It was at the end of a long, tiring day. With the remote in my hand, I was TV channel surfing, as I reclined in my comfortable favorite chair. The toll of days packed with leading social services programs, music ministries, women’s ministries, youth programs and seniors Bible Study activities was weighing me down. Suddenly, Rutendo interrupted me with what she called the best news of the day. I thought this was her gimmick to get me to listen to all her stories that never seem to end. I did not listen to hear although I could see her lips move. All I wanted was to relax.
At the corner of my, I noticed tears streaming down her cheeks. “This must be a serious story,” I thought. “Wait a minute, start from the beginning again.” I pretended to have been listening, and was just wanting to see if I heard correctly. On other days, this is when I would have gotten the lecture on how much I do not listen. Today was different. In-between sobs, she smiled as she began to relay the great story. Before she concluded her story, I, too, was in tears.
What had happened to make us both cry? Gabby is a 10-year-old girl who started attending youth programs through the advertising in our area. Although Gabby smiles and laughs like all kids, she and her sisters miss their mother. They 27-year-old mother incarcerated, and she is pregnant with twins. Gabby and her little sisters live with their aging, ailing grandmother. The girls witness various men visit the house to drink, smoke, and engage in diverse illicit activities, with the girls’ uncle. No one Gabby’s family is gainfully employed. No one in Gabby’s family has finished high school. There are no positive role models for Gabby.
On this Wednesday, Rutendo showed Gabby, and the rest of the Sunbeam girls, our wedding pictures. Gabby stood up, in front of the whole Sunbeams group and said, “I would like to have wedding like yours, Captain.” She went on to say, “Also, I want to go to college to study to be a lawyer. I do not want to have children before I get married. I do not want to get married before I finish college!” How can Gabby have such a dream when her background works so much against her? We, at The Salvation Army, are her role models. This is what The Salvation Army does best – giving hope and dreams to children like Gabby. I will do whatever it takes to prepare the future for Gabby. I might not be there to see Gabby walk across the stage to receive her Law degree someday. I might not be there to see Gabby get married in a glorious fashion, but I can help her attain those dreams by setting an example for her. Jesus is in the business of transforming lives – Gabby’s is just one example.
“Pass me the Kleenex,” I said to Rutendo as I tried to look away from her. I praise God that I am a Salvation Army officer who has been entrusted with the dreams, hopes and futures of such children. This is why I do what I do. I am a conduit of grace to God’s children like Gabby.