Swyers shares image of West
by ROBERT DOCTER –
Commissioner Philip Swyers, Western territorial commander, completing five months and countless miles within the West, reported on his “sense of the territory” in an intensive interview with New Frontier.
Having visited, discussed issues with leaders, officers and laypersons and attended worship services in eleven of the twelve commands of the territory, Swyers came away with feelings of joyful optimism. He offered some preliminary thoughts in an open and frank manner on matters pertaining to personnel, the soldiery, public awareness of our ministry, our financial health, the quality of our facilities, ethnic ministries within the territory, matters of administrative reorganization, and specific strengths.
He began spontaneously with a statement of goals to be achieved over the next five years.
I would like a territory that is alive and alert in the mission of the Army.
I would like to see at all times 40 young Kingdom builders—ages 20-35—working in communities all across this land—like a service corps, serving a hurting people and creating an environment where they can bring this humanity to our corps units.
I would like a community that is alive in four areas—building Sunday schools, building vacation Bible schools, bridging social service to the corps, and any programs that touch the lives of women.
I’d like to replace at least 15 Adult Rehabilitation Centers, with the ARC meeting the three needs of the people they serve—bringing them off addiction, bringing them into a knowledge of Christ and making money count so that they can pay for what they have.
I would like to see this Boot Camp program we had be available to every young person in the territory to stimulate their spirit to come alive in Christ. As those young people left that Boot Camp they were on fire for Christ. I want to see that spirit across the territory.
I would like our college continually being filled with individuals committed to Christ and the Army. In our 2006-2008 session we already have 40 young people who are committed to officership. I’d like to see that happen every year, and when you have ten divisions, the arithmetic is not difficult to follow.
I’d like to see people serving Christ as the greatest opportunity to serving humanity available to them.
I’d like to see The Salvation Army become financially strong—not wealthy but strong so that there is nothing that can stop us from doing God’s bidding.
I’d like us to have these Kroc Centers in place in the next five years, so that at the conclusion we stand back and look at magnificent programs where the center of service is the mission of Christ.
I’d like to see the great American public wrap their arms around the Army and increase their support of our work.
I’d like to see examples of the relationship between the Fred Meyers stores in Portland and our ARCs spread so that we can see an increase in the climate of possibility thinking in that program and others so that we can see ourselves not as we are today but where we can all be in the future if we roll up our sleeves and get going.
I’d like to reduce the costs of insurance so that the people in the field can work their mission without being overwhelmed with the cost of doing business.
I’d like a territorial headquarters slim, mean, streamlined, and operating from model of servant hood—serving the territory.
I would like to find an officer corps that is daring and adventurous—who don’t say “what is it?’” but “count me in.”
I’d like to see us be aggressive not only in our financial operation but in our spiritual motivation as well.
I’d like to do a better job helping move people from our social service programs to our corps programs.
I’d like to see us doing a better job getting our young adults sold on the ministry of the Army so that God’s Holy Spirit can get the brightest and the best to grab hold of this thing called the Army—complicated at best—and give their energy and brains in decades to come to make it better.
I’d like to see our officer corps—from the captain to the commissioner—not interested in position or name but more interested in servanthood and serving people.
I’d like to see the day when our problem is too many people—and we have all that we need to make it so. All we have to do is have a strategy for success and expect results.
We need the strength of the Holy Spirit to seek God’s will for this Army and allow his spirit to give us direction.
The breadth of the Army mission requires all of us to do our part. I’d like to think that in five years we can do this and much more.
In commenting on the officer corps of the territory, Swyers stated: “The Western Territory is fortunate in that we have many brilliant officers. They’re brilliant in that they match the head and the heart to the mission of the Army. We have more educated, degree-holding officers today than at any other time in the history of the territory. We also have tremendous numbers of officers who are filled with a capacity to serve hurting people one life at a time. Commissioner Pat and I are fortunate to be part of a company of officer corps who are moving the Army forward.
“We have a lot more to do, in training our people, but at least we have the basis of well-equipped and able people who simply want to make the people we serve and this Army better.
“Coming along side the officer corps are lieutenants. These are individuals in a second career because they choose to be shoulder to shoulder with us in the battle. Many serve in difficult places and we are privileged to offer this opportunity to outstanding individuals who only wish they were 21 years of age again.
“We’ve met soldiery throughout the territory, and they all say the same thing. ‘We are all praying for the Army and its officers, and we are all striving to achieve identical goals—halls filled with people who are ready to be part of and serve the communities in which they live.’” Continuing, Swyers said: “The strength of the Western Territory is its people. It’s our most important asset, and Commissioner Pat and I have been most encouraged in the many meetings with soldiers and officers who have met us across the territory.”
When asked to share his assessment of the current financial health of the territory, Swyers said: “The Salvation Army in the West is like a giant ocean liner—it takes awhile to turn. But, I tell you, this ship is turning. How do we know it? For example: we have recovered all of our investment losses sustained during the severe economic downturn at the turn of the century. We now have a slight surplus. Christmas giving by the public increased 13 percent in the Western Territory. Last year we saw an historic high in the number and size of bequests left to the Army. So far, this year, we continue on the same pace. We are currently far more stable now than we were two years ago. A year or so ago some lessees in our territorial headquarters building had decided to look elsewhere. Now, the building will be fully occupied within the next few months.
We have positioned the Army for future savings in insurance costs by opening our own insurance company in Hawaii. This will reduce the premium payment required from field units.
“We are aggressively handling cost control measures in a way that makes it visible and tangible in all ten divisions. At the halfway point of 2005, nine of the ten divisions are way ahead of where they were a year ago.
“Capturing the imagination of communities throughout the land, the magnificent gift in excess of $1.5 billion dollars by San Diego resident Joan Kroc will build Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Community Centers across the entire nation. Now, more than ever, friends whom we had never known were friends have joined the ranks of The Salvation Army and make us even stronger. The Army is feeling a new breath of life in the West.
“So, in short, while we are not there yet, we can almost throw a rope to the shore to secure this ship. Let me tell you—it is very encouraging.”
In commenting on the accuracy of the general public’s awareness of the Army, Swyers said: “The general public votes their ballot on questions pertaining to the Army with the donation of their dollar. When times are tough, the great American people shoulder their support behind the Army. People identify with our mission and support us with their dollars. They may be confused at some times about what we do, because the variety of Salvation Army service is so broad. They perceive us in many different ways. Some see us as ministry; for others it’s disaster relief or social service. Others perceive us as education, or summer camps. Some see us as bands and music programs. The Army is all of these things and much more. It’s understandable that sometimes people can’t distinguish which Army we are. But make no mistake about it—when people examine what goes on behind the Red Shield they get encouraged.
”Public awareness of the Army always needs to be a top priority. We ought to be on radio, television, the Internet—whatever it takes to get the Gospel out—we ought to be doing it.
“Most of the time the Army is hesitant to use massed media because of resources, but recently a poll was taken across the country asking the name of the most identifiable organization in America. The Salvation Army came in number one—just ahead of Coca Cola. The Red Shield was known better than the Coke logo. We have to ask ourselves: ‘How can that be?’ And that’s when you stand tall next to prior generations of Salvationists in the twenties, thirties, forties, fifties who gave their lives to get the Army position in public awareness and support where it is today. Salvationists of today need to open their hands and their hearts and hold on to this delicate piece of gold called The Salvation Army.”
“Here in the West we have some of the finest Army facilities in the world. In fact, down in San Diego the Kroc Center is a model for the world. However, like some of the bands in which I have played in my life, we have some of the best and the worst. We have some buildings that desperately need to be replaced. We need to have more capital campaigns.
“It’s encouraging to see divisional commanders conducting these major fund raising efforts that both increase public awareness and support construction of Army facilities desperately needed within communities. During the past year we have conducted six capital campaigns in one division and all of them were successful and supporting construction of new buildings. We have a lot to do, and our vision is to help the divisions with campaigners to take the Army into the next decade where we need to be.”
When asked how we can best serve the increasing diversity of languages and cultures that we have attracted here in the West, Swyers stated: “In our territory there are at least 21 languages spoken. We are in multiple countries, and our borders are open to the ‘whosoever’. Our landscape has changed dramatically in the last ten years. We have opened multiple cross-cultural ministries during that period—not only Hispanic, but Pacific Islanders, Chinese, Korean, Brazilian, Southeastern Asians–and opened them with trained officers. We live in one of the fastest growing multicultural regions of the world—so we see several of these ministries growing faster than any other. We thank God for every one.
“The beautiful thing about our territory is the dedication of our Salvationists who preach, teach and serve in these many different languages in the name of Christ and under the banner of The Salvation Army. We all have the same goal, drive and mission. What a territorial commander of a territory such as the West needs to do is to make sure they are equally trained for the task. All must know our ministry exceeds our preaching and teaching. It’s beyond the boundary of the church door and requires us to be sensitive to the needs of the community in which we serve. We need to see an aggressive spirit of ministry, fund raising and image building at each door—just as it is at my door.”
“I’m completely familiar with the reports of the various commissions and committees who studied this important matter. The way I’m most comfortable in being part of the territory is placing the responsibility and privilege of being part of the Army at every level of service. The expectations I have of a commanding officer of an Army unit are the same I place on myself. Our mission is to grow an Army. Local leaders need local responsibility to be receptive to the needs of the people. Our mission is to accept the ‘Great Commission’—to go into the world and preach the Gospel, help the hurting and adapt those to the world we live in so that those to whom we minister can compete not only by world standards but also by Christian standards.
When asked if he perceived any unique personality characteristics of westerners, Swyers replied: “There’s no doubt about it. When Horace Greeley said ‘Go west, young man, go west’ he knew that what was out here waiting for them was freedom—freedom from red tape, freedom to make things happen. And the exciting thing about the west is that nothing has changed. There are pockets of government and organizational management that like to control us, but in the Western Army there is this kind of freedom of ministry still available and unequal to any other territory in America. All we have to do as Salvationists is to take advantage of the opportunities we have. There are no boundaries restricting us from growth. The beautiful thing about the West is that that vision permeates the entire landscape.”