“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end!” And these are the words I grew up with. They were spoken by William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army.
My grandparents were Salvation Army ministers, and my parents were entrenched in the fight for racial equality in a very racially tense Chicago at a Salvation Army youth mission. Even as a young girl, the passion of this man inspired my heart. Oh to live life so full of fire!
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In 1852, William Booth began his ministry with the Methodist Church in England. Later, he would fall in love and marry Catherine Mumford who proved to be his perfect match, for her passions were the same as his: the underdog and the down and out.
“Go for souls, and go for the worst!” was one of Booth’s favorite mottos. The Methodist Church wasn’t in favor of sending Booth out as an evangelist, although he had proven himself successful in doing so, drawing thousands to meetings. So they assigned him to church after church as pastor. Finally, the couple decided that it was time to step away in faith and fulfill the call of God on their lives: to love the unloved in the service of the Lord.
After years of street witnessing and preaching, the couple had a small following. It wasn’t long after that they had coined themselves the Salvation Army. We are all familiar with the uniformed men and women who serve humanity at their darkest hour. But imagine for a moment that they were not the highly respected charitable Christian organization that they are.
Suddenly, street preachers have organized, calling themselves an Army with ranks and uniforms! People were concerned to say the least. There were riots and disturbances everywhere these early soldiers went. But nothing could cause General Booth and his ranks to retreat from their objective to reach the world for Christ. They were radical, risky and revolutionary!
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Social issues had always caught the attention of General Booth. Now he was determined to provide a Soup, Soap and Salvation Army. For how can one truly listen to the Gospel if they are hungry? Or in need of a bath? His idea was that by meeting the physical needs of the lost, lonely and poor that he was opening the door to their hearts so that they might truly hear about the love of Christ.
His hunger for souls intensified rather than diminished over the years. It is said that one of his sons caught his father pacing in the middle of the night. When asked what was troubling him, he answered, “Ah, Bramwell, I’m thinking about the people’s sin. What will people do with their sin?” He wept over sinners; lost sleep over sinners; and made the ultimate sacrifice for sinners: he lived for them.
When I consider whether a man or woman is great, I often think of the legacy that they leave behind. William Booth leaves behind a charitable organization with the highest standards of integrity financially, socially and most importantly spiritually. Found in over 124 countries, with 15,765 churches this army of compassion has become the hands of God to anyone who finds themselves lost and destitute. 160 years later they are still going strong.
When asked how the Army became so successful, William Booth declared: “If there is anything of power in the Salvation Army today, it is because God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.”For as the fine General also once said, “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”
If you’d like to read more about William Booth there is a fine biography written here.
And more about the Salvation Army, you can go to their international website here.
The wife of the friend she could not live without, and mother of the three most wonderful children in the world, kd sullivan is always searching for overlooked lessons in life. As a recently retired homeschool mom, she is busy trying to figure out, “What now?” Journey Towards Epiphany, kd’s spiritual journal blog, is where she regularly bares her soul. She also has a second blog, What In The World R U Doing For Christ’s Sake?, which chronicles the stories of everyday people who are doing amazing things for the kingdom of God. But perhaps her greatest joy is found working on her first YA historical fiction book. She hopes to finish it sometime before her 80th birthday…She’s currently 44.