“So we’ll roll the old chariot along”
Motorcade featuring territorial leaders and team visits every Montana corps.
by JEANNE BAKER, MAJOR –
Commissioner Philip Swyers strategizes with Lt. Cols. Harold and Joann Brodin during a stop on the Montana Motorcade. Photo by Jeanne Baker
They rolled into the town, knowing this would be the start of a journey none would forget. It would take them 2,500 miles or more, across the Continental Divide and back again, through high rolling plains with fields drenched in golden grains, and clear wide skies over majestic mountain ranges. Several of the western towns on this journey would experience something they had not seen in many years—the visit of the Territorial Commander.
The idea was born when Commissioners Philip and Patricia Swyers were conducting meetings in the Northwest Division and mentioned to the divisional commander that they had never visited Montana. Lt. Colonel Harold Brodin began making plans with Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock, Intermountain divisional commander, for the motorcade that resulted in 27 meetings being conducted during the visit.
The Swyers led the charge—the Montana motorcade of 2006 traveling to each corps in the state of Montana. A team was assembled from officers and soldiers of both divisions, including the Brodins and Peacocks.
The Montana motorcade began in Missoula with a brass ensemble composed of Captain Matthew Madsen, Major Dave Sholin, Major Carol Pontsler, Mr. Richie Mills, Major George Baker, Major Barry Dooley, Major Ross Hailes, Lieutenant Gerald Koch, and Mr. Rob Aszmies.
A 9/11 remembrance was the first stop. In the park-like setting of the Missoula County courthouse the ensemble played for the prelude, and people from the community began to gather as they heard the music and felt its familiar words pull at their hearts. Soon the crowd was large and the speakers began. A trio of United States Marines proudly bore in the flags, and a fourth placed a wreath at the base of a beautiful tree that had been planted in remembrance of 9/11. A moment of silence was held and Swyers addressed the crowd, calling to his side those who serve that community every day—police, fire, forest, and sheriff department representatives nd more. Along with a grateful community, he thanked those public servants. Hearts were stirred as the band burst into “God Bless America,” and all who had gathered sang along.
The motorcade then proceeded to the dedication of a Silvercrest residence—a brand new facility in Missoula—already serving well the seniors who reside there, and assuring them of a safe and caring environment for the future.
Early next morning the motorcade headed on to Great Falls for a thrift store dedication and then to the annual dinner, where Swyers and Major Al Summerfield recognized a variety of community volunteers and presented awards.
The next stop was the beautiful corps facility in Kalispell. Majors Steve and Merry Svenson are the recently arrived corps officers. The ensemble presented great Salvation Army tunes, and Swyers reminded those present of the possibilities for mission and ministry in that community.
Next stop on the motorcade was Helena where newly arrived Monte and Susan Jones were taking the helm. The ensemble performed at a civic dinner with Swyers addressing the group.
In Butte the motorcade visited one of the truly historic buildings of the Army in the West. On the outside of the building is an aging painting of The Salvation Army crest with eagle, and the words, “The Salvation Army,” deeply carved in the entryway. Stepping inside it was as if going back in time. Each member of the motorcade took a place in the old wooden pews, facing an ornately carved pulpit. Envoy Clair Little gave the group a taste of the history of the old building and surrounding community.
After exploring the building, the ensemble performed in the great vestibule of the Silver Bow County courthouse. It is a beautiful piece of artwork itself, with the portraits of four presidents painted on the ceilings just below a glowing dome of stained glass. The Commissioner spoke, and afterwards many of the city and county officials joined in a time of fellowship. Many spoke with appreciation of The Salvation Army, its representatives, its work, and the Army’s place in their future.
Bozeman was the next-to-last stop on the trip. Captain Tim Carr planned a service for employees and soldiers, followed by lunch with advisory board members.
Sunday the motorcade finished at the Billings corps with Majors Keith and Linda Bottjen. The day began with an advisory board breakfast and Sunday school followed by the morning service and a hallelujah good time!
What a privilege to be part of this entire event, to see the response of officers, soldiers, and community members to the sound of The Salvation Army’s brass band filling their halls, town centers and hearts, and to be inspired by the stories of possibility and hope for the Army and those it touches. Swyers reminded us often of each member’s responsibility to God in building Christ’s kingdom.