A new ministry partnership brings hope in the midst of suffering

By B.J. Hansen

“On Sept 10, 2001, I was a happily married pharmacist. Jim and I had been married for five years. Jim was working for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd floor of Tower One in the World Trade Center. Life was not simply good; it was glorious. …”

So begins the story of Jennifer Sands. Less than 24 hours later, however, Sands’ world would come crashing down around her, even as the Twin Towers came crashing down around her husband. Sands’ story is similar to many experienced by people who have been impacted by disaster and received help and hope from organizations like The Salvation Army. Listen as she shares the amazing things God has done in and through the turbulent times of her life:

“It was a few months after September 11, 2001, during the holiday season,” Sands recalls. “I was alone in the mall shopping for the few Christmas presents that I would buy that year. At that time in my life, being in the mall was unbearably painful. Everywhere I turned, I was blasted by reminders of Jim — his favorite stores and restaurants, and presents I would’ve brought him if only he were still here. I was only in the mall for an hour, but it was excruciating, and I couldn’t wait to leave.

“On my way out, there was no escaping The Salvation Army guy,” says Sands. “A large number of people were ahead of me and the exit became congested as they all fumbled for change. I let out a heavy, aggravated sigh: Get me out of here. I hate Christmas. I hate my life. I hate the world! I just want to go home and cry for the rest of the day.

“I reached into my pocket for the car keys and discovered a dollar bill I had stuffed in there a few days before. I put my dollar bill into the distinctive red donation can. The Salvation Army man smiled and thanked me. I grinned back — instinctively — and he handed me the classic red flower and a small card. I clutched them both in my fists along with my keys and made a mad dash for my car.

“The emotional shopping experience and the aching emptiness of the holiday season were too much to bear,” Sands shares. “I remember walking through the parking lot holding my breath and looking down at the ground so the other shoppers couldn’t see the strain on my face as I tried not to explode into tears. Don’t lose it. Don’t lose it. Hold it just one more minute, almost there.

 “I finally reached my car, struggled with the keys that were now tangled with the red flower, got in, slammed the door, and took a deep breath. I desperately needed a distraction from the pain. I looked down at the small card that The Salvation Army man had given me. On it was a picture of the American flag, a silhouette of the towers bearing the words: ‘9–11–01 — We Will Not Forget You,’ and this scripture verse:

‘For I know the plans I have for you … plans to give you hope and a future’

–Jeremiah 29:11

“It was the first time in my life — ever — that I had taken notice of a Bible verse,” confesses Sands. “Sure, I had seen Bible verses before … but I never paid attention to them. The words ‘hope and future’ jumped out at me, and I realized this was something from the Bible. More importantly, it seemed like God himself had just broken the silence and spoken to me. Because of that verse, I opened the Bible for the first time in my life and started reading it. That Scripture verse changed things. Funny how God knows exactly when you’re ready to hear him! He knows when you’re so desperate you’ll try anything to find hope — even read a book that you’ve never had any interest or desire to open before. Now I can’t put it down.”

Facing Turbulent Times
Like Jennifer Sands, all of us find ourselves going through dark days at one time or another — not sure how we’re going to make it through without losing our sanity. It might be a national nightmare like 9/11, or the mass murders at Sandy Hook, or the Boston Marathon bombings; or maybe it’s a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina, the Oklahoma tornadoes, or Superstorm Sandy. Or maybe it’s much more personal — like losing your job, or being diagnosed with cancer, or watching your family dissolve before your eyes.

Whatever it may be, we find ourselves suddenly in a pit of despair. These are the kinds of situations that force us to turn outside of ourselves for help. And that’s where we’re most likely to find Christian organizations like The Salvation Army.
A Message from Max
Author Max Lucado knows this. That’s why he and his publisher have formed an alliance with The Salvation Army and the Christian Bookseller’s Association to promote a new book and a new initiative.

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) is Lucado’s latest release and is based on the Old Testament story of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob who found himself cast in a pit, sold as a slave, thrown into prison, and eventually released to become governor of Egypt during the country’s worst famine in centuries.

The central theme of the book is: “You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this.”

“The message of the book is to battle the despair that comes during difficult times — and what organization better represents that than The Salvation Army?” says Lucado. “I know all Christian organizations do that, but The Salvation Army really targets those who are in extreme duress and seeks to bring them hope. So, it seemed to me a logical partnership.”

The initiative itself is fairly simple. Thomas Nelson, Inc., The Salvation Army, and CBA — the Association for Christian Retail — have a plan to place You’ll Get Through This into as many hands as possible. A Salvation Army edition of the book will be produced and sold through participating CBA bookstores. Customers will be given an opportunity to purchase this $5 special edition of You’ll Get Through This, which will then be directly distributed by The Salvation Army to those who need the message most.

“As a pastor it is really challenging to find the right words to give people when they are going through a [tough time],” explains Lucado. “And so I saw this book as a tool that I could give and, ultimately, that others could use to give to people during those difficult times, because during a time of tragedy, you can only absorb so much information. … If you try to download all of this on someone during a time of difficulty, they might think you are being trite or dismissive — and so pacing is important. A book is a great tool for that because they can read at their own pace.”

Commissioner Barry Swanson of The Salvation Army agrees. “We think this will be a great resource for people who have suffered in some way or another via a disaster,” he states. “I really hope that by presenting this book in such a way and at such a time in [people’s lives] … that it would be an opportunity for them to understand the love of God — perhaps in a new way — and lead them into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Lucado adds: “I think helping people through times of distress is absolutely essential. Helping people make sense of it. Be able to put it together in a way that doesn’t cause them to panic. One of the challenges that we all have when we are in distress, is we begin to misinterpret God, we begin to draw conclusions that lead us to make poor decisions. We try to find short-term solutions to long-term problems and that creates more problems.

The theme of You’ll Get Through This is that God can take any disaster … in our life and actually turn it into ultimate good. It may not be immediately and it may not feel good, but ultimately, it is going to be for good. … To say that God can use this for good really gives a kernel of hope that can last.”

Finding God’s Ultimate Good
Jennifer Sands, who now travels the country sharing her story, would most likely concur. “Sometimes, in order to get through something, you have to face it … head on, full force,” says Sands.

“After a battle with breast cancer in 2007, I discovered once again that God will get me through, and that he can use my trials to help and encourage others who are hurting. I certainly don’t have all the answers as to why there’s so much suffering in this world … but on the basis of what I do know about God, I can trust him with the things that I don’t know. And the truth is: A broken heart is not healed by explanations. A broken heart is healed by the love and the grace of God. …

“Only God can take a tragedy and turn it into a victory. He did it with his Son on the Cross. He did it in my life. He can do it in your life, no matter what you’re go-ing through. When we allow him to work in our heart, he is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine!”

For more information on The Salvation Army go to: www.salvationarmyusa.org.
To learn more about You’ll Get Through This or to purchase a copy, visit your local book store or go to: www.youllgetthroughthis.com.

For more information about Jennifer Sands, visit her website at: www.jennifersands.com.

“Doing The Most Good”
In these four words, you find the essence of The Salvation Army mission: to feed, to clothe, to comfort, to care — to rebuild broken homes and broken lives. By walking with the addicted, we can lead them to recovery. In fighting hunger and poverty, we can feed and nurture the spirit. And, in living and sharing the Christian Gospel by meeting tangible needs, we give the world a lasting display of the love behind our beliefs.

The Salvation Army operates over 7,500 centers in communities across the United States. These include food distribution, disaster relief, rehabilitation centers, anti-human trafficking efforts, and a wealth of children’s programs. Their work is funded through kettle donations, corporate contributions and the sale of goods donated to The Salvation Army Family Stores. As a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization, 82 cents of every dollar they spend supports their various missions across the country.

An international movement, The Salvation Army is an evangelical arm of the universal Christian Church. Their message is based on the Bible, and their ministry is motivated by the love of God. They preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination.

For more information visit www.salvationarmyusa.org