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Inaugural SAW-ROA retreat a success

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by Carol Pontlser and Melba Gilden, Majors – 

With great joy, some 80 retired officers descended on Mt. Crags Camp in Southern California for their initial SAW-ROA (Salvation Army West Retired Officers Association) Retreat, May 20-23. Orchestrated by Major Oliver Stenvick and Commissioner Kenneth Hood and their able planning committee, it was a rare opportunity for fellowship, spiritual refreshment and challenge. Guest leaders, Commissioners Raymond and Merlyn Cooper, were the people of the hour. Commissioner’s messages on the theme “God’s Purpose, Promise, Provision” were outstanding as was their colorful and dramatic ministry of music.

This gathering was distinctly marked by the involvement of every participant, as each ministered to one another whether by leading a song, giving a testimony, offering grace at the dining table in a native language or simply offering love and support as friends caught up with one another’s news during free time. It was wonderful to see some who have recently been on health prayer lists lead forth again. A helpful report on the topic of the Muslim faith and the book Unveiling Islam was given by Major Kenneth Osbourn.

Spirits were lifted as the retreat chorus of 30 or so, led by Colonel George Church and the 14-piece band, led by Major Fred Seiler, offered their support. What a joy for some who don’t have such groups in their corps anymore. But these were not to be outdone by the men’s quartet (Major Oliver Stenvick, Commissioner Ken Hood, Don Torgerson and Major Neil Saunders).

Commissioner Reinder Schurink and his wife, Lt. Colonel Dora Schurink dropped in one day before leaving to return to the Netherlands. He shared some of his experiences from Russia and she spoke of a recent event in the Netherlands that brought several hundred former Salvationists together in a time of renewal.

The Coopers’ opening program, An Evening with the Coopers, was delightful, and memories were stirred with their Friday presentation under the title of Evolution of S.A. Music. A never-to-be-forgotten program was called Miss Fannie’s Hats, which was not only entertaining, but brought a message as well. The Saturday evening program An Evening of Music led by Colonel George Church included Major Kathy Wood on the piano, a reprise of Colonel Church singing Down the Street, A/Captain Bill Bearchell and Don Torgerson.

Response to Captain Kevin Jackson’s presentation on Western Territory Museum and Heritage Program was so vigorous, people were rushing to look closely at the artifacts he shared as well as to offer stories of their own. An appeal was made for any items officers or soldiers wish to donate; contact Captain Jackson at Crestmont.

SAW-ROA held its organizational meeting, adopting a constitution and by-laws and electing a slate of officers: president, Major Oliver Stenvick; vice-president, Commissioner Kenneth Hood; second vice- president Colonel George Church; secretary, Major Mrs. Melba Gilden; treasurer, Major Frank Brown; editor, Major Carol Pontsler; chaplain, Lt. Colonel Mervyn Morelock and historian, Major Fred Seiler.

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