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OUR PEOPLE: The remarkable story of William and Catherine Booth and the Salvation Army

William Booth started out as a traveling evangelist. The Booths were very poor and seldom had a home of their own. Then one night as William was coming home from a meeting he passed the doors of a gin palace in East London. This was the part of London where unfortunate people lived – alcoholics, criminals, and prostitutes. William had been preaching in places like West London, where upper class people lived – people who could put enough money in the hat when it was passed to put at least some food on the table at the Booth household.

 

On that fateful night, William thought he heard an urgent voice speaking to him, a voice that would ask a great sacrifice from him and Catherine. The voice asked, “Where can you go and find such heathen as these, and where is there so great a need for your labours?” William knew the answer, “These will be our people.”

Catherine believed that they should answer this call, though she knew that they would never be able to ask the East-Enders for money as they had been able to before from their “respectable” audiences. This was huge step of faith and William and Catherine trusted the Lord to take care of them.

For William and Catherine their work was all about the glory of God and the salvation of souls. And so the little Whitechapel mission would turn into the Christian Mission and eventually into what we know today as the Salvation Army.

The video: OUR PEOPLE: The remarkable story of William and Catherine Booth and the Salvation Army, tells the story of how William and Catherine Booth took God’s love to the poor. This is a very inspirational documentary.

It is not a live action production. The story is told using over 500 images and interviews with 11 historians and storytellers. The many beautiful pictures of 1800’s London makes the story very interesting. There is beautiful background music of familiar hymns. There are live interviews with two of the Booths’ grandchildren.

I really appreciated the account of the now forgotten social work of William and Catherine Booth. Today ‘human trafficking’ is much talked about. Many do not realize however that girls as young as 13 years of age were being trafficked in Britain in the 1800’s because the age of consent was 13. The Booths and Catherine’s friend Josephine Butler worked for many years to get the age of consent raised even to 16. William and Catherine rescued 100’s of young girls and women out of prostitution. They opened homes for them and helped them get other employment. The ‘Army’ was to make caring for the poor their main ministry even to this day.

There is so much more and I think you will really be blessed when you watch this video. It is easily found on the internet. It also features some bonus material – interviews with historians.

Remember how much good those cheerful bell ringers have done over the last 150 years when you see them next Christmas!!!

 

 

Nearly 500 years ago, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. This began the start of the period in Church History known as the Reformation.

In honor of this anniversary, many books on Luther and Calvin and other Reformers are hitting the bookshelves this year. But did you know that these great men had wives? Yes, and both men would thank God publicly for the blessing of their wives. The video I recommend this week will tell the story of one of the humblest, yet loved women of the Reformation.

This month is Women in History month. Many women have come to love the story of Katherine Luther as an example of courage and the meaning of the sacredness of everyday living. I highly recommend a video that documents Katie’s life from early childhood until her untimely death. The video – “The Morning Star of Wittenberg: The Life of Katie Luther” – was produced by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is distributed by Vision Video. (easily found on the internet)

It was often thought that only vocations in the church were sacred – being a priest or a nun. But Martin and Katie became heroes of everyday people when they showed the holiness and godliness of a beautiful, loving marriage and home life. Today many pastor’s wives model their lives after Katherine von Bora Luther.

 

 

This video features the insights of Dr. Kirsi Stjerna, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and author of “Women and the Reformation”.

 

 

German theologian Dr. Martin Treu, Curator of the Luther Museum in Wittenberg, gives us interesting historical background to the places and events in Katie’s life. The production is beautifully done and the story leaves you wanting to hear more about Katherine. I would suggest Dr. Stjerna’ book.

 

Katherine contributed much to her husband’s ministry.  She certainly helped with his understanding of marriage, love, and family life. By doing this, she contributed much to the spread of the Gospel. She modeled the ideal Christian woman.  By being a Proverbs 31 woman, her husband’s ministry was expanded further. Because she could manage everything on the home front, including the Black Cloister, Luther was able to be away on long journeys, preaching and teaching, knowing that he could come home to a restful, well-ordered, spiritually invigorating home – even one that had some of the best beer around!!

 

Katherine loved Christ. She lived her life to the fullest. She showed us how to live the Christian life in our marriages, families, and communities. It takes a lot of courage to face the daily mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and mending. As we contemplate on the life of Katherine von Bora Luther, I hope it will give us renewed strength to find joy in whatever calling God has given us.

 

This week I would like to recommend a beautifully done video:

“Francis & Clare of Assisi”

It is an ‘Oriente Occidente Production’ distributed by Vision Video.  You can find it easily on the web. It is 30 minutes long.

This video is not a re-enactment. Instead it relates the story of Francis and Clare of Assisi through narration. The photography is beautiful! The producers take you to the places that were frequented by Clare and Francis. The music is original and fits the medieval times. I especially loved all of the visuals of the medieval art. You will find it warm and inspiring.

 

 

Francis of Assisi turned away a wealthy inheritance and went to live among the poor. He took a vow of poverty. He also strove to reform the church. He and his followers spent their time caring for the poor and sick. He believed that he was following more faithfully in Jesus’ footsteps. A time-honored saying that is attributed to him goes, “Preach the Gospel always, and if you must, use words.” His message of reform spread all across Europe and the East. St. Francis is still honored today for his example of love and care to even the lowest, most forgotten people.

Clare was a beautiful Italian woman born into nobility. Even as a young girl she was known for her piety and her kindness. A story is told that she used to hide the food from her plate so that she could later give it to the poor.

When she was sixteen years old, Clare heard Francis of Assisi preach. She had been promised in marriage to a wealthy man but she refused a life of ease. Instead she put on sackcloth and went out to care for the poor.

Other women began to follow Clare including her mother and sister. Francis of Assisi built a little cloister for them near the Church of St. Damian. In 1215 Clare founded the order of Poor Clares. They devoted themselves to prayer, penance and service. The Poor Clares also took vows of poverty and renounced property ownership.

Clare never left her cloister but did maintain her friendship with Francis of Assisi and many others. In spite of being bedridden for the last twenty-eight years of her life (probably due to severe fasting) her influence was great. She and the group of women serving with her were responsible for extending the reforms started by St. Francis to the church and to society.

The Poor Clares spread beyond Assisi to other towns in Italy, England, France, Germany, and Bohemia. Today the Poor Clares number over 20,000 sisters in 70 countries.

Clare died on August 11, 1253 of natural causes. In 1255 Clare was canonized as St. Clare by Pope Alexander IV.

“Don’t be afraid, because a kind providence is watching over you, and – you’ll see – everything will work out in the end.”     St. Josephine Bakhita

st-josephine-bakhitaSlavery is supposed to have been abolished, but today, millions around the world are enslaved, victims of human trafficking. Traffickers prey on the helpless, most often women and children. Even poor men are used and exploited for the benefit and gain of others, and some spend their entire lives never knowing the basic human freedoms that we so often take for granted.

Our story this week is about a woman who was trafficked as a child – St. Josephine Bakhita. God brought this daughter through many trials and her story of courage and grace is very inspirational.

“My family lived in the middle of Africa…” Josephine knew precisely where she was born though not exactly when. Due to the years of torture she endured “Bakhita” did not remember her original name either. However, she always held in loving memory her home in a village called Al-Qoz in Darfur. The name means ‘Sandy Hill’ and it is at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.[1]

Her father was a landowner overseeing a large staff of field laborers and herdsmen, and the village head man was her uncle. Her family was well-off, but most importantly, they were loving and close. Josephine recalls, “It was made up of father, mother, three brothers and three sisters, plus four others whom I never knew because they died before I was born. I had a twin sister; I’ve no idea what became of her or of any of them, after I was stolen. I was as happy as could be, and didn’t know the meaning of sorrow.”

Josephine’s story shows one of the most tragic things about human trafficking: the way it also destroys families. One day when she went out to play with a friend, Josephine was suddenly kidnapped by Arab slave traders. She was about 9 years old.

For the next 12 years Josephine would be bought and resold many times. One slaver gave her the name ‘Bakhita’. It means ‘Lucky’ and was a very common name for slaves. Lucky for the slave owners, but not for Josephine. She and another girl attempted to escape one time. How she longed to find her way home. But Bakhita was quickly found and brought back. The slaver eventually brought them to a market for sale.

Her treatment as a slave varied from one owner to the next. Her first owner was a wealthy Arab who gave her to his daughters as a maid. This went fairly well considering the circumstances until she angered the owner’s son. “He immediately seized a whip to flog me. I fled into the other room to hide behind his sisters. I should never have done that! He flew into a rage, dragged me out of there, flung me on the ground and with the whip and with his foot gave me so, so many blows. Finally, a kick to my left side made me lose consciousness. The slaves had to carry me to my sleeping mat, where I lay for over a month.”

When Bakhita recovered she was put to other temporary work and then resold. Worse torture was still in store for her. A Turkish general bought her. His wife ordered her to be scarred. It was a custom of that culture for slaves to show honor to their masters by wearing tattoos. These were given in a very cruel way. Indeed, Josephine Bakhita would eventually suffer a total of 114 scars from this abuse.

She remembered, “A woman expert in this cruel art arrived. She took us to the porch, while the mistress stood behind us, whip in hand. The woman had a dish of white flour fetched, and another of salt, and a razor. She ordered the first one (of three girls. Josephine’s turn was last.) to lie down on the ground and two of the strongest slaves to hold her, one by the arms and the other by the legs. Then she bent over the poor girl and, using the flour, began to trace on her belly about sixty fine marks. I stood there, watching everything, knowing that afterwards they were going to perform the same torture on me. Once the marks were completed the woman took the razor and swish, swish, sliced along each mark she’d traced, while the poor girl groaned, and blood welled up from each cut. When this operation was finished she took the salt and rubbed it as hard as she could over each wound, so that it would go in and enlarge the cut, and keep the edges open. The agony and torment! The victim was writhing in pain, and I was shaking in anticipation.”

When her turn came, Bakhita received cuts on her chest, belly, and right arm. She kept thinking, “’This is it: I’m going to die,’ especially when she rubbed the salt into me.” She and the other two girls were left on mats, unable to move for over a month.

Later Bakhita was sold to the Italian Vice Consul, Calisto Legnani, who proved to be a kinder master. When he decided to return to Italy, Bakhita begged him to take her along. He agreed and when they got to Italy she was given to another family. There she served as a nanny.

Her new mistress wanted to travel to be with her husband and left her child, Mimmina, and Bakhita in the custody of the Canossian Sisters in Venice. There Mimmina could get some education while her mother traveled. While they were there, Bakhita learned about God.

Josephine later said that she had always known about the God Who created all things, but did not know Who He was. The Sisters answered all of her questions and Bakhita made a decision to follow Christ. She desired to remain at the convent when her mistress returned.

Her mistress tried to talk her out of it and Josephine admitted that she would really miss Mimmina, but she believed that her decision was a call from Christ. The sisters believed it too and tried to make a way for her to stay.

The case went to court, and thankfully, it was discovered that slavery had been outlawed in Sudan before Josephine was born. Therefore, she could not lawfully be made a slave. Now Josephine was free to live her own life. She chose to remain with the Canossian Sisters.

She was baptized on January 9, 1890 and took the name Josephine Margaret and Fortunata. Fortunata is the Latin translation for the Arabic ‘Bakhita’.

Josephine became a novice and then eventually took her final vows on December 8, 1896 with the Canossian Daughters of Charity. She was assigned to a convent in Schio, Vicenza. For the next 42 years of her life Josephine served as a doorkeeper and cook at the convent. She also traveled and spoke. She helped many nuns who were training to be missionaries in Africa.

Josephine was kind to children and was known to have surreptitiously lifted her sleeve to show mother_bakhitathem her scars. At first the Italian children were in awe of her because they did not see many black sisters, but they soon grew to love her and call her ‘Black Mother’.

Gentle and quiet with a ready smile she became known affectionately as the “little brown sister”. After some years she was honored with the title “Black Mother”. When people would ask her story and then offer sympathy, Josephine would sometimes say that she should thank her kidnappers. Though God brought her to Himself in such a difficult way she was thankful for Jesus Christ. She told others that they should serve and love God no matter what. Her words really carried some weight!!

Josephine lived through two world wars and many other trials but always remained firm in the belief that God was watching over her. She was an encouragement to thousands and thousands throughout the rest of her life.

Josephine went to be with her Savior on February 8, 1947. Josephine is the patron saint of Sudan.

 

 

[1] All quotes from the booklet by Jean Olwen Maynard, “Josephine Bakhita: A survivor of Human Trafficking”, Catholic Truth Society, 2015.

“How in the world could I have lived such a helpful life as I have lived had I not been blind?”        Frances Jane “Fanny” Crosby Alstyne

crosbyov2In her life­time, Fanny Crosby was one of the best known Christian women in the United States. Today, most American hymnals contain some of the over 9000 hymns that she wrote. There probably isn’t anyone who goes to church who hasn’t sung one of her hymns.

Frances Jane “Fanny” Crosby was born in 1820 and died in 1915. Though blind ever since a quack doctor ruined her eyesight while treating an eye infection when she was a baby, she never let her blindness make her feel sorry for herself. She turned her blindness into a blessing for millions around the whole world who enjoy her many hymns to this day.

Recently I watched a video production of her story. It is part of a “Testimony” series of videos that fanny-crosby-videoyou can easily find online and is titled, “The Fanny Crosby Story”. The video is only 46 minutes long and could be shown at church or any small group meetings for study and worship. Though it is not the best production of a documentary I have ever seen, it is very inspiring.

 

fanny-and-husbandThe video relates her story from birth until death. People often wonder if a blind person can marry and have children. Well, Fanny married a blind man and they had a child. Tragically, the child died. Still Fanny led a full and happy life. She helped others until the day of her death.

 

 

 

Darlene Neptune, author of “Fanny Crosby Still Lives”, is one of the narrators. Darlene Neptunedarlene-neptune-crosby is considered the world’s leading authority on Fanny Crosby and frequently presents dramatizations of Fanny’s life to audiences around the country. I would highly recommend her book.

fanny-autobiographyI have also read “Fanny J. Crosby: An Autobiography”. If you enjoy watching a movie and reading the book as much as I do, you will be very inspired by both of these books.

 

 

There were a couple of things about this video production that were disappointing. The other narrators were very amateurish in comparison to Darlene Neptune. Also some of the music in the background was from other composers. I would have thought that with over 9000 hymns to choose from the background music would have all been familiar Fanny Crosby hymns.

Nevertheless, at the end of the video, choirs sing one of Fanny Crosby’s most famous and favorite hymns “Blessed Assurance” and you will feel like joining in and praising the Lord!

Once a preacher sympathetically remarked, “I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you.” Fanny replied quickly, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I should be born blind?” “Why?” asked the surprised minister. “Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!”

Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing.
But, O, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story — saved by grace.

Some day my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon ‘twill be,
But this I know — my All in All
Has now in heaven a place for me,
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story — saved by grace.

 

 

I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.
Dorothy Day

d-d-entertaining-anglesRecently I came across a DVD that does a pretty fair job of telling the story of Dorothy Day’s life.

In our busy world it is often easier to watch a good video than to find time for books. I would still recommend reading the biography of Dorothy Day as well as her own writings. They are very inspiring.

The video is titled: Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story.

It is done by “Paulist Pictures”. You can get the DVD from Amazon or many other religious organizations that sell books and biographies of historical Christians.

I thought that the production of the movie was well-done. The actors, Moira Kelly as Dorothy Day and Martin Sheen as her friend and mentor Peter Maurin were very believable in their parts. Often other movies are ruined by the shallowness of the acting but in this production Moira Kelly and Martin Sheen gave very strong performances.

I really appreciated the introduction to the movie – It showed Dorothy in prison in the early 1960’s for protesting the war in Vietnam. It gave the viewer a glimpse of another facet of her life besides caring for the poor. Dorothy believed in peace and justice and was willing to practice what she preached! She went to prison several times.

The scene in the prison may or may not have been a real event in her life, but it pictures for the viewer just how much Dorothy loved the ‘unlovely’.  She comforts a woman cell mate who is quite agitated, seemingly coming off of drugs. As Dorothy sits with the woman’s head in her lap, the woman vomits on Dorothy whose reaction is only kindness and concern. The woman is moved by Dorothy’s kindness and wants to know “What is the story of your life?”

Dorothy begins a reminiscence. She reflects back to the time that she lived like a bohemian in Greenwich village along with friends who were trying to find answers to poverty in socialism and communism. No one in the crowd believed in God. Dorothy herself was very skeptical.

Over the next few years Dorothy suffered from failed love affairs and had many heartbreaks. But she encounters a wonderful nun who shows her love. The nun is also engaged in helping the poor. Dorothy wonders what the nun gets out of it. Dorothy finds out that just helping others gives you great joy.

I won’t give away any more details. I hope that this has whetted your appetite to see a film about a very courageous woman. A woman who did many things that she regretted in her early life but found forgiveness and love in the Lord Jesus. A woman who did not look back but spent her time helping others more unfortunate than she was.

In our day especially, women can be encouraged that they can do great things for God. Dorothy was a single mother with no money whose legacy includes over 100 “soup kitchens” and other places of charity for the poor. She ministered to the lives of thousands of angels.

And if you have some time, read the books too!!

Following are some pictures of the real Dorothy along with some of her most famous quotes.

quote-the-gospel-takes-away-our-right-forever-to-discriminate-between-the-deserving-and-the-dorothy-day-44-23-97

dorothy-day-poverty

 

 

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.                 Helen Keller

It was noted by one of Helen Keller’s biographers in 1960 that if a worldwide poll were to be taken to determine the most outstanding woman of their generation, no doubt the top selection would be Helen Keller.

I would say that even in 2017, if a poll were taken of women whose lives were a tremendous influence for good, Helen Keller would be still be among the top on the list. The work that she did for the blind and other handicapped people has helped untold numbers of people.

And those of us who are not physically disabled can still be inspired by her courage.

helen-keller-youngHelen Adams Keller was born a normal, healthy girl on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. She had nothing wrong with her vision or hearing until she was about nineteen months old. Then in February 1882 Helen developed a severe congestion of the stomach and brain. In those days the doctors called it “brain fever”, but they really did not know much about the condition medically. Modern doctors believe it may have been scarlet fever, hemolytic streptococcus or even meningitis. In any event it was very serious and doctors even thought that Helen would die.

Gradually her fever subsided and Helen recovered. Her parents did not suspect that anything was wrong until one morning when Helen’s mother passed her hand over the baby’s face. Helen did not blink her eyes. They soon realized that Helen could not hear a bell ringing either. Helen was living in a world where she could not perceive light or sound and she was also mute.

Helen was an unusual girl. She had such a zest for life that her parents found a teacher for her, Miss Annie Sullivan. Annie Sullivan helped Helen to lead a happy life in spite of her disabilities.

There is a famous story about Helen as a girl which illustrates the wonderful occasionhelen-keller-annie-sullivan-160177633x when she was able to grasp the idea of language. Annie had been trying to teach Helen to connect the spelling of “mug”, “doll”, and “water” to the objects themselves. Helen was so frustrated that she threw a temper tantrum, throwing a doll on the floor.

Annie did not give up on Helen. They went for a walk and came upon a well. Annie thrust Helen’s hands into the cool water as it was being pumped from the well while she spelled the word “water” into Helen’s other hand.

Later in her autobiography Helen recalled, “I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. The living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.”[1]And with Annie’s help many barriers were swept away.

About two years after Helen discovered the joy of language she had her first instruction in religion. She received instruction from Bishop Phillips Brooks at Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts. Helen had many questions about God; questions that Annie who was a nonbeliever could not help her with.

Helen went on to be highly educated, graduating from Radcliffe College in 1904, the first deaf-blind women to graduate from college. There were many Braille books for her to read from by this time. She studied many subjects in college but loved philosophy best.

It is so incredible to me how someone who did not have sight or hearing could even imagine such deep concepts. Without having some sort of examples to draw from how did she experience God, life, love, and thoughts of eternity including Heaven. Those things are hard enough for a seeing/hearing person to think about.

Helen’s favorite philosopher was Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg had been a member of the Swedish Parliament and was a scientist when at the age of 55 he had a profound religious experience. He wrote many books explaining his experiences. He wrote about concepts of universal spiritual reality and brotherhood, a loving God, and an afterlife in which no one would suffer from limitations and physical disabilities. According to Swedenborg death is just a change of place from earth to a new world where Helen would be able to see and hear.

Helen’s father died in 1896 when Helen was sixteen. In the 1920’s Helen, in her forties, went on the vaudeville stage to support herself and her teacher Annie. It was difficult for Helen to get up in front of an audience but she willingly did it because she had to. In 1921 Helen’s mother died from a prolonged terminal illness. Helen could take comfort in the thought that she would see her mother in Heaven.

Now Helen had only Annie. A sad day finally came when Annie suffered a severe case of the flu and would be plagued with bad health for the rest of her life. Helen continued to perform on stage to support them. Then in 1936 Annie died. She and Helen had been together for nearly fifty years.

helen-keller-quotesPeople wondered, “How would Helen get around now without her helper?” But Helen met the challenge with her usual courage and fortitude. Her vitality and sense of adventure amazed everyone. They knew that in part at least it was due to her strong religious faith. Many would claim that meeting Helen was like having a religious experience. They were uneasy around her, not knowing how much sympathy to give. She always put them at ease with her good spirit and ready laughter.

In June 1955, a week before her seventy-fifth birthday, Helen received an honorary degree from Harvard University, the first women to receive such an award. When her name was called at the ceremony she received a standing ovation.

In her final years of life Helen read her Bible every morning, especially the Psalms. It is no surprise that her favorites were Psalms 90, 98, 100 and 23. Every Sunday Helen took time for private devotions to God.

Helen Adams Keller died on a Saturday afternoon, June 1, 1968, several weeks before her birthday. She had suffered a heart attack a few weeks earlier. Her companion at the time, Winnie Corbally was at her bedside. Winnie said that Helen died peacefully, just drifting off into her sleep. Helen was not afraid of death.

And so the woman who spent almost her entire life in a dark and soundless world was welcomed by her Savior into light and life and joy and the sound of trumpets and angels rejoicing.

Helen could now sing one of her favorite Psalms, Psalm 98, seeing the Lord and hearing His praises.

O sing to the Lord a new song,
For He has done wonderful things, …
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

 

 

[1] From “The Story of My Life”, Helen Keller