What warms your heart?

by Philip Swyers, Commissioner – 

What a privilege it is for Commissioner Pat and myself to travel across the length and breadth of this wonderful Western Territory and sense its mission. There are so many exciting things going on that warm our hearts…one happened recently as we stood in front of a number of individuals at the Seattle Temple.

On that Sunday morning, Robyn Webster was called to the front of the auditorium where I awarded her a soldier’s 75-year service badge. She was followed by Shirley McAllister, Rafaela Magnenat, and Jim and Joan Burleigh, who each received a 50-year service badge. What a privilege it was to present these—but even more important to recognize the many decades of committed service they provided the Seattle Corps and its programs. At the end of the day, these individuals—plus countless thousands across this territory—speak of our great wealth in people. We give a full salute to these individuals for their commitment to God in the Army.

Later, as we concluded a service in Portland, someone handed me a book by Vince Lombardi, Jr. titled, What It Takes to Be #1. It is an exciting book about the life of a great coach but there are several areas of the book that I think move quite nicely into the fabric of the Army: for example, any corps, division, or territory needs responsive leaders.

The year was 1954 and the football coach of the New York Giants was a gentleman by the name of Jim Lee Howell, who had two extraordinary assistants working for him. One was Tom Landry, who was in charge of the Giants’ defensive unit and on the other side of the ball was Vince Lombardi, responsible for the offense. The years of 1954 through 1957 were good years for the Giants because the players knew exactly what they needed to do to achieve success—and to them, success meant championships. Soon after the glory came to the Giants, Lombardi went to the Green Bay Packers and Tom Landry went to the Dallas Cowboys. Both made their mark with those teams.

Tom Landry was a stern disciplinarian who knew what he wanted and how to get it. Coupled with his strong faith in Christ (demonstrated in his daily walk) he expected and got excellence. His walk was strong and his talk even firmer.

Vince Lombardi brought the fear of God out of you; this Catholic man had character and strength that players seized upon and he developed the Packers into world champions many times through the sixties. Lombardi was fond of that old Chinese saying, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step; and a step is moving out and doing something—in our case, doing something for the Lord. He pointed out that you needed to answer four questions about your life to make it count:
What am I about?
Where is my faith?
Where is my spark?
What is my life worth?

We have seen sergeant majors move to the innards of their communities in Alaska and bring the people together in the name of Christ. We have seen the strength of committed leaders on Turk Street in San Francisco, in a community where the love of Christ is desperately needed. We have seen the leadership at Portland Tabernacle Corps nurture and grow an Army out of their sense of commitment and service to Christ. We have seen the strength of young people at youth councils in San Diego who were willing to rise up and take a stand and say to the rest of the young people: we are going this way. We have witnessed with officers who have a great sense of drive to promote the gospel of Christ. All of these things warm our heart.

What we are talking about here is commitment. Vince Lombardi used to say:
A guy may have the potential to be the best player of all time. He’s able, agile, and intelligent.
Yet unless he is totally committed to the team and victory as a unit, he won’t win ball games.
And winning is the name of the game.

That was Lombardi’s lingo. In our lingo, winning is advancing Christ.

So, what warms our heart? Standing on a platform and looking into the eyes of five individuals who have given more service than we have, and who say at the end of day that they would do it all over again if they could.

What is the heartbeat of the Western Territory? It’s the commitment of excellence demonstrated in these lives—and hopefully, yours as well

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