1993 Captain Sven Ljungholm
Commander, Ukraine – Moldova
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said when presented the
Nobel Prize in 1970:
“We must go out into battle – one word of truth outweighs the whole world “
As I write this my wife and I are sharing our last week-end as commanding officers of the Moscow Central Corps, encamped with one hundred seventy five of the corps’ uniformed young people, the maximum number of persons the Russian Foreign Ministry resort can accommodate. It’s on the Moscow River near Camp Victory the setting of the corps’ summer Bible, music and fellowship camp programs the last two years. Many of our young people were saved and undertook their recruit classes there.
Included in the corps young people make up is a first-rate singing company of sixty members, some who are also included in the Corps Cadet group numbering almost one hundred, the national folk dance troupe of twenty, and the fourteen member timbrel brigade.
The repeated phrase my wife and I have shared this weekend is; God has done an incredible work in the lives of these young people - where were they a year ago? – And how did God direct the other four hundred uniformed soldiers the Army's way?
It was just 19 months ago since our first Moscow SA meeting, and 12 months ago today that General Eva Burrows presented us with the Moscow Cental Corp's new standard with the tricolours our soldiers had come to treasure, but this time with Blood and Fire spelled out in Cyrillic fonts. And with it, the pulpit cloth with the SA crest in its original Russian design incorporating the Orthodox cross. More than five hundred Russians, young and a bit older, have been ‘baptized’ into our sacred Moscow fellowship beneath its colors.
How did God bring them together - and to what end?
Often in these last months my thoughts have been thrown back to the times when I visited my retired Salvation Army officer grandparents as a child. I explored every inch of their small retirement quarters in Sweden, and often my “exploration” included their tiny darkened closet. There, seated on the floor, I would sift through their memorabilia, items collected and saved from a lifetime of service, items precious mostly to themselves. Their greatest treasures, perhaps because it represented all that they had salvaged when fleeing Russia in the company of a handful of other pioneer officers in 1918, were bound up and kept on the corner shelf. The closeted items included a wooden bonnet box, some rubles, a tri-coloured prayer rug, an icon removed from the wall of the army hall in Moscow, grandfather’s Russian Bible, a Russian SA song book, and grandfather’s brittle paged diary.
As an eight-year-old boy and again the following two years when I visited, I read my grandfathers diary from cover to… well to page 46 at least, where halfway down the page his entries halted abruptly. I sat and closed my eyes and dreamt that I too was a part of the brave bands whose victories he recorded; I too stood on Gorky Street in Central Moscow, as a Salvation Army officer, and like him, led ‘poor Russians’ to Christ. They were wonderful victories - he praised God on every page; for the opportunity to serve, and each page ended with a special uplifted prayer, speckled with ‘hallelujahs’ and ‘Slava Bogu’ (Praise God) for those who came, sought and found salvation. As I matured the diary and its sentiments became ever more meaningful, challenging and inspiring.
Fifteen years reality and a career far removed from concern for Gorski Street’s poor and suffering led instead to lofty corporate boardrooms in Manhattan, London, and Kowloon. I didn't see the diary again until some months following my grandfather’s promotion to Glory when I learned he’d bequeathed it to me. As I re-read those pages, now as an adult, I reflected on the irony, the paradox, that an all-powerful God had allowed “His Army" of salvation to be defeated, banished, indeed vanquished from the battlefield! Through the years of my secular career, one that brought me to Russia on business several times, my mind often went to that unfinished diary, implying God’s unfinished battle - a failure.
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