Thursday, August 25, 2016


The Lesson of History

March, 1918
Colonel Karl Larsson sent a report to the Swedish SA publication; Stridsropet – (The War Cry in English)
The circumstances in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) were at this time insufferable. The officials reported that there were up to 980 cholera cases daily, to which were added small pox, typhoid fever, and typhus. The deaths were so numerous that we had to abstain from all funeral ceremonies. In order to bury a child who died in our children’s home, our staff is having to wait at the church graveyard from early morning to late at night. Horses that starved to death would remain on streets for up to ten days before they were transported away. During that period starving dogs would tear large chunks from the carcasses. Hundreds of people died of starvation. They were frightful days. In addition to Captain Olson’s death we had three Swedish officers, including the War College Principal, all sidelined with various illnesses. We feared that they too had been affected by smallpox.

In 1915 Larsson had written in 'All the World': "There is no other organisation which meets the need of the Russian people and is in harmony with Russian mentality as ours. But we must hurry in order to take advantage of the changes which are likely to follow the war."

Quoting this in his later book, Karl Larsson added: "Sadly, help was too long in coming. Our history in Russia would perhaps have been different had this not been so."

General Burrows is determined not to repeat the same mistake. "We cannot and must .not let that happen again," she said. "The Latin phrase 'carpe diem' means 'seize the day' or 'catch the moment'. We could say 'redeem the time' in scriptural language. And we must do so."

SEVENTY THREE YEARS LATER-
No sooner had the General issued her red alert than the world’s largest military aircraft, fifty three C5s, with US Air Force insignias, began to lift off from the Rhein Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany bound for Moscow, Russia with a ETA three hours later. To the uninformed Muscovite the scene of the massive lumbering, descending US Air Force aircraft, one touching down only minutes behind  the other, must have been an overwhelming and intimidating sight. World War III?
Waiting on the tarmac of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport were some twenty or so Russian military officers and hundreds of conscripted soldiers dressed smartly in their Red Army winter uniforms and standing at attention. They flanked a small group huddled against the wind and swirling snow, dressed in civilian clothes. And next to them were two others in heavy dark uniform overcoats, with the insignia ‘C’ on their red epaulets, Captains Sven and Kathie Ljungholm representing the Salvation Army’s total official strength in Moscow. The SA would be taking delivery of several thousand tons of food-stuffs and other humanitarian aid, the only organization entrusted to do so by both President Bush and President Yeltsin. Eighty thousands Muscovites would receive a daily warm and nutritious meal in the 47 Russian restaurants manned by or overseen by SA staff and volunteers.

The Lesson of History

March, 1918
Colonel Karl Larsson sent a report to the Swedish SA publication; Stridsropet – (The War Cry in English)
The circumstances in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) were at this time insufferable. The officials reported that there were up to 980 cholera cases daily, to which were added small pox, typhoid fever, and typhus. The deaths were so numerous that we had to abstain from all funeral ceremonies. In order to bury a child who died in our children’s home, our staff is having to wait at the church graveyard from early morning to late at night. Horses that starved to death would remain on streets for up to ten days before they were transported away. During that period starving dogs would tear large chunks from the carcasses. Hundreds of people died of starvation. They were frightful days. In addition to Captain Olson’s death we had three Swedish officers, including the War College Principal, all sidelined with various illnesses. We feared that they too had been affected by smallpox.

In 1915 Larsson had written in 'All the World': "There is no other organisation which meets the need of the Russian people and is in harmony with Russian mentality as ours. But we must hurry in order to take advantage of the changes which are likely to follow the war."

Quoting this in his later book, Karl Larsson added: "Sadly, help was too long in coming. Our history in Russia would perhaps have been different had this not been so."

General Burrows is determined not to repeat the same mistake. "We cannot and must .not let that happen again," she said. "The Latin phrase 'carpe diem' means 'seize the day' or 'catch the moment'. We could say 'redeem the time' in scriptural language. And we must do so."

SEVENTY THREE YEARS LATER-
No sooner had the General issued her red alert than the world’s largest military aircraft, fifty three C5s, with US Air Force insignias, began to lift off from the Rhein Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany bound for Moscow, Russia with a ETA three hours later. To the uninformed Muscovite the scene of the massive lumbering, descending US Air Force aircraft, one touching down only minutes behind  the other, must have been an overwhelming and intimidating sight. World War III?
Waiting on the tarmac of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport were some twenty or so Russian military officers and hundreds of conscripted soldiers dressed smartly in their Red Army winter uniforms and standing at attention. They flanked a small group huddled against the wind and swirling snow, dressed in civilian clothes. And next to them were two others in heavy dark uniform overcoats, with the insignia ‘C’ on their red epaulets, Captains Sven and Kathie Ljungholm representing the Salvation Army’s total official strength in Moscow. The SA would be taking delivery of several thousand tons of food-stuffs and other humanitarian aid, the only organization entrusted to do so by both President Bush and President Yeltsin. Eighty thousands Muscovites would receive a daily warm and nutritious meal in the 47 Russian restaurants manned by or overseen by SA staff and volunteers.

Monday, August 15, 2016

He had a Corinthian spirit about him; an especially high criterion of triumphing in the Army’s war against circumstances.



In the days following Major Göran Larsson's Promotion to Glory I shared the news with friends around the SA world. There was an immediate outpouring of tributes filled with a very deep affection for the man, and in which many attributed the word ‘hero’ in describing Göran.

Göran was truly one of my heroes. He had a Corinthian spirit about him; an especially high criterion of triumphing in the Army’s war against circumstances. – He was a unique man, a life enhancer with a passionate belief in the little man, a  Salvationist faithful in his conviction caring about the unsung, unseen majority.

General Wilfred Kitching had this to say about heroes:

"It is said that every young man has his hero! If so, are we anyone's hero? The officer who is a 'soldier ever inch', who fearlessly attacks evil, loves the people, frequents their haunts to rescue them, persistently visits public houses to establish contact with men and is a friend to every boy and girl he meets in the street - that officer soon becomes a hero to some young Salvationist. And many young men and women have had their imagination fired by another's inspiring leadership in Army adventures. In many corps, richly endowed characters wander along life's highway, doing next to nothing with their lives - till their eyes are touched and their imaginations kindled. A hero appears!”


I've lost count of the many times he traveled to post-Perestroika Russia, in the scorching heat of summer and in bitterly cold winters. Göran shares from his visit to Siberia in chapter 25.

He coordinated and delivered humanitarian aid, medical equipment, food-stuffs and more, to aid a Salvation Army officer couple struggling to re-establish the Army in Moscow, under often extremely difficult circumstances. On one such visit he arrived traveling in a huge truck in the middle of the night. We managed to find a night watchman who unlocked a storage shed some 40-50 yards from the dirt road, and there Göran and I, with the help of a two others called up at 01:00, trudged, carrying heavy beef carcasses through two foot snowdrifts until the truck was emptied 4 hours later at dawn, with snow still falling.


And, he often brought with him teams of workers, including musicians and workers from his Stockholm SA corps. He was a key encourager and supporter who brought with him the spirit of the servant Christ, sharing it with hundreds of us. No task was too difficult and no assignment too lowly for Göran.

And once, when it appeared to Göran that the Swedish government wasn't pulling its weight in providing aid to the Russian people, when compared to other countries and international bodies, Göran decided their apparent indifference warranted a more direct attack. He requested that I make a hasty visit to Sweden to join him in an important meeting.

On my arrival at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport he drove us straight to the Parliament building and marched me into the Prime Minister's office to participate in a pre-arranged meeting. There we shared the army's Russian story. The next day, on my return to Moscow, I received a message that the Swedish Ambassador wanted to meet with Kathie and me; the meeting resulted in an immediate investment in our work bringing tons of necessary aid!


Lubyanka, KGB Headquarters Moscow, Russia

Göran also became a hero to many Russian Salvationists and other Christians he encountered.

I recall a visit to the KGB headquarters and Göran 's request for documents and proof of the prosecution, suffering and execution Christians, including Salvationists, had suffered in the early days of Stalin's reign. They insisted such records didn't exist, but Göran would not be discouraged or deterred. And it was only subsequent to his courageous refusal to 'back down' that the KGB officers acknowledged that SA officers and soldiers had indeed been among those persecuted by Stalin's henchmen.

Göran and his wife Chris served as Regional Commanders in Latvia, until his health deteriorated to such a degree that he had to return to Sweden for more sophisticated oncology treatment. During his 3-year battle with cancer his engagement in the salvation war never wavered. 

Telephone calls, Email notes of encouragement and articles to be shared through my blog became essential weapons in his armament when his condition no longer permitted visits outside his quarters. Göran remained an enabler, sharing regularly.  And his and Chris’s love for TSA's work in Latvia continues to be an inspiration to me to this day.

Yes, a hero to countless people has laid down his sword and now wears the victor's crown. Well done Göran and may we, like you, aspire to serve God as bold, courageous and victorious servants of Jesus Christ!


Copyright © 2016 by Sven Ljungholm

RETURN TO BATTLE IN RUSSIA – AND BEYOND

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A 'bag of bones' Conclusion

CORBAN

(Mark 7:10-13)

By 'MORDECAI’


It is so easy for us who love God and love all that the Army stands for, and who are concerned for the extension of God’s Kingdom to get a distorted view of what service to God is. It is such an easy thing for us officers to think of our ministry as merely fulfilling the demands and needs of a corps, when our ministry should be our life, what we are. If we no longer live, but Christ lives within us, our ministry is merely sharing the Christ within us, sharing what we are with everyone, at home, on holiday, at the corps, everywhere and all the time.

We cannot separate Christ from his ministry for the two are one. Our problem as people is that we can so easily be busy fulfilling our religious duties, our human precepts, our rules, that they become an end in themselves. We then live in fear of defaulting as far as man-made regulations are concerned, whilst paying scant attention to caring for the intimate personal relationship that God wishes to have with each one of us. We admire that Good Samaritan for his goodness but sometimes forget the cost involved to him in helping the Jewish victim so callously mugged. The cost was more than money; it was facing his own people, and being so frequently humiliated and insulted by such as he whom he had helped. We quickly condemn those two religious men in the story, but perhaps they were too busy about their religious duties to actually help anyone. Their time was ‘corban’, given to God,and to have defaulted would also have been costly.

In an organisation full of procedures and orders and regulations and schedules it is so easy to become the system’s slave, to spend our time keeping the machine going, so much so that we never have time to use the machine for the purpose for which it was built. My children love to go to traction-engine rallies held in the summer, and who isn’t amazed at the skill, beauty and power of those lumbering great giants. Nostalgia for an age I never knew grips me and I look at the energy spent by the enthusiasts who polish and overhaul and maintain those old workhorses. It is a life’s dedication for many of them, standing high on the footplate with blackened faces and oily clothes. I admire them, but their love is for the machine, not the function it once fulfilled. The machine is obsolete, beautiful but obsolete; it has been superseded by smaller, more efficient, more easily maintained machines. It is merely maintained for show.

On a personal level, at corps, divisional and national level, we too are in danger of becoming promoters and maintainers of machinery. We may fulfil procedures, maintain traditions, proliferate programmes, all in the name of ‘corban’ but at the cost of God’s real requirements of us. Our motives may be far from those described by Jesus in Mark 7:11. It might not be a deliberate neglect of the God-given responsibility that we have for parents, children or neighbours, but the fact that we over-emphasise our Army service, and that our ministry within those confines is considered in isolation from every other aspect of our lives.

How sad it is to move into a quarters and discover that predecessors were so busy about their ‘ministry’ that they never found time to speak, let alone be a neighbour, to those next door. In the busyness of visiting and responding to the needs of the corps folk are there those of us who have failed to care for the spiritual well-being of that little congregation that God has entrusted to us within our own four walls? How concerned have we been for our children’s salvation, in helping them to discover the life-saving truths of God for themselves?

Satan is so subtle in his attacks; it is very gradually that he moves us from fulfilling the requirements of God to fulfilling the requirements of men, albeit godly men. It can happen for the individual as well as for an established organisation. In the name of ‘corban’ our man-made traditions and man-made rules, observances and precepts can become sacrosanct, so much so that preservation of the system can inadvertently become a motive for what we do. Our numbers decrease and so we emphasise evangelism in an effort to reverse the decline; money is short for all that we want to do, so we emphasise tithing; numbers offering for full-time service are insufficient, we feel, so we endeavour to solve the problem by an added emphasis in this direction. Almost unnoticed there creeps up a concern for ourselves, our organisation, our image, as opposed to a grieving burden for those who are like lost sheep without a shepherd. Both individually and corporately we forget Christ’s warning in Matthew10:39.

When we look at Jesus’ life, we see him receiving labels and judgements for things he said and did which would fill us with self-concern should we ever be labelled so. Having received Mary and Martha’s cry for help when their brother was so ill, Jesus spent two further days by the River Jordan before responding. It may have appeared (as it does at first reading) that Jesus was insensitive to their cry, that he was little concerned for their plight; certainly Martha felt let down by him (John 11:21), though she wasn’t without hope even then. Others certainly must have felt that his delay was purely self-concern because of the danger of stoning that he had experienced in Judea immediately before going to the Jordan. His record of Sabbath-keeping was not a good one as far as the religious leaders were concerned and added to this we have the company he kept, plus the accusations of gluttony, blasphemy and insanity, all of which one would expect in a sinner. And yet each thought and each motive was beneath his Father’s control. He was willing to lose everything, even credibility before the eyes of the leaders and the people, even to the point of a murderer’s death, to please God and save man.

In no way should we take the duties of our office lightly, nor should we arrogantly dismiss the authority of those under whom we serve. Nor should we be blind to the calls of those who make demands upon us. But if we live in close and intimate harmony with God there will be times when we will be out of accord with men and misjudged for it. There are those who use their duties to others purely as a means of avoiding the service he requires (Luke 9:57-62) and expects. On the other hand there are those who deliberately or inadvertently neglect the needs at their door to ensure that every religious duty expected of them is fulfilled. The way, thus, is a very narrow one and should we sensitively tread it we will be misjudged at times and be considered a party to those who care more for themselves than their Lord. That is part of the cost and the cross. But Christ makes us a promise, that ultimately they will know us all by our fruits and, as God told Eli, so indulgent with his sons, ‘I will honour those who honour me’ (1 Samuel 2:30, GNB).

May we avoid the snare that Isaiah warns us all to be wary of(29:13, GNB): ‘The Lord said, “These people claim to worship me,but their words are meaningless, and their hearts are somewhere else. Their religion is nothing but human rules and traditions, which they have simply memorised.”’ Jesus reiterates the danger for all religious men, ‘It is no use for them to worship me, because they teach man-made rules as though they were my laws!’ (Matthew 15:9, GNB).

Emlyn’s case is an extreme one and we would agree with his priorities, but there are others who are similarly tortured and need help to discover for themselves God’s prior demands in their lives, wherever that might lead them and whatever it might cost them. May we, by our very lives and example, show how every area of life, private and public, should be equally ‘corban’ and thereby reveal the secret of our tranquillity of soul.
Conclusion

Howard Webber

Bournemouth, UK

Friday, August 5, 2016

A ‘bag of bones’.... PART TWO

CORBAN

(Mark 7:10-13)

By 'MORDECAI’




Emlyn’s daughter now works to support her two youngsters and it is frequently ‘grandad’, Emlyn, who attends them at dinner time when they come home from school, who prepares the evening meal, who takes them to the doctor or dentist or the casualty department when those minor crises we all experience occur. He labours to support her and them. And though he sees it not, he is far better equipped to serve his wife 100 per cent when he is with her than he would ever be if she were permanently at home.

But he still feels guilty! He feels guilty that in a corps (church) short of leaders but full of labour, he is not doing his part as he sees it; that he is not taking some of the weight off the commanding officer’s (Pastor’s) shoulders. At one time he and his wife were totally immersed in corps activities, but now? ‘I could do more if I didn’t spend every afternoon with Eva, but she has been such a wonderful wife and I feel I ought to be with her and yet I also feel I ought to be helping you more than I do.’

What Emlyn fails to see but is apparent to all who have eyes to see, is the fact that there is no greater ministry in the corps than his. He often feels isolated in his ministry to his wife and what Christian prisoner has not questioned how languishing in prison can be of much help to the Kingdom? Yet what unending blessings have come from such prisons, blessings that have outlived those who have been the means of blessing. Obviously we call to mind the Pauls and Bunyans and Bonhoeffers. Emlyn’s private ministry to Eva is a means of grace and blessing and encouragement and challenge to all. He could so easily call that time spent with Eva ‘corban’ (see Mark 7:10-13*) and claim to be giving it to God by using it in service at the corps, when in fact to do so would be doing disservice to both, to Eva and ultimately to God himself.

It is so easy for us who love God and love all that the Army stands for, and who are concerned for the extension of God’s Kingdom to get a distorted view of what service to God is. It is such an easy thing for us officers to think of our ministry as merely fulfilling the demands and needs of a corps, when our ministry should be our life, what we are. If we no longer live, but Christ lives within us, our ministry is merely sharing the Christ within us, sharing what we are with everyone, at home, on holiday, at the corps, everywhere and all the time.

We cannot separate Christ from his ministry for the two are one. Our problem as people is that we can so easily be busy fulfilling our religious duties, our human precepts, our rules, that they become an end in themselves. We then live in fear of defaulting as far as man-made regulations are concerned, whilst paying scant attention to caring for the intimate personal relationship that God wishes to have with each one of us. We admire that Good Samaritan for his goodness but sometimes forget the cost involved to him in helping the Jewish victim so callously mugged. The cost was more than money; it was facing his own people, and being so frequently humiliated and insulted by such as he whom he had helped. We quickly condemn those two religious men in the story, but perhaps they were too busy about their religious duties to actually help anyone. Their time was ‘corban’, given to God, and to have defaulted would also have been costly.

END PART TWO

Howard Webber

Bournemouth, UK