Bate recalls General Brown

(Note: Below is an excerpt from Colonel John Bate’s tribute to General Arnold Brown, given at his funeral.)

On behalf of all Salvationists I bring today to you Mrs. General Brown, Heather, Beverley and all the family our deepest sympathy, our sincerest condolences and the assurance of our prayers in the loss of your dear and wonderful husband, adored father and greatly admired grandfather, and I regard it as a great honor to represent both soldiers and officers today.

June 17, 1979 was a day that changed my life. On that day I became the ADC and private secretary to General Arnold Brown. I had already learned to esteem him as an impressive leader with great charisma but now I was to know him at a much closer range and greater depth.

He was a man of great perception for, being a person of deep feelings himself, he knew the depth of feelings in others. He knew what pace to take in any situation ­ when others would run, he would walk; when others would speak he would remain silent. Of course when the situation called for it he also knew how to run when others wouldn’t move, or readily say the appropriate words when others fumbled to say anything at all.

He was never too busy for people. I have said to him often, speaking of his office, “General, this place is like a railway station!” People came! From Canada –I often wondered if there was ever a Canadian Salvationist who came to London but didn’t come to see him — and he received them whether he knew them or not. Young folk never hesitated to ask to see “their” General and I have seen up to half a dozen backpacks stacked in my office while the General made time to sit and listen to young Salvationists, to their thoughts and aspirations as well as their hair-raising travels.

He never dodged the difficult. The Salvation Army Act of 1980, one of the most important documents of legislation regarding The Salvation Army in the last 90 years, was made possible through his knowledge, understanding, wisdom and not a little tenacity, even in the making of the presentation to the House of Lords. He dealt with criticism and respected views, which were not always kindly to the Army, with the same decorum and pleasantness as he accepted adulation and praise.

I will never forget the day when this man of five foot four became a giant in my eyes. We were in no-man’s-land on the Thailand near Kampuchea visiting enormous refugee camps. But the camps were not enough for the General ­ he wanted to go further to see how The Salvation Army could answer the needs of the suffering.

Major Eva den Hartog agreed to escort us from the camp in Thailand where she was stationed but the authorities would not let us cross the border. The Red Cross was not allowed through, they said – but these authorities did not reckon on dealing with Eva den Hartog! “I have the General of The Salvation Army with me” she insisted again and again – and eventually we were allowed to cross!

We were just a few miles from the bombing which we could hear, walking through a stretch of stark desert, which could have resembled hell. People sat destitute in little groups by bullock carts totally numbed by all the bombing which was going on around them not knowing which way to run or turn. Under one cart a little mother sat with a newborn baby. The General sat on the ground and spoke to her so kindly in French and she responded with words which I believe rang in his ears to the very end–“Take my baby!” she cried. “Take my baby!” Going from small group to group he held babies, he knelt to speak to little children, he prayed with desperate and destitute families ­ and he wept.

Yes, this was the General who could move great congregations with his erudition ­ who was received and decorated by kings and presidents ­ now weeping over the poverty and hopelessness of the poor of the world.

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