Messengers of Compassion called to action
By: David Ibata
Bringing a message on compassion to the Messengers of Compassion and others at Sunday morning’s Ordination and Commissioning service, Commissioner Willis Howell spoke of the photographer who took the heartbreaking picture of a starving child in Sudan.
In 1993, Kevin Carter traveled to Sudan to photograph the famine. He came upon a little girl too weak to stand, struggling and whimpering as she crawled to where food was being distributed; a vulture lurked on the ground behind her. “If the sight of this child crawling to be fed, if that doesn’t stir the world to action, nothing will,” he thought.
“Once this picture was taken, he stayed there 20 minutes or so, waiting for the bird to fly away,” Commissioner Howell said. “When it didn’t, he finally shooed it away. Once that was done, he sat under a tree, watching this child struggle a little longer.”
The photo won Carter a 1994 Pulitzer Prize. But when word got out that he had done nothing to help the child, “what had been praise and recognition … quickly turned into disbelief, condemnation, scorn.” Less than a month after accepting the prize, Carter committed suicide.
“Is there anyone in this room who thinks Kevin Carter didn’t feel compassion for this girl?” Commissioner Howell asked. “What bothers you and bothers me is that he didn’t do anything. He didn’t act on his compassion.
“Regardless of how strong the feeling may be, compassion that doesn’t lead to action is worthless. I can’t think of the Kevin Carter story without asking a question of myself: How am I different from him when I feel compassion for those who hurt, when I feel compassion for those who ache, when I feel compassion for those who are suffering, and I do nothing about it?”
The territorial commander urged the Messengers of Compassion to not let their session title become just a label. Warning he was about to speak bluntly, he said, “Hell is going to be full of people who felt compassion in their lives. … Feelings alone change nothing of this world’s pain and suffering.
“The world needs people who are actively and intentionally spreading the message of compassion – those who will roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and actually deliver the life-changing, lifesaving compassion of the loving God. Is that you? Is that our territory? Is that our Army? Oh, I wish to God it is. Please, God, make us like you.”
Cadet Lindsey Galabeas, session representative speaker, said, “God’s compassion can burst through the darkness in an instant and remind us we are never alone. This is a transformative power of compassion. One of the great privileges we have as believers we share this power with others by imitating God through acting compassionately.”
“We can all be messengers of God’s compassion by showing kindness to others,” Cadet Galabeas said. “We are compassionate through acts of kindness, service and humility toward others. When we choose to be compassionate, we are sharing light and hope with a dark and dying world. This is what it means to be a Messenger of Compassion.”
In the final gathering of the weekend, the Now Go! meeting Sunday afternoon, Commissioner Howell and Major Ray Cooper announced the 2019 World Services Ingathering, The Salvation Army Southern Territory’s gift to overseas programs: $10,809,525.
Commissioner Howell also presented the second Commissioner Ruth Osborne Fellowship Award, a $2,500 fellowship to encourage leadership development in young adults. The recipient was Emaniel Brifil, missions program coordinator for the Florida Division.
Returning to the theme of the weekend, Lieutenant Cornelius Walton, the session speaker, spoke of a Christian man who forever regretted not having offered a cup of hot coffee to a homeless person he encountered on a cold February morning in Chicago.
“Jesus said in the Book of Matthew that whatever you did for the least of these homeless brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” Lieutenant Walton said. “If God has given us the ability to be his Messengers of Compassion, we cannot ignore the physical and mental needs of others. … Being a Messenger of Compassion requires more than words. It requires actions.”
Lieutenant Walton told those in attendance God had not called them to an easy assignment.
“If we didn’t experience suffering, how can we ever relate with those who are going through it?” he asked. “We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ to let others know there is hope in the midst of their suffering. In this world we will have trouble, but Jesus Christ has overcome the world.”
Commissioner Barbara Howell gave the charge to the newly commissioned lieutenants, Salvationist Services Corps teams heading to summer postings and officers going overseas.
“We serve under our Blood and Fire banner of transformation, believing as this great Army family we are all stronger together, and each of us can be a transformational influence right here where God has placed us,” Commissioner Barbara said. “So, let us march forward with confidence, knowing if we apply the values of the Kingdom we will forge a path to victory.”
She cited 1 John 3:18: Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. “My dear Messengers of Compassion. My dear missionaries. My dear summer service team members. Let’s not just talk about love. Let’s practice real love. This is the only way to show we are living in God’s reality.”
“Go and make disciples. Go and change the world for God. Just go, go and go!”