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Salvation Army provides much needed service

Editor’s note: Portions of this column were previously published by Luke Horton.

Bells will be ringing, and by the time Christmas rolls around they might border on irritating. But the bells ringing outside Wal-Mart in Brookhaven serve a purpose.

The Salvation Army bell ringers are there to accept donations for the Christian organization. Those donations provide Christmas dinners, clothing and toys for needy families. According to the organization, families of prisoners often receive donations.

“Volunteers distribute gifts to shut-ins in hospitals and nursing homes, and shelters are open for sit-down dinners,” the group states on its website. “The Salvation Army endeavors to bring spiritual light and love to those it serves at Christmas so that the real meaning of the season is not forgotten.”

The familiar red kettles help families during the Christmas season, but they also serve a greater purpose.

The organization founded in the late 1800s by William Booth seeks to “preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.”

That goal is realized by meeting the physical and emotional needs of people everywhere. It’s a strategy Jesus himself would be familiar with.

Booth’s vision was to “win the lost multitudes of England to Christ.” He started his ministry walking the “streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.”

He took his message to the people. It’s an effective way to create converts, but also a great way to help those in need.

“Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his message to the people. His fervor led to disagreement with church leaders in London, who preferred traditional methods. As a result, he withdrew from the church and traveled throughout England, conducting evangelistic meetings,” the website states.

“In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers, but by 1874, the number had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists, all serving under the name ‘The Christian Mission.’ Booth assumed the title of general superintendent, with his followers calling him ‘General.’ Known as the Hallelujah Army, the converts spread out of the East End of London into neighboring areas and then to other cities.”

That’s how the Salvation Army got started — Christian volunteers helping those in need and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

During the Christmas season, we can all find inspiration in Booth’s mission and the Salvation Army’s goal. Helping others at Christmas is sometimes discarded as a once-a-year, feel-good experience best reserved for the upper class.

But it shouldn’t be. Most of us, rich or not, have enough left at the end of the month to give a little back. Most of us can spare some loose change after spending hundreds at Wal-Mart.

That’s all the Salvation Army is asking for — your loose change. So don’t ignore the ringing bells when you hear them; respond with your generosity.  An army of volunteers is counting on those quarters to help the less fortunate

Luke Horton is the publisher of The Daily Leader.