Army grows in South Pacific
Salvation Army now at work in 112 countries worldwide.
by Leticia Saunders –
Lt. Colonels Don and Debi Bell recently witnessed the work of The Salvation Army in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Following meetings at the Lighthouse Recovery and Guam Corps, the Bells, along with Majors Dave and Sharron Hudson and Majors Brian and Leticia Saunders, boarded a plane to Saipan, CNMI.
Saipan, Common-wealth of Northern Marianas Islands
Saipan is the largest island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, located in the Carolinas Islands chain in Western Micronesia, 150 miles north of Guam, 1,500 miles east of the Philippines and 3,800 miles west of Hawaii.
This land, the site of a fierce World War II battle, recently encountered a kinder, gentler Army—The Salvation Army has officially opened its work on this small, Pacific island nation.
On February 18, 2007, Saipan became an authorized outpost of the Guam Corps. Majors Brian and Leticia Saunders, Micronesia Islands coordinator and Guam corps officers, watched as Wayne and Annie Gillespie, the Salvationist couple responsible for initiating the outreach on Saipan, accepted the Army flag presented by Western Territory Chief Secretary Lt. Colonel Donald Bell. As Bell shared the significance of Salvation Army membership and the meaning of the flag’s colors, many in the gathering nodded in agreement and beamed with joy.
When Divisional Commander Major David Hudson stepped forward, the reason for the joy and pride became clear: The Gillespies presented six young people, in uniform, ready to be enrolled as junior soldiers under the new flag. Ten adults then came forward, and as adherents, stood proudly as they declared the Army their spiritual home. Even the youngest children celebrated the opening ceremonies of their corps as they sang, “I have the joy, joy, joy down in my heart!”
The greatest joy that evening, though, had to be in the hearts of Wayne and Annie Gillespie. As far back as 1995, Annie, a former “Miss Saipan,” dreamed of bringing the work of the Army to her island home. Her husband, Wayne, the Guam Corps sergeant-major, felt equally called. Encouraged to pursue that dream by their corps officers, (then) Captains David and Linda Harmon, it wasn’t until November 2005 that their combined dreams and God’s timing united. When the Gillespies relocated to Saipan, Hudson encouraged them to realize the dream.
In less than 15 months, these two go-getters went from discussions over dinner to the reality of opening their own outpost-corps. The Gillespies are selflessly giving their home, their time and their livelihood to serve the people of Saipan—as their home serves as the chapel, the classrooms, the offices and the much needed disaster services office. Explaining their motivation, the Gillespies stated: “The Great Commission. It’s our duty as Christians to do whatever evangelical work needs to be done. It’s as simple as that.” The Saipan Outpost truly qualifies as a “tentmaker” ministry, as the Gillespies receive very little compensation from The Salvation Army.
Their hearts for ministry have not gone unnoticed. Local government and community leaders, as well as the advisory council and local media have demonstrated enthusiasm for the work of the Army, and provided practical support. The island community has warmly welcomed and embraced this “new” Army.
When William Booth died, The Salvation Army existed in 56 countries. With the opening of this new outpost in Saipan, that number officially doubled, as Saipan became the 112th nation to fly the Army flag. At the close of the opening services, Lt. Colonel Debora Bell asked everyone to reach out toward the newest Army flag, and to pray for the future of the Army on Saipan.