It’s the most ... wonderful time ... of the year!
By LAUREN MARTIN
When I mentioned to a bunch of Salvo officers, workers and volunteers a few weeks ago that Red Shield Appeal was my favourite time of the year, I received a variety of responses. Most people laughed, assuming I was being sarcastic. Some looked at me wide-eyed, and some groaned.
Sure, The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal adds to the workload of a group of people who are already stretched by the nature of our call to serve others. It’s a time of late nights and early mornings; of prayer and petition; of getting out of our comfort zone and asking others to help us when we are so used to helping others.
But I stand by my statement that Red Shield Appeal time is, as the Christmas song goes, ‘the most ... wonderful time ... of the year’.
Because we are human beings created in God’s image. Our all-loving God hard-wired us to feel good when we do good! (Theologian John Piper calls this ‘Christian Hedonism’). But not everyone in our communities gets the opportunity to serve on the frontline, to journey with people through hardship. So, bringing others on the journey with us at Red Shield Appeal time is a blessing! When we gather donors, fundraisers, and supporters together and share stories of lives transformed, it allows them to be just as part of the mission as we are.
Red Shield Appeal time also allows us to form connections in our communities that we would never form otherwise. And those connections can be powerful. I think of a partnership I once made with a local businesswoman who wanted to give back to our community in her own way. That connection and friendship led to a deeper journeying, and over the years, when hardship arose in her own life, The Salvation Army was able to assist her and her family as she continued to assist us. Connections and relationships formed during Red Shield Appeal are often lasting and powerful.
The month of May also allows the people we support to be able to give back if they want to. By collecting for us and helping out at our cake stalls or sausage sizzles, these experiences instil belonging and significance in members of the public that we are journeying with. It gives them extra opportunities to be around Salvos, who are safe, healthy and functioning. And we know that the more touchpoints people have with others who are flourishing, the more likely it will be that their own lives are transformed for the better.
This year, a woman whom I have been journeying with for about two years is even more excited than me about the Red Shield Appeal! She is an awesome gardener and has been potting plants for me in the lead-up to our cake and plant stalls so they can be sold to raise money for our mission. What a joy and blessing she is to me in this way! And what a joy it is for her to know that she is giving back in such a valuable way.
For Salvation Army corps that engage in local mission delivery, like 2508 Salvos in Helensburgh (NSW), where I serve, the Red Shield Appeal is the biggest source of income that keeps the mission operational. In my space, where we are creating a model of being church that doesn’t happen on a Sunday, the concept of ‘tithing’ is foreign to our new and emerging followers of Jesus. So, the Red Shield Appeal and our ability to invest the money raised locally is crucial to keeping our ‘doors open’, so to speak. Appeal time weighs heavily as both a burden of responsibility and an opportunity for increasing missional connections.
The paradox of faith, of course, is to hold the tension between the trust that God will provide for all of our mission and ministry needs; and the practicalities of getting the job done. As a wise colleague shared with me recently – God gave the Israelites the promised land for free, but they still had to cross the river to get there!
So, let’s put our shoulder to the wheel, trusting in God for his provision and opening our eyes and hearts to the opportunities that every Red Shield Appeal offers us. Because “It’s the most ... wonderful time ... of the year!”