Salvationist’s care and kindness captured heart of Alabama man
By: Major Frank Duracher
Community Care Ministry workers faithfully execute their missions of grace through regular visits to nursing homes, hospitals, shut-ins, as well as jails and prisons. Formerly known as the League of Mercy, the oft-unheralded outreach draws its boundless inspiration from Matthew 25:40, where Jesus assures that whatever is done for the least of humanity is like doing it expressly for him.
One recipient of these visits – Earl Boatrite of Florence, Alabama – became a real trophy of grace and was won to the Army due to the kindness he saw each week during a long convalescence.
Boatrite’s contact with the Army goes all the way back to his childhood when he came up through the Army’s Scouting program at the Florence Corps. He even knows some of the “old faithful” from back then – some of whom are still around today.
But when Earl grew up, he also grew away from the Lord and the Army. That is, until the Lord got Earl’s attention in a veterans hospital ward.
Earl had left home as a teen, joined the military and served our country with distinction. He became a good husband, father and neighbor. But by his own admission, he wasn’t right with the Lord. The religious training he received at the Army back in Florence seemed light years away.
He knew something was missing in his life.
Earl would be the first to tell you today that he considers the decades outside of God’s will to be his “wasted years.” But he will also add that the Lord never gave up on him. An “angel” (his word) in the form of a League of Mercy worker became the model for the new direction Earl desired.
“I got real sick and was laid up in the VA Hospital in Birmingham,” Earl said. “During those long weeks, I became more and more impressed with the faithfulness and Christian love exhibited by someone in a Salvation Army uniform.”
Although he doesn’t remember her name nor whatever became of her, Boatrite said he will never forget her aged face, nor the regular doses of kindness and prayer dispensed for him and the other patients in the ward.
Each visit of this grandmother-figure in uniform became more important to Boatrite’s eventual conversion. Her visits were cherished highlights among the hourly monotony of treatment, therapy and tests. The floor around his sickbed became “holy ground.” He decided one day that the example of this elderly warrior was especially meant for him.
“I knew then and there: That’s what I want to do!”
He also witnessed to the Lord’s healing power. “Early on, my doctor told me that my type of illness would most likely leave me at 60 percent normal capacity. He said I would be legally disabled, never to work again. He even advised me to sell all my mechanic tools!”
By the time Boatrite was discharged, the same doctor pronounced him at 98 percent capacity. He returned to Florence, looked up The Salvation Army and later got a fulltime job at the U.S. Postal Service.
After many years, Boatrite’s determination has not wavered. Today he is the corps sergeant-major in the Florence Corps. His wife, Delia, joins him in faithful service in all of the corps programs, including CCM. Over the years, Boatrite attended Local Officers Training School held at Evangeline Booth College.
No one seems prouder to wear his uniform than CSM Earl Boatrite.
Major Frank Duracher, a former staff writer for The War Cry and Southern Spirit, is a retired Salvation Army officer living in North Carolina.