20 Apr Striving for gold
They came from around the globe. After years of intensive focus and disciplined training, teams of Commonwealth Games athletes landed on the Gold Coast, in pursuit of gold: gold medals! And from across the nation, and around the world, by television and webcast, we watched, held our breath, cheered and sometimes cried.
Did you know that The Salvation Army sent a team to the Commonwealth Games? Comprised of Salvos from Australia and neighbouring PNG, they too came with focus and discipline. They came for more than gold. They came with a mission. Their goal was to share the love of Jesus – in practical expressions of support, service and care, and with words proclaiming the good news of Jesus.
I joined this team for their final weekend. (This was probably the only team on the Gold Coast that weekend who would add me to the team roster!) I was given the position of centre, centre of the circle of a group of water-balloon bearing kids! I was certainly feeling the welcome to the team. It was an opportunity to sit and chat with kids and parents at a Family Fun Day event focussed around the ‘games’. Later in the day our team worked together to serve dinner to both official volunteers to the Games operations and people in the area who were experiencing homelessness. Sharing the love of Jesus, caring for people.
What was impressive was the willingness of these team members to set aside their own comforts of home, including beds and family, to serve, joining together in mission. Though diverse in backgrounds and personal journeys, this team quickly bonded, as a singular purpose drew them together and propelled them forward, day after long day. They seized the opportunities each day provided, to come alongside others and share the love of Jesus. There were new experiences for the team – ways in which serving and sharing stretched and challenged them. They witnessed first-hand the responses to expressions of love and service, the encouraging words, the messages of hope in Christ.
This weekend I reflected again on all that Tracey and I have witnessed across Australia over these last ten weeks, as we have visited every state during the Vision Booster Campaign. We have seen that Salvos across the nation are coming together like a team – with focus and discipline, pursuing more than gold… pursuing the vision God has given to his Army for the years ahead. This team (made up of officers, adherents, soldiers, volunteers, staff and more) is training hard again. Together, we are stepping into new opportunities, with a fresh determination to live, love and fight alongside others. We are seeing lives transformed, one at a time by the love of Jesus. It is a team made up of people from all walks of life who are setting aside personal comforts for the cause of Christ, choosing service over sitting, ‘saved and sent’ – reminded by S’s on their uniforms and hearts.
As the team who had formed for the Commonwealth Games concluded their expression of mission on this occasion, and headed back home, it was clear there was no intention of retreat in the return. It was a fresh ‘sending’. They return home a ‘sent’ people having heard again the words of Jesus to any who follow Him, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”.
I invite you to consider with me, where is God sending his Army next? The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question, where is God sending me? Where is God sending you? This mission team of Salvos in Australia, going to wherever there is hardship or injustice, is depending on you and I to accept the invitation today, and every day to live as ‘sent’ people. We are sent to share the love of Jesus; caring for people, creating faith pathways for people to discover life in Christ, building healthy communities and working together for justice. Let’s go – go for more than gold.