In the sixth season of American Ninja Warrior, the five-foot-tall, barely 100-pound Kacy Catanzaro made history, being not only the first woman to qualify for the finals, but also the first woman to complete a City Finals course. #MightyKacy blew up the Internet, as she proved that small can definitely pack a punch.
Whether in a physical obstacle course or not, we all face heavy challenges; and the world gives us plenty of reasons why we should give up or not believe in ourselves.
Elizabeth Swift Brengle knew her share of these hurdles—she was tiny, very frail, and set back by poor health. It appeared that she was very much in need, yet she was the one who was serving others to her maximum ability.
Swift grew up Calvinist and came from a good home in New York. In 1885, she left America to tour Europe with her younger sister, Susie, and a friend.
In Scotland, Susie and her friend encountered The Salvation Army after stumbling upon one of their meetings. At first, Swift did not follow them; but when her two companions couldn’t stop raving about it she decided to investigate. Soon enough, Swift was captivated by the testimonies Salvationists told of how Jesus filled their lives with joy and made eternal life possible.
During a visit to London, the three girls explored the Army further. Swift even met with William Booth and his family at their home. She was tutored by Catherine Booth and, since talking with her, desired to devote her life to Christ. Both Swift and her sister attended the Army’s training home for eight months and were commissioned as officers.
EARLY ARMY LIFE
After becoming a Salvationist, Swift used her talent for writing to spread the Gospel and support the Army however she could. She often wrote for the Army’s international newsletter, All the World. She also penned many devotional books and articles. A few of her books included “The Army Drum,” “What Hinders You?” and “Half-hours with my ‘Guide.’” The last two were widely read and deepened the spiritual lives of many people.
Back in America, Swift helped move people to Christ during The Salvation Army meetings she held in her hometown. A year later, while speaking in Massachusetts, she met Samuel Logan Brengle, a post-graduate theology student attending Boston University. They were attracted to each other, though Swift resisted their friendship because of her age, frailty, and poor health. After much prayer, however, they felt they were meant to be together and were married on May 19, 1887.
While Brengle left to enter the International Training College at Clapton, Swift took charge of a corps in eastern Pennsylvania. Upon returning from the training college, the couple was placed in command of several corps, and held various appointments.
One story from their time at the Boston corps speaks eloquently of their ministry. When a drunk man hit Brengle over the head with a brick, Swift saved it and inscribed Genesis 50:20 on it: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Thanks to Swift’s care and their reliance on God, Brengle’s health was restored, which gave him the opportunity to start writing on holiness and become a Spiritual Special (a traveling evangelist) who preached the Gospel abroad. In time, they also served as Divisional Officers in America and became Commissioners.
Never very strong, Swift found public work to be an obstacle, and was not able to physically serve as much as she’d liked later in her ministry. However, “the influence of her holy life was widely felt and carried blessings to hundreds of homes in her vicinity” (War Cry, May 8, 1915). She always put others needs ahead of her own, patiently taking care of their spiritual needs in particular. Of her great desire to serve and save souls, Brengle wrote: “Nothing surprised me more than the marvelous way Lily used to sense the condition and needs of the people among whom I worked, but whom she had never seen.”
In The Salvation Factory’s series called Women of the Flag, the author writes, “To Mrs. Brengle the field work with its opportunities to help souls at every turn was Heaven upon earth. Such things as ugly [living] quarters and other trials of early-day fighting she did not seem to notice.”
IS JESUS WITH YOU, DARLING?
If she couldn’t minister in-person due to her frailty, Swift quickly pulled out her pen and wrote letters to those who were in spiritual danger or necessity. To one soul, she advised: “God created man for His pleasure, He wants to get our hearts each day on fire with His love. The only way to do that is by prayer and meditation on His Word and then for us to work for Him out of that love.”
Swift faithfully served as a soldier and officer for 31 years. Her last words were a testimony to the Lord, as she simply answered “Yes” to the final question of her husband: “Is Jesus with you, darling?” Swift was promoted to glory on April 3, 1915.
CREATOR VS. CREATED
Elizabeth Swift Brengle didn’t make excuses when she was too weak, too tired, or too frail. She still worshipped God and devoted her whole life to Him; she served others in God’s name with every last ounce of strength she had. Her reasoning was that she loved God, and she recognized His supreme worth.
In essence, everything we do is worship. How we live highlights what and whom we love. The question we must really ask ourselves is: “Am I worshipping the Creator, or the created?”
If celebrities, a favorite sports team, grades, friends, wealth, a career, comfort, or even ourselves get more of our attention than God, then it may be time to re-evaluate our priorities. Christ tells us in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot be attached to both the worldly and the heavenly. Both demand full allegiance, and therefore, we must choose one.
—Mariam Aburdeineh, Editorial Assistant,Young Salvationist magazine