In some ways I feel I am here under false pretences, a gathering of former USA Salvation Army Officers, and me an active Officer. And, in a country and territory that I know little of. And so here I am almost gate crashing as Sven’s wife and carer. I didn’t even know to where we were coming. I thought we were coming to New York City for the weekend. I had imagined being caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city as I imagine it to be. And yet somehow or other escaping to an SA conference centre in the middle of it all.
How wrong could I be. This is beautiful and as we drove through the gates of the SA Ladore Conference center in the Pennsylvania mountains. I sensed God’s presence and just knew we would be able to meet with Him here in a special way as I believe we already have.
I feel very privileged to have been able to be a part of your group this evening and to hear some of your stories. As I sat and listened and saw the pain on some of your faces I was reminded of the Scripture that tells us to ‘weep with those who weep’, my heart wept tonight as I found myself asking God’s forgiveness for my part in your pain. As some of you spoke of brokenness my mind recalled one of my favourite stories that Henri Nouwen shared that I would like to leave with you now.
In his book ‘Life of the Beloved’ Henri informs the reader of a musical that was written in memory of the assassination of John F Kennedy. During one of the scenes a priest is being carried through the streets in all his priestly garb and on the shoulders of his people. In his hands is a very ornate glass chalice. Suddenly something happens, the priest is dropped, falls to the ground and in doing so the chalice is shattered into a thousand pieces.
In the next scene we are moved on to the next day when those same streets are empty. Along comes the same priest in his jeans and a tee-shirt looking very bedraggled, staring at the ground and kicking it as he goes. He reaches the very same place as where he had been dropped the previous day and there he saw the thousand pieces of broken glass. The sun was streaming down on them, and then came what I believe can be life changing words: ‘I never knew broken glass shone so brightly.’ … ‘I never knew broken glass shone so brightly.’ All I would say now is: ‘Dearly beloved, be encouraged’ and may God bless you real good right where you are. … Oh, and thank you for the privilege of allowing me to come, observe and learn from you!