from the desk of…Remembering the saints
By Shelley Hill, Lt. Colonel
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints (Ps. 116:15 NIV).
Throughout the years I have attended many Memorial Day services held at cemeteries throughout the western United States. Several of these cemeteries have a section set aside by The Salvation Army for Salvationists who have been “promoted to Glory.”
On a recent visit to Forest Lawn in Inglewood, Calif., I walked from row to row of graves of Salvationists, each beautifully manicured and marked by a small Salvation Army flag. I read the names of faithful Salvationists, many of whom I knew. This experience led me to reflect on the lives of many departed saints who directly impacted my life.
I think of my father, Horace Alvin Chandler. He was born and raised poor, a product of the depression. He served his country as a U.S. Marine in World War II, seeing action in places like Iwo Jima (where he witnessed the raising of the U.S. flag on Mt. Suribachi), Marshall Islands and Saipan. After the war, my father settled into a blue collar job as a butcher and small business owner. He was a faithful soldier of The Salvation Army San Jose Corps, serving as corps sergeant major for more than 30 years. He was also the best Christmas kettle coordinator any corps officer could ever ask for! He taught me about the meaning of hard work, responsibility, humility and service. No matter who you were, when you entered the doors of the San Jose Corps when my dad was around, you could count on a firm handshake, a hearty welcome and a kind word. On a day set aside for memories, I think first of all about my dad.
Memorial Day at Forest Lawn reminds me of a pair of retired officers, Brigadiers Stuart and Alta Kelso. Most people these days would not recall the names of these two saints, but I will never forget them. After they retired from active service, they settled in San Jose. As a young person watching them in action, it was clear to me that they loved spending time with people. It was their custom to have people over to their home after Sunday services for dessert and a game or two of Dominos or “Chicken Foot.” Perhaps most of all, I remember them being people of encouragement. They would often take people aside who were struggling with the challenges of life and offer a cheerful word and a prayer, including a young person like me seeking God’s direction for my life. Their ministry, even in retirement, seemed to make all the difference in the lives of many. Brigadiers Kelso were kind and generous with their time and always edifying others in their walk with the Lord. During Memorial Day season, I remember them fondly.
I could go on and on about the many departed saints who have come and gone and had such an influence on me and countless others. Even after the departure of these saints from earth, they leave a legacy that encourages us in the present age. In these moments of reflection, I am challenged to make sure that in my own Christian journey I am serving as a model and source of encouragement to others, just as I have been influenced by those who came before me. That’s true of all of us. Whether we realize it or not, people are watching our every word and deed. God is counting on us to shine brightly as Christ-like examples who bring inspiration and encouragement.
Memorial Day is a perfect opportunity to reflect on past generations of Salvationists who have helped shaped our lives. Today, we must also take care to make sure that we are leaving a legacy worth emulating and remembering. Our time on earth is short, but the influence of our lives can resound for generations to come.