Opened my eyes | The Salvation Army

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Opened my eyes

Sarah Bridle and African child
Posted August 2, 2019

When Sarah Bridle arrived at church one Self Denial Sunday, she had no idea her life was about to change forever …

I grew up in The Salvation Army and have always known God. About six years ago, when I was 18, I was sitting in a Self Denial Sunday service and saw a video about The Salvation Army’s work in Malawai. In that moment I thought: ‘That’s where I want to be—that’s what I want to be doing’. I knew I’d just seen something important and wanted to know more. I saved a lot that year, so I could give financially to the appeal.

Africa was a bit out of my reach at 18, so my first trip was to a Salvation Army girls’ home in Malaysia. While I was there, God clearly called me to train as a counsellor—I had my ‘aha’ moment while I was going down a water slide with a frightened girl!

I now have a Bachelor of Counselling, and I’m working as a youth worker at Glen Eden Corps. I have an interest in seeing how youth work and counselling intersect—these two disciplines make for a powerful combination!

Earlier this year, I finally made it to Africa! I spent six beautiful and rewarding weeks in Tanzania visiting the amazing children of Mgulani Daycare, Mbagala Girls’ Home, and Matumaini School for Children with Disabilities and Albinism, which featured in last year’s Self Denial series.

While this view is changing, in Tanzanian culture albinism can be viewed as a curse. Children come to the Matumaini School as much for their own protection as for the excellent care they receive. I made one special friend Mafuru who loved me because I had pale white skin like him!

The children with disabilities often come from families who simply cannot afford to care for a disabled child. I showed a photo of my family to one of the boys, who immediately noticed my brother Sam who is also disabled. He asked if I would say hello to Sam for him when I returned home, and then bring Sam back to Tanzania so they could play football together! This was such a beautiful moment of shared humanity, as we connected through what he recognised in Sam.

It’s one thing to say there’s poverty in Africa and even ask: ‘What can I do?’ It’s totally different to meet these people and learn their names and discover who they are as people.

A big part of counselling is listening to someone’s story and then letting that story shine because it’s been heard and understood. To have someone’s truth valued is powerful. In Africa, I found many hidden gems—stories I can hold out to others and say: ‘Look, this is someone we can know!’

Something special happens when we open our eyes to things that aren’t easy to open our eyes to—but what magic happens when we do open our eyes! I took a leap of faith and went to Africa by myself and have been forever changed. Seeing these precious children with my own eyes, knowing them personally, how much better off am I for having been and seen!

I was so proud to be part of The Salvation Army while in Africa—a worldwide movement that takes such good care of children, despite the struggle for resources. So please, be assured that the money you give to the Self Denial Appeal matters and is monumental for recipients. It truly makes a difference. Please, give generously on Self Denial Sunday.

by Sarah Bridle (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 27 July 2019 p11. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.