to die a horrific death for you and your sins, so that you could be forgiven and reconciled back to God, because He wants a relationship with you (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). You are his “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and he can use your past, your present and your future to do his work here on earth. He knows your strengths and weaknesses…he knows your name!

God Knows Your Name
Did you notice that in this short passage every time Sarah or Abraham mentioned Hagar in their conversations, she was simply referred to as “my slave” or “your slave” (Genesis 16:2, 5, 6)? She was seen as an object, a means to an end, with no value other than what she could “do” for them. I’m sure we can all think of times when we have only been appreciated for what we have done rather than who we are, and just like those being trafficked are simply used as commodities and objects to be bought and sold, Hagar knew that she had no value in their eyes other than someone to be used for their Masters’ selfish gain: to provide an heir. Can you imagine how demoralizing that must have been for Hagar?

But God did not see her as a commodity or a means to get things done in his grand plan, when God found Hagar at the well, the first word out of His mouth was, “Hagar” (Genesis 16:8). When no one else cared enough to show Hagar any decency, God saw her, made himself known, and called her by name.
People being held in trafficking situations are often “branded” with tattoos to demonstrate to the world that they are owned, that they are an object that belongs to someone else. I recently read of a twelve-year-old girl who had been tattooed with the name of her trafficker… on her eyelids! This meant that every time she looked in the mirror or was with someone else, they would know she was a “claimed possession”. But scripture tells us that, not only is our name known to God, our name is engraved into the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16). Being engraved carries a deeper implication than being written with ink or even a sharpie – our names are there forever and will never fade or be washed away as if God is “washing his hands of us” but will remain permanently in his hand!

In trafficking situations, the victim/survivor will often be given a new name or come up with a “street name” in order to create an alternate persona, mentally escape and remove themselves from their tragic reality, but God does not call us by this name, or the names others give us based on how they perceive us – God calls us by our own name and we are his beloved child. If you are in Christ—if you’ve believed in his name, having accepted the free gift of grace through faith – then your name is immortalized forever, because it is written in The Book of Life.

Later in the story, Hagar is so thankful to know that she is seen in this circumstance that she gives God a name: El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13).

God Sees Your Situation
God, or El Roi, does not turn his face away from your painful situation and although sometimes we behave in ways that we wish God would not see – he sees our hurts, our disappointments and knows exactly what is happening to you every second of the day – good and bad. We have all taken turns in our life that we are not proud of, and just like us, it is very common for survivors of trafficking to struggle with the concept of forgiveness and grace – they will often blame themselves for their experiences and question how can God see the situations I have been in and still really love me? They have often been let down by life’s circumstances, hurt by others who should have loved them, and abused by those who claim to rescue them – so the concept of the Creator of the Universe actually caring about them is almost impossible to grasp, but God knows, sees and still unconditionally loves.

“When Hagar is removed physically from those who control every aspect of her life, a personal identity and relationship materializes. As a socially marginalized woman, her most intimate relationship, it turns out, is with God.”

God Sees Your Need
I love the fact that God, or El Roi appeared to Hagar in her time of need. He saw her struggling and at that time reassured her that things would be alright! Hagar was seen, loved, and not forgotten. She was comforted and reassured that her unborn son (Ishmael meaning “God hears”, whom God named personally) would be cared for. God did not only see Hagar and appear to her, he comforted her and guided her in her next steps. God didn’t show up, wave a magic wand and fix the situation, he took the time to be present and reassure her in her time of despair. It is during your greatest times of need that El Roi pours out His grace and mercy upon you (Hebrews 4:14-16).

God sees you! He sees exactly what you’re going through, because, to quote Hagar, “You are [El Roi] a God of seeing. Truly, here I have seen Him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13).

Jesus was the perfect example of how we should go out into the world to see those around us who are hurting. May we be God’s hands and feet in our communities as we intentionally look out for those who are in need – some of those needs may be in plain sight, but I pray that God will open our eyes to see the needs of those who are hidden in the darkness, for those who are sold in the night, for those who toil for endless hours, days, years because they have no escape.

Lord, we thank you that you see us today and everyday – that you not only see us, but you are present, you shower your love over us, comfort us and show us your plan for our lives. Open our eyes Lord so that we may see the vulnerable people around us who may be at risk from dangers, such as trafficking, and help us to shine your light into the darkness where men, women and children are being forced into slavery and sold within our own communities. Help us to see the signs and share your love!

Note: Check out this month’s devotional, Eyes Wide Open, and this month’s craft, Lights Shining in the Darkness, that coordinates with this devotional. Also check out the resource Red Flags and Responses.

August 2022 Devotional: Eyes Wide Open

By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director
Territorial Social Justice Department

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

When I read this verse recently, it struck me in a new way. If you read the context, it defines “the least of these” as those who are hungry, thirsty, unclothed, sick, imprisoned, and estranged. I’ve often imagined that “the least of these” would be easy to identify – like those who live on the streets that we see almost every time we take a walk of drive our cars through the city – but unfortunately this is not always the case, and we actually need to have our eyes and ears wide open to see those who are hurting all around us. Sadly, the traffickers in our communities have figured this out too and are experts at doing just that – their eyes and ears are wide open! These perpetrators, both men and women, seem to be able to spot the potential victims, the vulnerable, those who feel “unseen”, and deliberately move in on their prey to show them that they can be cared for, given a place to stay, even showered with gifts – which results in them being lured into trafficking situations where they are exploited, sold, treated as objects and often hurt or even killed – all whilst tricking these young women, men and children into believing that they are being taken care of, and no one will ever “see them” and “treat them” as well as their pimp or trafficker.

Jesus was the perfect example to each of us of how we can interact with others in society to ensure that they know they are seen, not only by us, but by our heavenly Father who looks past our circumstances, the people we associate with, and the decisions we have made, in order to love us and save us from a world of hurt. Jesus saw the criminal hanging beside him at Calvary and said the words “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus saw the Samaritan woman at the well as He went against all cultural expectations and moved beyond hostility toward restoration, putting his own “religious cleanliness” into question as He shared a cup with, not only a woman but a woman, who was clearly an outsider in her own community (John 4:1-26). Jesus saw the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), he saw those suffering from mental illness, disabilities, and sickness (Luke 5:18-26), the list goes on and on. He was willing to surrender his privilege to cross cultural boundaries and draw these people into relationships, and He still does this for each of us today. Just like Jesus, we need to have our eyes opened to see those in need so that we too, can cross boundaries and build relationships!

Traffickers work tirelessly to see the vulnerable in society, to be the first people to greet the young girls and boys leaving foster care, to reach out to those who have run away from toxic home situations and need a place to stay, and to spend time with kids when they leave school for the day and have nowhere else to go. It is our responsibility to let those same kids know that we see them and more importantly, that God sees them too!

Prayer: Lord, please give us eyes to see and ears to hear those around us who need you – help us be brave as we look into the darkness to share your light. Show us how to help and give us courage to speak up. Protect these men, women, girls and boys from predators who offer promises of a better life but are actively planning their destruction. Use us to seek out and fight for the least of these.

Note: Check out this month’s Bible Study, To Be Seen By God, and this month’s craft, Lights Shining in the Darkness, that coordinates with this devotional. Also check out the resource Red Flags and Responses.