Place on the tables pictures of people who haven’t been to women’s ministries or other corps programs for a while. In the center affix a sign reading “Welcome Me Home.”
Send a special invitation to those women who have been absent two weeks in advance and offer transportation to the women’s ministries meeting. Arrange for childcare for those with young children. Make sure to welcome those who accept the invitation; tell them they have been missed and that everyone is glad to see them once again.
After the devotional, take time to pray for the women whose pictures are on the tables. Sign cards to send to the absent members indicating that they are missed and were remembered in prayer.
Plan a day for the women’s ministries group and other corps members to prepare a meal for a local homeless shelter or a group of veterans. The meal can either be taken to the shelter or have the clients come to the corps. After the meal spend time talking to the guests in order to learn their stories. Share a short devotional message to assure them that God always wants to welcome them home to Him. Give each guest a small gift emphasizing that they are important and loved.
Another project would be to cook a meal for the parents staying at the local Ronald McDonald House. These houses are usually found near children’s hospitals and offer housing to the parents of children who are in the hospital for an extended period of time. Contact their administrator to find out when the group could prepare a meal and their guidelines for meal preparation.
Introduction to the Devotional
The following elements will help set the stage for the devotional. Sing the chorus: “There’s a Welcome Here.” The words and music can be found on YouTube. Read Luke 15:11–31, which is the story of the Prodigal Son. Play the song “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins. You can find this song on YouTube.
Welcome Me Home
We all have someone in our lives who has been away from us for a period of time. It could be a college student, veteran, or someone who moved out of town and has recently returned. Whether it is for a few weeks, months, or even years, we are filled with joy when they come home. We often throw a party to welcome them back, just as the father in the story of the Prodigal Son did when his son returned home.
The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-31 begins with the younger son asking his father for his share of inheritance so he can find out what it was like to be on his own. He did not want to wait until his father’s death to get his share. He wanted it immediately while he was young so he could enjoy it.
So the father divided the inheritance: one–third to the youngest and two–thirds to the older son, as was the custom of this time. The younger son packed his belongings and left his father’s home. Each day while his son was gone the father looked for him to come home. Day after day, week after week and month after month the father kept watch. This is how God is when one of His children wanders away from Him. He keeps watch hoping and longing for their return.
The younger son quickly wasted all of his money on food, drinks and friends. But once all the money was gone, so were his friends. He was broke and alone. He said to himself, “What am I going to do? I can’t go home; I’ve disgraced myself by asking for my inheritance and then squandering it. My father won’t accept me back because I’m a disgrace.” Isn’t that how we feel when we do something we know isn’t right in God’s eyes. It might be lying, stealing, or just not doing what we know is right. We know that we failed God and we think that He does not want us back. We think that there is no way that He would want anything to do with us after everything we did.
As the prodigal son pondered his situation, he realized that his father’s servants were better off than he was. He reasoned that if he went back as a servant at least he would have a place to sleep, food to eat and clothes to wear. So, he headed back home. On the way he probably rehearsed his speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you. I do not deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired servant.” That is how we often feel when we realize that we’ve done wrong and want to come back to God. We feel as if we do not deserve His forgiveness or His grace.
Now while the prodigal son was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with love and compassion. He ran to his son and embraced him. He kissed his check and hugged him. When the son tried to say his speech, his father did not listen. He told his servants to bring the best robe, the finest sandals and rings for his son’s finger. He told the servants to kill the calf they had been fattening. He said, “For tonight, we will celebrate my son who has come home.”
Isn’t this how we feel when a family member, corps member, or a friend that has been gone for a while comes home? We want to celebrate. This is also how God feels when one of His lost children comes home to him. When we ask God to forgive us of our sins and return to Him, the angels, God and all His children celebrate and rejoice for His child has come home.
But not everyone in this story is happy. The older brother was upset because his father welcomed his brother back home and had a celebration. The same is true with Satan. He is not happy when one of us returns to God because he has lost the battle.
Play the song “Your Heart Will Lead You Home” by Kenny Loggins. (Found on YouTube.)
If you are still trying to figure out what you want to do and it seems nothing is going right, maybe you should return home to God and let Him take care of everything. The song we just heard says, “Your Heart Will Lead You Home.” Just listen to His voice saying “Come Home.”
In closing sing the song #436, “Come Home” from The Salvation Army Song Book.