Thursday, June 30, 2016

I clearly remember my first visit to The Salvation Army corps in Moscow on Zubovsky Blvd. I learned about the corps from my neighbor. We lived in the same apartment building and we took our dogs for walks together in the evenings. At that time I was employed as a psychology teacher at the Military Institute of Foreign Languages and had plenty of free time, so I decided to look for additional employment.

My neighbor told me that a very big American organization established itself in Moscow and was looking for psychologists, so I decided to apply for one of the positions. Thus, in January 1992, I came to a Salvation Army Sunday meeting for the first time. I recall being amazed by the loud music, songs and tambourines. I found this to be unusual and could not find a logical explanation as to what was happening.

Captain Sven-Erik Ljungholm then followed the music with a personal testimony and Bible message. Twenty-three years have passed but I can still repeat his testimony word for word-- this shows how deeply it affected me.

A week passed and the next Sunday, something beyond my will, pushed me to visit The Salvation Army Sunday meeting again. This time it became like a dream in reality. Soon I started to attend recruit classes and shortly thereafter General Eva Barrows visited Moscow and I reconfirmed my decision to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.

April 12, 1992 Captain Sven Erik Ljungholm, as a part of the team of 5 or 6 leaders enrolled me as a Salvation Army soldier. Once, during one of the soldiers meetings, the captain asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to assist in conducting recruit classes. A number of hands were raised, but the captain only chose a few people including myself. I did not put as much time and effort into preparing for my first lecture in the Institute, as I did preparing for that first recruit class. Captain Ljungholm was present at the class and his approval and praise sounded to me like praise from the Minister of the Military of the USSR. While serving in the Soviet Army, my family life became secondary, but now it was once again important, though all of my other spare time was devoted to Salvation Army service.

One of the best events of this period was a Salvation Army camp that was organized in August 1992 in the Moscow region, on the banks of the River-Volga. Later, I visited a number of other Salvation Army camps, including some camps that I organized myself, but that first SA camp remains for me the most interesting and unforgettable of experiences. A group of young Salvationists from the United States of America came to work with the children at the camp, and the spirit of Salvationism shone through them. I can no longer remember a single name, but yet, still clearly remember each and every face.

In October 1992 Captain Ljungholm sent 5 soldiers including me, to participate in the Territorial Salvation Army Congress in Los Angeles.

As a teenager I was fond of reading science fiction literature. My favorite American authors were Aizek Azimov and Clifford D. Simak. I may have read all of the existing American science fiction available by that time, but when we landed in San Francisco and left the plane, it was as if I was experiencing life in the distant future---that was the extent to which the U.S.A. differed from my home country. My impressions of that trip until today is that I was visiting a ‘wonderland’. Throughout 1992 all of The Salvation Army events I participated in, now appear to be, when I look back on them, speedy and kaleidoscopic. It is as if these events were all beyond my control and planned by God.

Shortly after October 1992 my wife was also enrolled as a soldier of The Salvation Army. In November 1992 I resigned from the Soviet Military Army and my wife and I devoted all of our time to Salvation Army service.

 I knelt at the Mercy Seat (altar) and surrendered my Russian Red Army officer identification card to Captain Ljungholm and renounced the Soviet Union’s claim on my soul. Captain spoke a solemn prayer over my new allegiance and covenant to Jesus Christ.


December 1992 was marked with another new, exciting and astonishing event - both my wife and I were accepted as cadets in The Salvation Army Officers Institute, the first in Russia since 1918. Apart from Captains Sven Erik and Kathleen Ljungholm, there was another person who left an unforgettable mark on our lives and destiny - Commissioner Ingrid Lindberg.  Commissioner Ingrid Lindberg, the territorial commander in Finland, was the first Salvationist who officially represented The Salvation Army internationally in effecting a return to Russia.

Unfortunately my wife Natasha was less enthusiastic about following my radical conversion. She's a scientist and seismologist. But it was as a result of the Commissioner’s personal visit to our home, accompanied by Danielle Strickland, a Canadian Salvationist that she understood and took to heart the Bible verses shared, faith explained and the soul searching prayers. Eventually she came to the corps and was saved.

Incidentally, Alexander Kharkov and his wife Maria were our session mates when we were cadets. They are now the Territorial Commanders of The Salvation Army in Russia.

I am very happy to be a Salvation Army soldier/officer and to serve my Lord in Russia.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

A TICKET TO YESTERDAY Part Two

Captain Kathleen Ljungholm researched the location of that first Moscow Salvation Army meeting in 1918 (the Polytechnic Museum) and was able to rent the very same hall in the same building for the historic re-opening meeting. 

Captain Ljungholm camouflaged the large Lenin bust behind the podium with the SA flag and preached from his grandfather’s well-preserved sermon notes. Many came forward when the invitation was issued; “Come and meet Jesus and be saved and be reconciled with your heavenly Father.”

Soldiership recruit classes were begun the very next day, and soon several hundred people were attending the many weekly meetings conducted in Moscow’s Central Corps. To accommodate the ever-burgeoning congregation worship services were moved to a state-of-the-art (Russian version) 1,000-seat theatre in the Russian foreign ministry complex. The tri-coloured SA banner would replace the Soviet Union’s red flag with its hammer and sickle whenever the Army meetings took place. (The SU flag was seen throughout Russia well beyond 1991when the Russian flag was deemed the only official flag for use in public and government buildings.) The Ljungholms opened two more corps in Moscow within the next twelve months. The passion for evangelistic expansion was their sustenance.

The great bulk of those worshipping were working people, with some 30 per cent from professional backgrounds or academics. There was some resistance expressed in various forms about the Army’s public outdoor activities.  However, other newly arrived religious groups found it far more difficult time in establishing themselves.  There is no question that, even with an Army consisting of just two persons in Moscow, the Army enjoyed special favour due to its immediate heavy commitment in providing social service provision and social work education and training at the highest academic levels. While never without sympathy for the material plight of the masses, Booth adopted a more holistic doctrine of redemption in the late 1880s. In a leading article on the subject, published in January 1889, he stressed that salvation ‘meant not only [being] saved from the miseries of the future world, but from the miseries of this [world] also.’[1]
We’d been reminded that our ministry would flourish if we sought to embed and maintain the culture and introduce the certain Russian Orthodox church elements into the context of our worship service. We could not be both an Army entrenched in a mix of traditional Booth era antics and the Praise and Worship movement in the ‘west’ today. We wanted the dynamic enthusiasm of our 135-year tradition but with it a respectful acknowledgement of the thousand-year-old Russian people’s religion.

Among other plans, it involved new procedures for expediting the processing of applications for service in Russia; a program for a short training period to be set in place for the first intake of Russian cadets in January 1993; and a coordinated publications and literature program, including a national War Cry. A weekly edition of ‘The War Cry’ had been published in Russian in Moscow from the time of the arrival of Captains Ljungholm and the re-establishment of the Salvation Army in the capital. A recently enrolled professional correspondent, Svetlana Ivanova, was the first editor assigned to this key expansion role.

The publication was initially questioned and frowned on by the Ljungholm’s immediate superiors but was later recognized as a necessary and very practical initiative.  It was the Army’s key method of communication with the hundreds of worshippers, the many visiting our offices weekly, the Orthodox and other churches, hospitals and other institutions, embassies and government bodies. And, there were no other Salvationists in the city of nine million. No advance teams had been successful in reaching or signing agreements with city, state or the federal government institutions.


The Army’s monthly tabloid the Vjestnik Spasenija served as a great missional tool crossing borders and boundaries of every sort, geographical, cultural, societal, religious and national, communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was found presenting the Gospel in a way that was understood by all.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

OUR TICKET TO YESTERDAY Part One

STAGE IV: RECRUITMENT AND THE TRAINING GARRISON

In the early 20th century, Sweden had enjoyed 100 years of peace. 

When Robert Robinson penned the words, “Come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace,” he knew the reality of the human condition. The fair-haired Nordic people come from a long line of people whose very spirit inspired a prone for restless wandering. In the eight-century Christianity and various forms of Christ worship sought to unite the people in an ever-increasing call to the rhythm of revelation and praise, promising sustenance from the well that will never run dry.

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

The tranquility of this long-settled haven of neutrality came to an abrupt and traumatizing end on Sunday afternoon, 2 August 1914. Church bells that had peeled for generations summoning God’s people to worship now echoed from mid-city street corners to forest glens, from the Baltic strand to lofty mountain crevices: it was a call to mobilization.Prices rose steadily throughout the war and inflation was a reality. In Sweden prices rose up to 250 percent. In combination with the shortage of consumer goods, a burgeoning black market was fueled.In 1917 unrestricted submarine warfare choked imports to Sweden and torpedoed 280 Swedish merchant ships: a unified alarm sounded! 

A resolute small band of Swedish Salvationists saw past their own country’s own suffering and struggle. While the Swedish people’s focus was fixed on the war raging throughout Europe, the gaze of this courageous band of soldiers caught sight of the hopelessness in Russia. Their spirit’s aligned with their heavenly Father’s, their fate was sealed.


If the multifaceted features of Salvationist missiology could be reduced to one overriding imperative, it would lie in Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations. Such a biblical conviction was stressed repeatedly during the earliest days of the Salvation Army, so much so that the title of its international journal, All the World, was inspired by the parting words of Jesus to his followers in Mark 16:15: ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the
Gospel to every creature.’

1918
“From the beginning Salvationists have had the same realization. Sometimes the audacity of our pioneers was almost laughable. In 1882 The War Cry had announced that The Salvation Army was to invade India. The news reached Sir James Ferguson, Governor of Bombay and in his alarm he arranged for police to line the waterfront when the ship docked. The police superintendent stepped forward to face the invading forces and was somewhat incredulous when he discovered that in fact the Army consisted of just five oddly-attired English people.


In our own times a tiny group of officers has gone to Russia inspired by God and a General with a pioneer heart. Their numbers are minimal and the chances of them making an impact on one of the largest countries on earth would seem negligible. Yet although worldlings may scoff and scorn, people of faith would dare to believe and sing, "We rely not on our numbers, In His strength secure we are." We give thanks for what our little group is doing and for what their efforts mean for the morale of the Army around the world. (Astonishingly, when Russian President Boris Yeltsin addressed the Canadian Parliament 18 months after the commencement of our work he singled out the Army for special commendation.)[2]

 

How ludicrous it must have seemed. But William Booth declared, "Those who see the invisible achieve the impossible."

God's man, Elisha, faced his foes with incredible confidence. He said, "Our army is bigger than theirs." Quite obviously he was not thinking in terms of numbers. If he had counted heads he would have been out for the count! If he had played the numbers game he would have felt a loser from the start. In fact, he realized that an army is not to be measured only in numbers.[3]

The Ljungholms were appointed to Moscow with instructions to re-open the work of The Salvation Army, banned seven decades earlier. Armed with his grandfather’s 70-year old blueprint on planting the SA in Moscow, and weighed down with several hundred Russian New Testaments, an Army banner, some private belongings and $200.00 in SA funds, they were confident in their assigned task, "to share the good news of salvation". 
Adjutants Otto and Gerda Ljungholm (grandparents of Captain Sven-Erik Ljungholm) had been responsible for the original opening of The Salvation Army in Moscow in 1918.

Sven-Erik Ljungholm

Part One of Six

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Throw your cash in the bin!

Rapid Advance To Cashless Society And Digital Control

Society has come a long way since the days of barter to the era of coins followed by paper currencies, and now banks and governments around the world stand ready to take the next step: eliminating cash altogether. 

People increasingly rely upon direct deposit of wages, credit cards and now electronic payment services offered by such companies as Google and Apple, but could the cash point machine and cash itself disappear altogether in the coming years? 

Imagine a world in which you cannot hold a dollar bill in your hand and may only send or receive money with permission of a bank.

The reasons often given to eliminate cash are to disrupt criminal transactions, cut off funding to terrorism, stop tax evasion and of course, to save on the costs to banks and governments. 

Following the money has been a time-honored tactic, from Al Capone who was brought down for tax evasion to the bombings by the United States of cash stockpiles held by the Islamic State. 

Soon that will be only a click away for the corporate-controlled Surveillance State.

For England, in 2015 cash was used in less than half of all transactions which should not be a surprise after a new poll revealed more than two thirds of Brits and three quarters of Londoners think that cash will be a thing of the past in just 20 years.  

The poll carried out by the Mayor of London's PR company, London & Partners, shows that 68% of people think that cashless technologies will completely replace physical money by 2036. 

The figure is even higher in London, which has seen the greatest rise in the use of contactless payments thanks to the technology's presence on the public transport network.

It was only a few years ago that The Payments Council advanced the proposal of eliminating checks. The Council reversed its position due to popular opposition, but it isn't likely to be the last such proposal.

Elsewhere, the move to eliminate cash is a seemingly inevitable trend.

Norway's largest bank, DNB, proposed as recently as 2015 to stop using cash throughout the country. DNB Executive Trond Bentestuen is quoted as saying, "Today, there is approximately 50 billion kroner in circulation and Norges Bank can only account for 40% of its use. That means that 60% of money usage is outside of any control. We believe that is due to under-the-table money and laundering." 

For those in power, the assumption that what the bank doesn't directly control must be used for crime is a convincing argument for greater control. The Nordea Bank of Norway stopped accepting cash in November, 2015.

Sweden and Denmark are closer to the goal of a cashless society and both governments and banks have made their intentions clear. Michel Busk-Jepsen, the executive director of the Danish Bankers Association, recently stated that , "A cashless society is no longer an illusion but a vision that can be fulfilled within a reasonable time frame." 

In Denmark, cash has been replaced by a combination of credit cards and mobile payment services. One such service that allows payments between individuals as well as in stores is Danske Bank's MobilePay and it's now used by 40% of the population. In Sweden, cash transactions represent no more than 2% of all economic activity.

India's PM, Narendra Modi, has also come out in support of replacing cash with digital payment platforms. Combating black market activity is a justification echoed elsewhere, but rarely has it been said so clearly, "If all of us adopt this, then we won't need cash or currency. It will be a dent on underhand dealings in business. There will be transparency, influence of black money will lessen."

Yet the dark side of currency controls is not difficult to find either. Venezuela did not officially ban cash, yet a combination of hyperinflation, currency exchange controls and the requirement to present biometric ID for all transactions has had a similar effect. 

The notes that can be withdrawn from a cash point are insufficient for the most basic needs and political opponents of the central government have seen their transaction privileges revoked, leaving them unable to buy even food. 

It would not be paranoid to think of this as a foreshadowing of the book of Revelation in which the leader's mark of allegiance grants or revokes privileges of commerce, "and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."

The dangers of totalitarian control are real, but so are the threats of hackers, power grid failure and the ease with which governments can confiscate digital currency in times of crisis. 

Many in the financial sector also foresee negative interests rates on the horizon, but without the option to withdraw one's money, we may all soon pay the bank the privilege of holding our money, a move applauded by governments as a measure to increase consumer spending and stimulate economies.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Saved, Sanctified and Serving PART TWO

That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

By some counts, there are over 2,000 religious denominations in the United States, and the World Christian Encyclopedia by Barrett, Kurian, Johnson (Oxford Univ Press, 2nd edition, 2001) refers to 33000+ total "Christian" denominations; an organized Christian group within a specific country.


Clearly, most of the listed denominations are similar ecclesiastical traditions across borders, whose component congregations and members are called by the same denominational name. And this holds for TSA in 127 countries and territories.

Modern “Christendom” is full of the names of different people and groups spanning two millennia. How did we get to this point?

We will share a brief intro to our own denominational history here.

The Salvation Army will not be found among the largest twenty-five denominations nor will it be found among the smallest.  However, the Army surges past all others in denominational social work delivered worldwide; no one comes close.


From Denis Metrustery's; Saved, Sanctified and Serving 


‘Raised up by God…’ [1]

Contextualising The Salvation Army in the Church and in the World

Denis Metrustery

It is at work in 127 countries of the world, has 2.3million members, over 26,500 officers and almost 117,000 employees[2] – but what exactly is The Salvation Army?

Internationally, the Army operates local worship centres, hostel accommodation for individuals and families, addiction dependency programmes, emergency disaster response, community services (youth, unemployed, counselling, thrift shops), hospitals and clinics, schools and education programmes.  This leads to The Salvation Army being one of the most visible Christian agencies, but its overall identity can be confused.  Is it a church, is it a social services agency, is it a humanitarian organisation?
The aim of this chapter is to examine the Army’s roots and see that it is best described as an innovative and militant Christian denomination which participates in the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God by way of its direct assault on spiritual slavery to sin and attempts to remedy the societal consequences of sin by bringing to bear God’s redemptive love and justice.[3]
        
In recent years, there has been much internal debate seeking to clarify for contemporary members the nature and mission of the Christian organisation which became known as The Salvation Army in 1878.  Founders, William and Catherine Booth, stated that their objective was not the starting of a new church, believing that many of the existing churches of their day were failing in their calling to seek and save the lost. The early Salvationists thought of their movement very much as a mission, and their unique identity was further moulded by the adoption of a military model of organisation. The Army’s obvious initial mission field was the poor of London’s East End, where the full range of human degradation weighed heavily on the Booths’ hearts. Today’s Salvation Army is often referenced as ‘Christianity with its sleeves rolled up’, an acknowledgement from a variety of quarters, both ecclesiastical and secular, of the practical nature of the Army’s approach to its calling.

Central to the Army’s self-identity is the belief that it was God himself, albeit through human agency, who brought it into being to be his ‘storm troops’ who would have no fear of reaching out to the lowest in human society to recall them from the spectre of eternal damnation. A former international leader, General Paul Rader (Rtd), proposes that

The Salvation Army was born of a vision. First, an idea germinating in the heart of God. Then, a living flame in the heart of a man and woman, William and Catherine Booth. Then, a compelling vision claiming the devotion of a growing Army of Salvation spreading across the world.[4]





[1] The Salvation Army in the Body of Christ: An Ecclesiological Statement, ( London: Salvation Books, 2008), 5 – ‘WE BELIEVE that God raised up The Salvation Army according to his purposes for his glory and for the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel.’
[2] The Salvation Army Yearbook 2016, (London: Salvation Books, 2015), 29 – statistics correct as at 1 January 2015. Slovakia became the 127th country where the Army’s work became officially recognised in September 2015
[3] The Salvation Army’s International Mission Statement can be found at Appendix A; its mission has also been summarised by pithy straplines such as ‘Heart to God, Hand to Man’, and ‘Doing the Most Good’
[4] Paul A. Rader, ‘Vision’, in Henry Gariepy & Stephen Court (eds) Hallmarks of The Salvation Army, (Blackburn, Victoria, Australia: Salvo Publishing, 2009), 65