Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Was God’s Army destined to fail? Part Four

Otto Ljungholm's Diary - Moscow
1918 Page 47

Adding today: Kiev Ukraine March 28, 1993  (74 years since the last entry)

I don't know if I'm allowed to do this grandfather, to write on these pages, but I wanted to share our victories with you and perhaps just somehow, to bring the diary up to date - to in some way keep it alive to inspire others.

It seems a bit strange that after only a year since our official re-opening ceremonies in Moscow that so many Muscovites accept our presence as both necessary and almost commonplace. A year ago the uniformed presence of my wife Kathie or me in the Metro (subway), Red Square, or Gorky Street would solicit both quizzical stares and flurries of questions. Since that time, however, the Army’s presence in more than 40 Moscow soup kitchens, a nightly soup run to the Leningradsky Vachsal – railway station, and monthly visits and distribution of aid to more than 360 institutions and organizations, including the notorious Boutirka Prison have made the Army’s Christian social work commonplace.

Coupled with the very active and visual social services have been snippets aired on television and in media columns, sharing highlights of our Sunday School and Holiness meetings. Therefore, perhaps one shouldn't be surprised that uniformed soldiers of Moscow’s Central Corps are often asked by fellow Muscovites: “Where is your church located – Is it on Gorky Street near Красная площадь, Red Square? The question is a valid one, however, one that cannot be answered concretely with respect to the inquirer’s assumptions.

Bishop William Temple said: “The church is the only organization in the world that doesn’t exist for the sake of its members.” And that recently established branch of the Christian church whose soldiers march forward in Jesus’ name on Moscow’s Gorky Street, and soon on the streets of Ukraine and Moldova, is no different. General Eva Burrows has made clear: “The Salvation Army exists for others. Its people are the despairing and the dispossessed, the homeless and the hopeless, the lonely and the lost.”

On October 17, 1918 Adjutant Otto Ljungholm conducted the first Salvation Army meeting in Moscow in the 250 seat auditorium C in the Polytechnic Museum, filled to overflowing…. Within weeks the Bolsheviks moved on government orders to force the expulsion of the Salvation Army from Russia.

Seventy three years later, almost to the day, Salvation Army meetings were reinstated in the very hall where Adjutant Otto Ljungholm welcomed the first Russian penitent to the Mercy Seat. The rented ‘hall’ used when the Army was reinstated in late 1991 in Moscow was filled with an equally expectant standing room only crowd of more than 200. And the sermon notes were built on the notes in grandfather Otto’s diary from that first meeting.

On reflection a year later I see clearly that God’s message to us on that day when Kathie and I ‘re-opened fire’ was that He, can and will shape the church when and where He pleases.

And we’d disproved Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn claim that “you can’t buy a ticket to yesterday”.

I recall as though it was yesterday when our Toyota van first cross Red Square, weighed down with 1000 Russian New Testaments, song sheets, a few hundred blankets, our two suitcases and an Army flag! Nineteen months has flown by since Kathie and I first stood on Gorky Street, surrounded by the needy, Moscow’s needs wondering where do we start? And “who are we to have been entrusted by our leaders to begin such a work?”


Vårt land (Our country)
Author: Johan Ludvig Runeberg - Theme: Russia

*Och fördes vi att bo i glans
Bland guldmoln i det blå,
Och blev vårt liv en stjärnedans,
Där tår ej göts, där suck ej fanns,
Till detta arma land ändå
Vår längtan skulle stå.

And were we brought to live in splendor
Among golden clouds in skies of blue,
And were our life a stellar dance,
Where tears aren’t shed, where laments aren’t known,
To this poor country still
Our longing would endure.*

(Translation to English; Sven Ljungholm)

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