Sunday, November 23, 2014

Separate the weeds from the perennials

When I grew up I found some of the traditions too small to grow in, too tight for the human spirit.

You can never stop dissent by resisting it.
You can only meet it with understanding.
You can weed out the things that have had their day, so that the new life has a chance to bloom.

But you must know the difference between the weeds and the flowers. Some people pull up the flowers; they mistake them for weeds. They don't know that they are perennials.

The entire, inspirational and life-changing message by Dr. John Sullivan will be posted later today, Sunday, Nov 23, on my return home to Liverpool. Sven

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Must Be A Bit Daft Part Two (2/2)

Why put myself out at my stage in life?

I saw a video from The Salvation Army in the US. It featured a man who had oxygen tubes in his nose and confined to a wheel chair, manning the SA Christmas kettles. It was snowing quite a lot. He died not too long after the video was produced. I thought to myself: if he can do it, then I can do a similar thing. This may well be the last Christmas season that I'm able to ‘man’ the kettles, and by God's Grace, I will man the kettles this year! 

Just because I’ve been given, so to speak, my death-sentence, it doesn't mean I have to abandon the full and real living drawing on the resolve God’s instilled within me. I am alive and feeling well at the moment, so I refuse to feel sorry for myself, but think instead of the wellfare of others.

Limhamn Corps Sweden
Home of the Malmo brass initiative:

I am reminded of William Booth's one word telegraph message around the world. 

Pastor Jack Hyles, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for over 42 years said: “I’ve always read biographies a great deal, especially in the early, formative days of my ministry… I have read about the lives of most great men. One of my favorite characters in all of history is General William Booth. General Booth was the founder of the great Salvation Army, when it was more salvation than it was army. He led in spreading the Gospel over much of the world, as he organized street meetings and evangelistic services.

With the passing of the years, General Booth became an invalid. His eyesight failed him, and one year he was in such bad health that he was unable to attend the Salvation Army Congress in London, England. Somebody suggested that General Booth send a telegram or a message to be read at the opening of the convention. General Booth agreed to do so.

When the thousands of delegates met, the moderator announced that General Booth would not be able to be present because of failing health and eyesight. Gloom and pessimism swept across the floor of the convention. A little light dispelled some of the darkness when the moderator announced that General Booth had sent a message to be read with the opening of the first session. He opened the message and began to read the following:

Dear Delegates of the Salvation Army Convention: 
Signed, General Booth.
Lord, let me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray,
My prayer shall be for others.
Others, Lord, yes, others;
Let this my motto be.
Help me to live for others
That I may live like Thee.

Others. That word says it all - it says everything that is necessary for a Salvationist to know about our mission: others!

In the spring of 2015 I’ll be purchasing a portable PA (public address) system that I can use when I sell and distribute thew Army’s weekly, The War Cry. At the same time I can use it to conduct Open-Air Meetings. There are a number of suitable town squares in Malmö, where I can take my place, sell the War Cry and at the same time conduct an Open-Air Meeting. 

Stan, a friend of mine, wrote on my Facebook timeline the following words: “Also remember you as faithful street meeting soldier on the corner of Irving Park and Pulaski!”( large intersection on Chicago’s near north-west sideYes, he was right. When our Corps Officer felt we didn't need to have an Open-Air Meeting on some Sunday evenings, I was ‘in his face’, in a nice way, and reminded him, that “yes, we must be on the street corner because we never know if someone is waiting to hear the Gospel message that we proclaim.

What's the purpose of an Open-Air Meeting? The purpose of any Open-Air Meeting is to proclaim the Gospel message where people are to be found, period! Army history is replete with open-air victory stories and our soldiers the result, thousands who inquired about and accepted God’s gift of salvation right there on the spot. We may be given, by God's grace, the opportunity to lead a soul to accept Christ as Saviour. I think we must remember that saving a soul is the business of God the Holy Spirit, it is not our business. We present Christ as the Saviour of the world, the Holy Spirit convicts and effects salvation of the person's soul. We need to keep in mind what our job is and what is the job of the Holy Spirit. We witness and proclaim the Gospel message, the Holy Spirit effects salvation of the soul. 

As long as God gives me the strength, I will do that to which I’m assigned, my part in the Salvation War. Our Founder, William Booth purportedly said in his last public address: “While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight-I'll fight to the very end!” These words are my inspiration and battle-cry - the example for me to follow, I too will fight to the very end! 

Leonard Johnson
Former Officer 
USA Central - 
Retired and resides in Sweden

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Must Be A Bit Daft Part One (1/2)

My Crazy Idea

My health is not the best. I’m well into my three score and ten -cataract surgery on both of my eyes, broke my hip and a pin inserted. I've had large intestine surgery to remove a cancerous growth and received a stoma - bag on my stomach. And a year later? 

Again diagnosed with cancer. This time the cancer is inoperable. There is no cure – zilch, nothing to be done. You think poor man; he's going to die. Well, that's a fact of life for us all isn’t it. One day the bells will toll for me - and you. The only question to be answered is when; how much time does God grant me? I’ve been given a time frame: max 2 years of any further living on this earth. Now the sole concern I have left is HOW I choose to live out these two years? This is where my crazy idea comes into the picture, but first let me share a little of what I'm engaged in doing at present.

I have started a project in the City of Malmö, the 3rd largest in Sweden called “Just Brass Malmö”. It is modeled on a project created in the Southern Territory of the Salvation Army in Australia. The aim of the program is to offer positive programming to disadvantaged kids. The aim of the program is to bring disadvantaged kids together and teach them how to play brass instruments, like those used in Salvation Army brass bands for a century and a half.

Now for a slight detour.

I am at present learning, for the second time in my 70+ years, to play a brass instrument, namely the cornet. My 73 year-old kid brother, Lester, has supplied the cornet. He was an excellent cornet player and in his prime played any of the many challenging theme and variation solos placed in front of him.. He was far more skilled at playing that I could ever hope to be, but I can still learn to play well enough to play 2nd cornet in the brass band that practices every Wednesday morning at the SA Limhamn Corps in Malmö. It's know as FA-Brass Skåne. Change the letters FA and insert SA and you will know what I am referring to. My instructor is Johan, a young Christian man who has a real passion for brass banding. At present he is completing his musical degree at the Malmö Academy of Music (Musikhögskolan), where many Salvationists have studied and/or lectured. They produced a video with him as the focus discussing why kids today didn't seem to want to play brass instruments. His answer was simple. Kids can't possibly want to play an instrument they have never heard about nor seen. He's right, how in the world can anyone want to play and instrument they don't know exists! Impossible! It won't ever happen.

Detour ended and back on track -Returning to the subject; “Just Brass Malmö”.

I remember as a kid growing up in Chicago that one of the reasons I learned to play a baritone brass instrument was because my friends were playing in the our Corps Brass Band. I remember it to this day, 75 years later; it was great fun – but also a personally rich and rewarding experience. Wednesday evening was band practice night and every Sunday the band shared in the services, sometimes during Sunday Holiness Meeting (11 AM), but almost always during the Salvation Meeting (7 PM). Then there was summer camp at Camp Wonderland, a Salvation Army retreat offering hundreds of acres, a large lake, cabins and better and more enriching food than I reckon some of my bunk mates ate at home.

I don't believe the kids participating in the “Just Brass Malmö” project will understand that there are side benefits that they will be getting. Like learning to improve their reading skills and improvement to their math skills, but they will be getting that as an added bonus.


Leonard Johnson
Former Officer 
USA Central - 
Retired - Residing in Sweden

IT'S THURSDAY Number 3 - Howard Webber


20 NOVEMBER 2014

'So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left." Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered,.....So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan.' Genesis 13:8-11

Abram showed such generosity and magnanimity to his nephew Lot, waiving his own rights in allowing Lot to make the choice of which land he would have. The plain of the River Jordan was the most fertile and attractive. Lot, unappreciative, took full advantage of Abram's goodness towards him and chose the whole of it for himself, leaving Abram with the poorer territory. Yet, as offended as he might have felt, Abram remained gracious and loving towards his young nephew. He showed no resentment. In return God blessed him. God's blessing is always better than what the world would have us value.

What sometimes seems to us the best or most advantageous course of action often turns out to be quite the opposite, as is seen in this case. The result of Lot's choices were catastrophic for him and would have led to complete disaster had his uncle not pleaded to God for him. What a lovely heart Abram had; so like God's heart to us. Abram had every good reason to abandon Lot to the consequences of his foolish, selfish action, but he wanted him rescued. So too with God and us. We have grieved God by a thousand falls, (as Charles Wesley so beautifully put it), and we justly deserve to be abandoned by him, but despite what we are and what we have done, he longs to rescue us, thank God, and has provided the perfect rescuer in Jesus.

May we, in response to such wonderful grace, willingly show the same magnanimity and love to those who hurt us or take advantage of us or grieve us. 'Father, fill us with the Spirit that filled Jesus, Amen.'

God bless you all.

Howard Webber
SA Officer, retired
Bournemouth, England

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NO LONGER I? Chapter 1

INTRODUCTION to ‘Bolt From The Blue.’
Sometimes God is speaking to us, and though we are seeking to do his will, we can be so deaf to his voice and blind to what he is showing us that he needs to afflict us in some way to stop us in our tracks and have us review ourselves, what we are doing and the motives and spirit behind what we are and what we do. That is what happened when Paul was blinded on his road to Damascus, (Acts 9:3-9). It’s also what happened to me three years into officership. ‘Bolt From The Blue,’ is the first chapter from my new book, (awaiting publication), ‘No Longer I?  in which I share my struggle to find answers to what happened to me and the eventual discovery that, with Christ, the only problem I ever have is ME!

PS The scales are still falling from my eyes. 

God bless you



‘I have something I need to say before you go,’ Miss Barrett called out as I closed the lounge door, so I opened it again and stepped back into the room. Following a brief preamble she got to the point of why she had called me back, ‘I need to tell you that you are the worst officer (minister) this corps (church) has ever had!’

I felt as though I had been hit by a brick and stood there stunned, not knowing how to react to what I had heard. What she said came as such a shock, totally unexpectedly. After a moment’s hesitation, I meekly thanked her, (don’t ask me why?), and stepped back into the hallway and closed the door. Letting myself out and shutting the door behind me I walked down the garden path to my car in a daze. ‘Had I heard right? Not one of the worst amongst lesser mortals, but the worst, the very least of the least, lowest of the low. How could she have come to that conclusion?’ I got into my car, closed the door and put my key into the ignition, but I found myself unable to turn it, start the engine and drive away, for I could not restrain the tears that were welling up inside me. The dam burst and I broke down and wept like a baby, inconsolably, like I hadn’t wept for many a long year.

Dear Miss Barrett was well into her eighties. She had very poor sight and this, together with her walking difficulties and the distance from her home to our (Salvation Army meeting) hall, prevented her from venturing out to worship. She had outlived her peer group and gradually, over many years, her name had ascended to the top of our soldiers’ (members’) roll; she was our number 1!

When first my wife and I arrived in this North Wales village, to take charge of what was our first corps following (seminary) training, we commenced visiting and getting to know everyone recorded on our rolls. When we called on her she was delighted to see us and welcomed us into the area. Subsequently, often on my travels when I was passing by, I called in to see her, knowing this dear old soul rarely got out of the house and did not have any close family. It was no big effort on my part as she lived just off the main road between our village and the nearest town 10 miles away. She was always kind and courteous, insisting on making me tea served from a silver teapot into a bone china cup accompanied by a plate of chocolate biscuits. Concerned at her poor sight and frailty, I would offer to make the tea for her or at least carry the tray from the kitchen to the lounge, but she was emphatic, insistent, that she was quite capable of doing it herself. So I would watch attentively, ready to jump to her aid as she came though the door and slowly, gingerly and shakily made her way across the lounge towards me, before bending down and placing her load on the coffee table between our chairs.

This became the regular pattern whenever I visited her on my own or with my wife during those first two years. Then she changed. The first thing I noticed was no cheery, ‘Shall I put the kettle on Lieutenant[1]?’ when I entered her home. What had once been a warmth towards me was replaced by a cold indifference. Gone too was the natural flow of conversation. Something of a scowl seemed to permanently replace what had been her smile. At first I thought she had had bad news or something had happened to her that I had not been told about. When I asked her if she was all right her reply was, ‘Yes, why shouldn’t I be?’

There was a decisive moment when her mood changed, and I knew that something had happened to upset her, but she would not open up and tell me what it was. At first it never occurred to me that it had anything to do with me as I only saw her when I visited her. The only other contact I had with her was by phone when I would ring her to check that she was keeping well. Initially, I thought it was a temporary thing and that things would be back to normal the next time I visited. They weren’t. In fact they were never the same again. Obviously there grew a definite feeling within me that I had said something or done something to have upset her, though I had no idea what on earth it could be.

Whilst the visits were no longer pleasant and I no longer looked forward to them, I continued to call there every few weeks just the same. Often I would ask her, ‘Have I said anything to upset you? Have I done anything?’ to which her reply was always the same, ‘No, what could you have said or done to upset me?’ I tried apologising for whatever it was that I may have been responsible for, but this was just met with silence. Though I now dreaded these visits, I still felt sorry for this lonely old soul. Having said that I also wondered what good my visits were for her? They were definitely not doing me any good! Sitting in her lounge with her looking out of the window refusing to say much did make it all so uncomfortable.

A year had passed since this awkwardness began, and was making my final visit before being moved to a new appointment[2]. I told her what was happening and where we were going, but she showed no interest. I asked her questions about herself and got minimal replies. Having, at the end of the ordeal prayed with her and for her, I stretched out my hand to shake hers, thanking her for her kindness to me, (for she had been kind during those first two years). She responded by flopping her limp hand into mine like a piece of mackerel, without holding or gripping my hand in response to my grasp of hers.

‘Obviously, I won’t be seeing you again, but I do wish you well and God’s blessing upon you. I’ll see myself out.’ It was as I was closing the lounge door behind me that she suddenly called me back into the room.

‘Lieutenant, I have something I need to say before you go.’
In my naivety I thought to myself, ‘Thank goodness for that,’ as I stepped back into the room, ‘this is no way for two Christians to part,’ and I then just stood and waited for her to gather her thoughts before she continued.

‘As you know, my parents were among the group of pioneers who walked all the way from Wrexham to the village to start The Salvation Army there.’ She had told me this several times since first I met her. In fact I learnt much from her about the corps' history. ‘And so between my parents and I,’ she continued, ‘we have known every officer that has ever been stationed here.’ That was true, and in the early years officers never stayed more than one year. Many only stayed a few months. In fact, the previous year had been the corps’ centenary year and I had researched the corps’ history and found that there had been an unbelievable 92 officers or officer couples before my wife and I were appointed. I had no idea where all this was leading or the brick of a statement that she was about to unleash on my unprepared ears, something that would career around the inside of my head just like an unstoppable squash ball bouncing between the walls of a squash court. ‘I need to tell you that you are the worst officer this corps has ever had!’

It was quite some time before I was able to compose myself and was able to drive away and make my way home. I was relieved that no-one came near my car to observe the state I was in while I sat there booing. Several times during that journey home I stopped to check in my mirror to see if the redness of my eyes and all signs of my tears were gone. My wife had enough on her plate without having to be concerned about me. As I opened the front door the children greeted me and much noise and chatter followed, but other than Judy commenting on the fact that I was a little subdued, nothing else was said.

We were without a corps secretary so each week I assisted the treasurer in completing the corps accounts and preparing the banking. We did this in the front room of our home. The hall was some distance away and would have needed heating before we got there so it was convenient for us both. That evening, as we sat opposite one another with the cash and cheques and books between us, the treasurer asked me, ‘Is everything all right Leff?’ Initially I assured him that everything was all right, but I was quieter than normal and he persisted in his concern for me.

He was a reliable leader and much respected, just a few years older than myself. I knew that I could confide in him. Other than bringing it to the Lord, I had not wanted to share what had been said with anyone else, but I conceded to his persistence. When I finished conveying the story of my relationship over the past twelve months and its culmination, he smiled, ‘Leff, ignore her. What does she know about you and what you have done? I know it’s not her fault, but she never ever gets to the hall. She’s unable to come near the corps. All she ever knows is what she picks up from the phone calls she gets, and we all know who it is that rings round and upsets folks with their distorted view of things. Forget it.’

I wanted to forget it. The treasurer was right. What did she know about me or the corps? But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. In the days, and indeed weeks and months, that followed I found myself going over and over the last three years of our stay there with a fine tooth comb, analysing, comparing, justifying, and putting together a defence of myself as though I was going to court. ‘How could anyone think, let alone say, that I am the worst officer that corps had ever had?’ 

Howard Webber

[1]    Lieutenant is a probationary title/rank given to newly commissioned Salvation Army Officers, which they have for their first five years.
[2]    In The Salvation Army officers do not choose where they go or apply for posts or positions, but are appointed to what is considered by senior leaders to be where God would have them be. These days, in addition to prayer, such decisions are not made without consulting the officer and considering their personal circumstances as well their particular gifting.

I gave my life to Jesus when I was just 7 years old and, from an early age, had a longing to share what I had found. Sadly though, in my teenage years, I observed things that disappointed and discouraged me and instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus, I stepped back from my calling. We moved to another part of the country, and though I continued to attend the local corps, I was no longer living in obedience to God which resulted in a loss of joy and an eventual departure from the army.

When I was 30 years old I recommitted my life to Jesus as did my wife Judy. Two years later I left my work in chemical pathology in the NHS and we sold our home and entered the Salvation Army Training College (Seminary) London.
I've been married 45 years with 5 grown up children.
My 30 years of active officership included corps (church and community responsibility), county evangelist for Lincolnshire, planting a corps (Market Rasen), and writing.

Howard is a regular contributor to the FSAOF blog each week: 

Christianity Magazine's Book of the Year 2010, Meeting Jesus, is now available for your Kindle!

Extraordinary moving stories of evangelism on the hard side of life. 

By A UK Reviewer

Fred is high on drugs and doesn't want Howard Webber, the then Salvation Army captain, to come round to his flat because it is in chaos, rather like Fred himself. They meet, instead, in the cafe at a supermarket in a nearby town. But the road isn't straight and we follow the twists and turns of Howard and Fred's relationship - through missed promises, desperate heartache and self-destruction and final redemption.

This book is perhaps the most extraordinary one I've reviewed since writing for Christianity. It is a series of stories of evangelism on the hard side of life. It is painfully honest and lists as many failures as successes, as many deaths as new lives. Documenting Webber's spiritual battles too, it is possibly the most moving set of accounts I've ever read, and the most hopeful. It is all too easy to see the role of being God's ambassadors as reduced to preaching, or set among those who we love and are safe. But this book challenges us to be where Jesus would be, with the down-and-outs, with the hopeless and the broken. It looks the cost of such ministry square in the eye and carries on just the same. Please buy this book.

Steve Morris

Christianity magazine (UK), October 2010
This is an inspiration! 
By Fairlee E. Winfield VINE VOICE

I grew up as a Salvationist and this modest, small book makes me proud of that heritage. I am reading and rereading a chapter daily. Major Howard Webber is honest. His sincerity shines through in each chapter. He relates not only the trophies of grace won for Jesus, but the painful failures. There is a real sense of warmth that the reader can touch.