On the Road Again!

by Patricia Swyers, Commissioner – 

“On the Road Again” continues to be our theme song as we travel the vast areas of our territory and meet the soldiers and officers who inspire and encourage us with prayers and words. In this year of “2005: The Year for Children and Youth” it only seems natural that our travels would include the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps and Community Center in San Diego. We were both blessed and thrilled as Major Cindy Foley shared wonderful stories of ministry; approximately 69,000 people enter the doors of the corps community center on a monthly basis.

I met a new Sunbeam whose friend’s mom had come to the fitness center, and she was invited to participate in the Sunbeam program. When it came time to pray and each young girl bowed her head, this new Sunbeam asked her friend, “What are they doing?” Just think of it—a young girl bows her head and learns to pray for the first time at The Salvation Army in AMERICA! I thank God for her and for all of the young people who memorized the book of Matthew for their parts in the production of Godspell which was so beautifully presented. May those scriptures be hidden deep in their hearts in all the days ahead.

Day two in this journey took us to Sacramento, California, where we began the day with an early breakfast meeting of more than 200 civic supporters who were challenged and inspired our guest speaker, National Advisory Board Chair Edsel Ford. Following this meeting, we were privileged to have a private tour of a Catholic cathedral built in the late 1880s and now being restored to its original beauty. As I stood outside the cathedral, one of the workers came up to me in his hard hat and introduced himself. He told me his name and then proudly said: “I’m a graduate of ‘B’ Street.”

This man had come to our Army, and his heart and life had been changed and restored; now he had been given the opportunity to help restore a place of worship where others will enter to have their own life-changing experience. It was a moment of joy! Later, as I related this incident, I learned that he now returns to the Army and participates in the praise band.

As we gathered to leave, the owner of the construction company told us that all of his employees displayed a beautiful spirit as they worked together. He then gave evidence of this as he placed in each of our hands a soldered cross, formed by one of his employees from the original nails in the cathedral. We were blessed as we realized the impact of the cross on these workmen and on all who would enter this beautiful place of worship.

Since it was still early, we were taken to the spot where the Army began in Sacramento, and we marveled once more at God’s leadings and directions of past leaders. And then it was on to the largest civic gathering in Sacramento, where more than 1,400 people had gathered for a luncheon at the invitation of The Salvation Army’s advisory board. It was an exciting event, filled with stories of how God was making a difference in the lives of people as Salvation Army personnel faithfully taught of his love. We were again blessed as Mr. Ford addressed this crowd of supporters.

In the early afternoon there was time for a quick trip to see the camp and envision all of the young people who would gather for the summer to learn about God’s love and experience his goodness. We rushed to the airport for our return trip home with the prayer that there would be “life changing” experiences for all of the campers who would attend.

The security line was short (a blessing not to be taken lightly); as we went through one of the female security agents noticed our uniforms and asked me if we had been at the luncheon, which she had watched on the news. We talked, and she told me that she had been actively involved in the Army but because of her job had not been able to go lately. She spoke openly and with much appreciation as she told how the Army had helped her raise her children. She had been lovingly supported through a very difficult situation in her life by caring Salvation Army officers.

Yes, it had been quite a day—but, what a day! Tired, yes! Weary, no! God had renewed our spirits as we caught a glimpse of the love, commitment and servanthood of his people.

What an Army! What an opportunity! What a trip!

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