On the Corner

by Robert Docter – 

Two couples leave active officership and enter retirement today. They are people with whom I have worked closely, and I will miss them very much. In careers spanning almost 40 years they have added richly to the fabric of the Army. They have given their very lives completely to God and the Army. They have exerted total energy in communicating their compassion, their concerns, their commitment.

I speak of Commissioners Peter and Grace Chang and Colonels George and Joy Church.

The Changs joined us as successors of our territorial commander who had just been elected General. They had known each other for several decades, and had served closely together for much of that time. I, somehow, gathered that this new General wanted to provide his former territory with outstanding leadership–leadership which would maintain a continuing focus on growth–which would respect innovation and creative expression of ideas; have boldness in program development; strength in cultural diversity; careful attention to details; and all done with caring, intelligence, dignity and grace. He saw these things in Peter and Grace Chang.

He chose well. The Changs have definitely filled the bill.

It has not been an easy stewardship for them. They have carried their responsibilities for a considerable portion of their time with us in great pain. The catastrophe of the “Atlanta balcony collapse” delivered to both of them years of discomfort and rehabilitation. Broken backs heal slowly. Lengthy plane rides must deliver their own private torture. They never complained. They took time to begin mending safely, and they rolled up their sleeves and returned to the office. They were never too distant from their posts even in their recovery. Telephones, fax, e-mail, modems–all provided a close connection.

Chang has often described himself as the “man in the middle” in providing leadership toward MISSION2000 goals. His predecessor initiated it, and his successor will complete it. His initiation of the People Count! campaign was a bold stroke toward the most difficult of identified goals–that of doubling worship service attendance in existing corps. This campaign identified the most effective way to grow a church–by relating positively one-to-one towards those around us and by inviting them to worship with us. They’re American citizens. They’ve chosen to continue to live among us. I like that, and I wish them well.

I’ve known George and Joy Church a long time–for 27 years–since 1970, when they were appointed as corps officers at the Hollywood Tabernacle. Later, in his divisional appointments and in the THQ appointments, we continued our association. Even when they were far away, they weren’t far away. Needless to say, I like them both very much.

George has an interesting interpersonal style that sometimes generates “irritable affection” in others. His manner, on occasion, is brisk and businesslike If you didn’t know him, you might even think him cold. Those who know him, however, understand he seems to carry a number of matters in his mind at the same time, and he’s always in a hurry to get the next task completed. I suspect he’s a genuine “Type A” personality. My wife says the same about me.When George dies, however it will probably be from an enlarged heart. Rarely will you find anyone more generous, more willing to share, more desirous of helping others achieve goals.

I never once dozed in a George Church service. They always had such cohesiveness. The music, message, witness, all held together well. The sermons were always magnificent. Great teaching. Remarkable exposition. Creative presentation. Honest message…and most of all, powerful rhetoric and majestic oratory. George really knows how to turn a phrase–and it’s all so spontaneous. He really has style.

Even though George was born and lived all of his developing and teen years in Britain, I’ve never thought of him as “British.” He seems so “American.” He’s aggressive, open, active. In a prize fight the other guy would be back-pedaling. In a fencing duel, there would be five times more thrusts than parries. In a brass band the conductor would seek to tone down his section. In a college debate, the opposition would be cut and bleeding from the eloquence of wit and wisdom and never know it. At a buffet luncheon there’s no question who is first in line. George, you know, is an American citizen.

Now Joy–that’s another matter. Joy could be the Queen. She has such a sense of dignity and grace. She has such class, such beauty, such style, such quiet determination and strength. While George “takes over” a room, Joy’s brilliance “lights it up.” She speaks quietly, honestly, pointedly with great kindness and understanding. I once described her as George’s “valiant Valium.” It’s true.

We’re losing some terrific people in the Changs and the Churches–but life goes on, and it’s for the living. God bless them and us.

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