Friday, April 29, 2016

Ten Years in Russia; 1913-1923 PART TWO OF THREE

From Ten Years in Russia; 1913-1923
Karl Larsson 
Translation: SEL

Don’t these testimonies offer seriousness, an honesty and frankness, which reveal the Russian character? Here it is all or nothing.

TROPHIES
Our work in Russia resulted in several noticeable changes. Adjutant Lydia Rainio, one of our comrades, noted some vivid depictions and shared them in the Finnish War Cry. Here are some of them, partially condensed.

The man in the fiery red sweater

“To Wasjas village ", the abode of the worst misery amid Petrograd’s most abundant luxury, came two Salvation Army officers on a Saturday afternoon. They looked through a narrow gate, on the walls to see if there still something left beyond its plaster, but saw instead images of evil itself. They came through a narrow walkway walking into one of the first housing areas, on whose open landscape was piled smelly garbage heaps, and where hungry, mangy cats and dogs wallowed. The anxiety that this sight elicited grew increasingly, while the officers groped in the pitch-dark hall, where a humid air beat against them. Who's there?" was the answer to their knock.

"We would only wish to meet Eugenii Vladimirovitch!" It was the person we knew as "Maxim in the torn coat."

A hoarse murmur was heard, and the door, which had no handle was pushed open.

The air inside, which hit the officers, instinctively brought their hands to their noses.

The darkness inside made it difficult to immediately make out the room's contours. Only when the removed the rags that covered the little window could they see an old woman standing between a couple of benches on which were tossed some tord clothes. The fresh air that streamed in through the little window made it possible for the visitors to present their concerns.

Eugenii Vladiinirovitch’s mother, who in her youth was a doctor’s assistant at one of Petrograd's largest hospital, had after a ‘fall’ slipped deeper and deeper, until she ended up here in "Vasjas village", the shipwrecked souls’ kingdom. And the little dark-eyed, black-haired boy had to bear the curse of the mother’s sins - a passionate, horrible fire burned in his veins. The older he became, the wilder it burned, until he too, had become a poor wreck. Now, he supported himself with newspaper selling.

It was spring. The River Neva had just freed itself from the winter shackles, and ice floes from Lake Ladoga appeared here and there to slide forward slowly, like white ghosts in the dim glow of the streetlights. At a loading dock, where the workers have already drifted away, stood the man in the red sweater and the torn frock. He had made a decision - but an
internal power prevented him and led him instead to our meeting at Gavanskaja ulitza (street).

I saw him for the first time. Dressed in a ragged coat, under which shone forth a fiery red sweater here and there he resembled with, his black lightning lit eyes, a criminal rather than an honest man. I gazed at him for a long time - I do not know if it was the exterior drew my attention or if it was the strange look in his eyes. None-the-less, there was something that caused me to think about him all the way home.

It was SA recruit and soldier enrollment Sunday in Russia. I worked at one of our childrens homes, and which is why I was not in a position to closely follow the various events in the corps.

Great was my surprise, therefore, when I saw among those dedicated and enrolled was the "man in the fiery red sweater and torn coat."

He became a recruit. He is now a member of the Salvation Army and one of the most ardent sales agents of the Vjestnik Spasenija.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

From Ten Years in Russia Part One of Three

From Ten Years in Russia; 1913-1923
Karl Larsson 
Translation: SEL

In order that the reader fully appreciate the atmosphere that surrounded us during those immortal days, I will make a selection up from the testimonies to which we were able to listen.

A young military man, who came to the Mercy Seat during one of the Easter meetings, said in his testimony, among other things the following:
"I was once sentenced to death, but through an officer's intervention my sentence was abridged into ten years' hard work. I've been at the front, and it is fully appropriate, that I'm here. Since I arrived in Petrograd, I have sought out old acquaintances, gone from place to place, but have not been received anywhere. My heart was deeply distraught. But then I saw The Salvation Army procession on Nevsky Prospect, and I followed them and came here. Here I’ve found people who love me, and here I have found Jesus Christ."

He had hardly had time to finish until he became embraced and kissed by several Salvationists and friends in a genuine brotherly manner.

A student in military uniform said:
"Ten years ago I was the reverse. I used to visit the Christian student gatherings. We did not see The Salvation Army as appropriate for Russia, because we felt that our people needed something for inner man and therefore had to use this organization's external forms.

I read philosophical books and was led step by step away from God. During the Good Friday services, I became interested in the Army and have since visited all the meetings. Easter Monday I felt very unhappy, but still went home without coming to a decision. at home, I received a visit by a brother in Christ, we prayed together and I found God again. "

A third witness:

"I have gone in the reverse direction. Because I wanted to live a healthy life, I decided to become a nurse. Everything went well for a few years. But recently, the world has had an increasing influence on me. I began to visit worldly places of entertainment and my Christianity waned. None of my Christian leaders knew this. During the meeting in the Alexander Hall God spoke to me. I wanted to go to the Mercy Seat, but was held back by the thought of what my Christian friends would say. In the end however, I gained courage and went forward. Now I’ve got my old peace back.

Yet another testimony, a letter that shows how a simple middle-aged workers perceive the question:

"I have," he said, " during these days come to the Mercy Seat three times. God has brought me through. Before I went to this meeting, I wrote a letter to my elderly mother and my sister, and I wish now to read this letter.

‘My dear sister, I have subscribed to a newspaper for you, I know you love to read with faith and love. It is a magazine for the world, one that I believe Christ values. and you will certainly evaluate this newspaper even higher, now that you know that I have decided to join with the Salvation Army to there with the strength I have serve Christ.

This letter will reach you before the newspaper arrives. Then wait for Vjestnik Spasenija, the name of the newspaper.

I ask you, dear sister, that you take a minute off from the world of work and care, and read Vjestnik Spasenija, and then you will be saved. Once again, I ask you to read its contents carefully. Farewell!’ “
This letter had a postscript, which read:
On Easter Day morning I was enrolled in The Salvation Army. I have been to the Mercy Seat and asked that almighty God might guide my thoughts and actions rightly on the path of truth, so that I may able to love all living things, yes, the whole world.

I also know that Jesus Christ has not forgotten me and that he will help me in The Salvation Army.
I ask that you too, dear sister, pray to the crucified Christ that he may lead you and your thoughts on the path of truth and fill us with love for God and all living things!

Write to me about your situation and if any of you are in need, and I will help you as far as my ability goes. But write only if you are in real trouble, because if you deceive me, you’ll put your soul into debt by preventing me from helping others who are in real need. When you receive the newspaper and get to know our Army, you may also wish to join us. Write me, I will let you know how to go about it. It would please me very much. In the next letter I will write more.

 Farewell! Your brother Pavel

Part One of Three

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mary's toes!


My poor feet

It happened because of Paul O'Grady, and the BBC programme ‘The Sally Army and Me’.

I had almost finished the Monday morning foot care at our SA in Winton, when a man arrived in great need, he said ‘ You're Mary aren’t you ?’ before I could answer he said ‘I saw you on the TV with Paul O’Grady and I remembered you did feet on the meal-run’. I nodded, he then went on to say he had been having long term treatment for Bi-Polar illness that was spoiling his life. Then he asked if I could do his feet.

This was not a ‘normal’ foot care appointment, because this dear man had not had his feet treated for 4 years! He told me he had both his knees ‘replaced’ and a hip too, so he couldn’t bend to reach his feet, he hasn’t worn socks for years (can’t reach to put them on or take them off) but he was sure I could get his shoes off for him! As he tried to ease himself into the chair, I almost lost the plot. He was a sad sight, but once I had his feet in some warm soapy water, I could start to treat his sore feet.
Can you imagine how he must have felt having to endure toenails that had not been cut for 4 years? He started to tell me his story, how he had been homeless, and how our SA had helped him, and now we were helping him again. He talked about POG and his love for dogs, and for his genuine concern for less fortunate folk. He said ‘Oh I am glad I saw that programme, I wouldn’t have thought of coming here for ‘me feet’! He has had such a sad life, but after an hour and a bit, I finished doing his feet, and helped him to get his shoes on. As he got up, he kept thanking me, and kept saying God Bless Ya, and then (I knew it would happen) he gave me a big ‘hug’.
Actually I am glad he saw the programme too, because I was able to help him and he will never forget that – and neither will I. I will be seeing him again in 6 weeks, he has promised to come regularly to have his feet done, now that is a result.
As he went on his way, he said I’m going to ask ‘em to give you a promotion, me feet feel real good now.
Mary

Ps I was so pleased to be in the right place at the right time, (as well as having a lovely fresh air spray in the foot care room)

April 22

A lovely evening at the Hilton Hotel Southampton with Glenda and her family. Presented with a cheque for our meal-run, so kind !

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How Big is a Miracle - CONCLUSION

TWO  CONCLUSIONS? 

This story can lead us to two conclusions. The first conclusion is that this man, like other people who have been born blind and subsequently gained their sight, did NOT have a properly developed visual system and so could not make visual sense of his world even when he gained his sight. After all, if he had been blind for 15 or 30 (or more years), his visual system would not have had the opportunity to develop because he did not have any visual experience. If this is the case, we may have a situation of someone who ended up being dissatisfied with his miracle. After all, what good is a miracle (gaining sight) if it makes your world more confusing and disorienting? This also suggests the possibility of an incomplete miracle – is it possible that Jesus healed the man’s eyes but did not give him the ability to understand what his eyes saw? Most people find this conclusion to be an unsatisfactory one.
          The alternative conclusion is that when the man gained his sight, he did have a properly developed visual system and so could make use of the visual information his newly “opened” eyes gave him. And this is where we get a better picture of the nature and size of this miracle. In order for the man to make sense of what he saw, his visual system would have had to be completely rewired – the tens of millions of nerve cells that constitute his visual system would have to be organized and arranged so that they could process the visual information he received.
          So we get a sense of the nature of the true miracle – instead of the miracle we assume (“Oh, Jesus fixed the man’s eyes.”), the deeper, grander miracle is that the man’s brain had to be reorganized and rewired, and it is this process which allowed him to see – to understand what his new sense was telling him. We get a glimpse of this process of rewiring elsewhere in the Gospels, when we consider the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida.
22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” 25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:22-25).
One implication of this scripture is that the miracle here was a process. Jesus laid his hands on the man and the man’s sight was partially restored (and his brain was partially rewired to make sense of this information). The man was able to see but experienced some confusion – people looked like walking trees. Jesus laid his hands on the man again, and the man then “saw everything clearly.” There was more than the restoration of sight; the hidden work of laying a (neural) foundation for the man to see was also completed.
          Let me end with two thoughts. First, let us be aware of the danger of focusing on everything surrounding a miracle (everyone’s reactions) and not recognizing the majesty and greatness of the miracle itself. In the case of the man born blind, taking the miracle for granted, especially if we focus on the surface layer, can detract from our appreciation of the size and power of the entire miracle and of the subtlety of much of God’s work. Second, let us keep mind that when God does a miracle, in addition to the surface layer of the miracle that we recognize, the foundational and surrounding elements, which we may not see or think about, are part of the miracle as well. Indeed, sometimes God’s greatest work is not what we see, but is what occurs behind the scenes.

Steven Hayduk
Former Officer

Canada

Monday, April 18, 2016

How Big is a Miracle: The real miracle of the man born blind


How Big is a Miracle:  The real miracle of the man born blind (John 9:1 ff)?



The Gospel of John, chapter 9, contains the story of the Jesus healing a man born blind. In this scripture passage, Jesus heals the man, who testifies about his healing to his neighbors and eventually to the Pharisees. These encounters lead to more conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. This story contains a number of elements on which individuals have written and preached, including the notion that sin led to the man’s blindness at birth (and Jesus’ efforts to counter that falsehood), the identification of Jesus as a man of God (and not a “sinner’), and the contrast between physical blindness and spiritual blindness. In this article, I want to address a different issue - one that has rarely, if ever, been addressed.  In particular, readers and expositors of scripture often gloss over the healing itself and focus on the consequences for the man, his family, Jesus, and the Pharisees. I intend to highlight the real nature of the miracle involved in healing a man born blind.

As a psychologist, my areas of expertise include developmental psychology and cognitive psychology. Developmental psychology focuses on the course of human development from conception to death. Cognitive psychology focuses on how “thinking” works – the processes by which we sense (e.g., see or hear) things, how we understand and remember what we sense, and use that information to make decisions and act in the world around us. As part of my teaching on these topics, I describe what we know about the visual system and its development, and describe how blindness at birth alters this development.

The process of “seeing” an object or person starts with light being reflected from the object onto our retinas (which are located at the back of our eyes – if you wear contacts or glasses, these are intended to make the reflected light fall more precisely on our retinas). This information travels through pathways from the retinas to the very back of the brain (i.e., the occipital cortex), which is the area of the brain that processes visual information. People who have received brain damage to the back of the head (e.g., a soldier who receives shrapnel damage to the back of the head) may become blind, not because their eyes are damaged, but because the area of the brain that interprets visual information is damaged or destroyed (this is called “cortical blindness”).
          
Our ability to visually make sense of the world around us is the product of genetics and experience. Our genetic makeup and resulting biological development establishes the basic structure of the visual system. Our subsequent visual experience (i.e., all the things that we look at as infants and young children) fine-tunes the basic structures to allow us to make sense of the information that we receive from our eyes. A 6 month old baby has the ability to see because he or she has a genetically produced visual system. The 6 month old learns the difference between “mama” and “papa” through visual experience – looking at and interacting with, for example, the faces of mama and papa. There is considerable evidence from studies of animals and humans that visual experience during the early years of life is absolutely critical for making sure that the brain is wired appropriately for interpreting visual information.
          
Research with animals shows us that when animals do not receive necessary visual information during the earliest part of their lives, their ability to perceive and make sense of the world around them is adversely affected. For example, Nobel Prize winning neurophysiologists David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel artificially closed the eyelids of one eye of newborn kittens, so that the one eye would not receive visual information. Kittens who had this experience were effectively deprived of sight in the one eye for about 6 months until the eyelids were “opened.” It was discovered that these kittens had lost the ability to use the one eye to see the world around them. Examination of the visual system showed that it had developed abnormally – information from the closed eye was very limited and not effectively used by the visual system. Similar research with other animals (e.g., monkeys) produces similar effects. Monkeys with loss of vision in their early development (e.g., the first few months of development) do not develop the ability to distinguish between simple objects (e.g., a circle vs. a square) or to “see” the world around them. 

TO LEARN MORE
          
Infrequently, there have been cases of humans who have been born blind (e.g., are born with cataracts). Some of these individuals, especially over the last century, have received surgery (e.g., to remove the cataracts), giving them the ability to see. Unfortunately, a common pattern emerges from these rare cases. Once the person has gained the ability to see, it is very difficult for them to understand what they are seeing. If they have not had the early visual experiences that are necessary for visual development, it turns out that their visual system is not properly organized or wired to allow them to understand the new visual information they are receiving from their eyes. In many of these cases, the individuals may be somewhat dissatisfied with their situation and prefer to close their eyes (i.e., to be blind) because what they see is confusing and disorienting. They may prefer to use their old, familiar ways of interacting with the world (i.e., by touch or sound) rather than use a new and confusing sensory ability. For an example of a man in this situation, I direct you to the case study of Virgil, in “To see and not see” by Oliver Sacks in his book “An Anthropologist on Mars” or in the New Yorker magazine (May 10, 1993).

This background brings us to the case in John 9 – the man born blind. This story can lead us to two conclusions. The first conclusion is that this man, like other people who have been born blind and subsequently gained their sight, did NOT have a properly developed visual system and so could not make visual sense of his world even when he gained his sight. After all, if he had been blind for 15 or 30 (or more years), his visual system would not have had the opportunity to develop because he did not have any visual experience. If this is the case, we may have a situation of someone who ended up being dissatisfied with his miracle. After all, what good is a miracle (gaining sight) if it makes your world more confusing and disorienting? This also suggests the possibility of an incomplete miracle – is it possible that Jesus healed the man’s eyes but did not give him the ability to understand what his eyes saw? Most people find this conclusion to be an unsatisfactory one. 

END PART ONE

Steven Hayduk
Former Officer

Canada

Saturday, April 16, 2016

THE NIGHT NATASHA DIED

MOSCOW — She was one of the nameless ones. We usually found her at the same place in one of the train stations of Moscow. For more than three years, she had lived in a small corner not too far from the entrance. Thousands of people came through her front door every day.
Nobody seemed to show any interest in her, except for one of the other homeless people who tried to keep her alive by bringing whatever food could be found or begged. But that was not much in a miser­able and busy station with its mix­ture of refugees, street children and other homeless people.
One day, while delivering food and blankets to the people of the sta­tion, Major Ivy Nash of The Salva­tion Army asked her name. Natasha became one of the ever-growing group of people that Major Nash tries to help every day.
Major Nash and the other Salva­tionists of Moscow often suffer great frustration because it is difficult to help so many people with such great needs. In the bureaucratic maze of the local authorities in Moscow, try­ing to help someone means being sent from one office to the next.
 Social assistance is usually nothing more than a cup of soup, some bread and occasionally a friendly word. But more than that is needed to real­ly help someone in need.

When I went to the station one evening with Major Nash, it was clear that Natasha's situation could not continue. In a long-ago accident, she had lost an arm. The dirty sta­tion had taken its toll on her body. She was covered in sores and her feet were nothing more than two hideous lumps of dirt. Only with difficulty could she keep the flies away from her open flesh.
 We called the station police over, but they only shrugged their shoul­ders. She was, after all, only one of the hundreds of homeless people who they often literally chased and physically beat out of the station. Natasha's untreated wounds were clear testimony to their treatment of the homeless.
We did manage to get the police to help us find a rickety luggage cart and after that to get Natasha to a medical center.
From our own reserves we got a clean blanket to cover her. When the doctor who came to examine her pulled the blanket back, it was already covered with lice.
It took only a minute to diagnose Natasha with open tuberculosis. I tried to impress upon Major Nash the need for using caution and being mindful of her own health, but she belongs to the category of those who would rather have a flea from a tramp than a medal from a king!
I could hardly control my emo­tions when I looked at Natasha. She was a filthy, hopeless heap of mis­ery. I couldn't keep myself from say­ing to the policemen that even the dogs of Moscow are better cared for than are people like Natasha.
Those who are familiar with the history of The Salvation Army know that I was only echoing the words of the Founder, William Booth, who saw the same situation more than a hundred years ago in London.
Today, in Moscow it is a sad fact of life that the majority of those who pass by don't even bother to look around them, let alone to stop. Per­haps it is because they have grown accustomed or hardened to the real­ity that every month dozens of peo­ple die of hunger in the streets or in the stations, and the way in which the dead bodies are dealt with is far below what could be expected or accepted. People like Natasha only remind everyone of how hard life has become in Moscow.
It didn't happen straight away but finally, after insisting over and over again, Natasha was admitted to the hospital and placed where she couldn't infect other people.
Major Nash became a regular vis­itor to her room. Not much could be done, but the doctor and medical staff agreed that a friendly visit and kind words meant a great deal to her.
The night Natasha died, Major Nash telephoned me.
We talked about our feelings of distress, even guilt, that we were not able to do more to help her and oth­ers in her situation. At the same time, we wondered what would have happened if her health had improved and she had been released from the hospital. As far as we could see, there was no other possibility but for her to return to yet another place in the station. The prob­lem wouldn't have been solved.
We don't know what happened the night Natasha died. We don't know what her thoughts or feelings were. But one thing we do know — in the last days of her life she had met someone who cared for her. For the first time in many years some­one had called her by her name.
I tried to encourage Major Nash with a phrase from Matthew's Gospel. Natasha was one who belonged to "the least of my brothers" referred to by Jesus (Matt. 25:40). What we had done for her, we had done for Him. Was it not probable that she had seen Jesus in our actions and come to know Him through us?
Natasha died. But there are so many more like her in Russia. The officers and sol­diers of Moscow
continue to work in the streets and stations of that city. Sometimes we read the parable of the Good Samar­itan (Luke 10:25-37) and we feel more like the priest and Levite than the Good Samaritan. We are frequent­ly overwhelmed by the indescribable human need we encounter here.
What are we really able to accom­plish? We try to listen and help. We try to ease the pain of hungry bod­ies, hearts and souls. Day in and day out, we try. But in our hearts we know we can never really do enough. We wonder if the old saying could really be true, that he who has saved one person has saved the world?
We remind ourselves that Jesus said the human soul is worth more than all the treasure of this world.Then, armed with food and blankets and the Gospel, we go back to the stations, looking for nameless, price­less souls, like Natasha.
Commissioner  Reinder Schurink