Tuesday, November 3, 2015

BALTIC BRIDGES

TRIBUTES 
Historic sources have petered out. The majority of those who were instrumental in that battle during the early years are no longer alive. The archives in the Baltic have to a large degree been destroyed during the occupation. The same holds true for the archives at the International Headquarters in London, where most of them were destroyed when the property was bombed in May of 1941. Only the records kept at the headquarters in Stockholm are left. They originate from 1936 up to the occupation, the time when The Salvation Army in Sweden administered the work in Latvia. The headquarters in Helsinki contain some documents concerning the work in Estonia.

The question then is whether it is possible to sketch an account of The Salvation Army in the Baltic, when so much material is missing. In order to undertake the task it has been necessary to create as accurate a picture as is possible from accessible fragmented material. Previously published histories and old editions of the War Cry have been studied. Contact has been made with people in Denmark, England, Finland, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. My sincere thanks are extended to all who have helped me with this project.

During the spring of 1988 I exchanged correspondence with Major Elisabeth Balshaitis in London. She was the last leader for The Salvation Army in Latvia and the one who experienced the confiscation of all assets and the ban of activities. We had earlier met once in London and discussed The Salvation Army in Latvia. She lived in London for a long time and had in her possession several documents from the last dramatic years in Latvia during the early part of the 1940s. In our correspondence we came to the agreement that these documents should be sent to me for keeping in the archives at our headquarters. She stated that once she was gone there would be no one interested in the material and she was pleased that everything would be safeguarded. She died May 29 1989 or, as we say in The Salvation Army, was Promoted to Glory". Part of these documents became very useful when The Salvation Army once again began its operations in Latvia.

There are many whom I would like to thank for their valuable assistance and here I ought to name numerous people. I owe a great debt to all who gave me information of one kind or another.
Commissioner Rolf Roos, leader of The Salvation Army in Sweden and Latvia and previously the leader for the operations in Finland and Estonia, our current Chief Secretary as well as other officers in the Nordic countries who shared valuable information. The regional directors in Estonia and Latvia as well as other officers who have given service in the Baltic have participated in several ways, Major Else Andersson and Bertil Rodin, responsible for the work with the handicapped and the operations at Skangal. Siri Longueville was one of the first that I contacted when I began to collect material for the book. She was active in Latvia as early as 1923 and has given me a lot of valuable data. The cultural attaché at the embassy in Stockholm, Juris Kronbergs, as well as professor Baiba Kangere and her husband, researcher Karlis Kangeris at the Institute for Baltic Studies at Stockholm University, have had opportunity to study the manuscript and have given good ideas. Brigadier Sigvard Ihlar, previously the chief editor for Stridsropet (War Cry )and Lars-Erik Lingström, previously the head of Swedish International Press Agency, have examined the manuscript and given good counsel. Alf-Gunnar Brodd, currently editorial staff member at Stridsropet, has done the final editing of the material. Commissioner Birgitta K. Nilson, International Secretary for Europe, and Commissioner Karen Thomson at the International Heritage Center, International Headquarters in London, both contributed significant historical reports. Colonel Gunnar Nilsson, previously Chief Secretary, has in various ways inspired me throughout the work with the book. The Swedish Estonian engineer Lars A. Lindström has given me many interesting facts regarding Estonia. Major Björn Stockman has assisted me with the Disposition of Forces, Lt. Colonel Erik Ljungberg , Majors Barbro Wiberg and Lennarth Karlsson have helped me find materials in the archives and data from the register of officers. My grandson, Jonatan Lundberg, has rushed to my side with counsel concerning the computer when my knowledge was limited. A further thank you needs to be extended to Malin Södergren for her excellent book cover and to Hasse Hindarth for the map illustration on the front flyleaf.

Others ought to be named. Their names are in the text and I want to thank all who has contributed in order that this book could be written. Without their assistance it would have been impossible to complete the task.

The history of The Salvation Army in the Baltic lands is marked by the holy intentions of individuals and groups to fight evil and distress. Their ambitions were genuine and inspired by an unselfish struggle to give people the gospel in word and deed. The gospel was made alive when food and clothing were distributed, when homeless received night shelter, when street children were taken care of and handicapped assisted and treated as human beings.

A mercy seat was established for the very first salvation meeting in the Baltic, and the mercy seat is still there, rebuilt after it was literally demolished by the political powers. In itself it is not very special, but it is the place where heaven and earth meet, a bridge towards the light, a bridge between men and God.

The story of The Salvation Army in the Baltic hopefully will serve as a calling for someone to break out of his comfortable environment to holy adventures in Gods service. Baltic Bridges is the story of ordinary incomplete people who committed their lives to service for God and humanity. The story also give evidence that what has been torn asunder can be rebuilt. It commemorates the many from Finland, Sweden and the Baltic who worked to span the distance between peoples. Many from other countries joined in the cause. Thus the book has been named Baltic Bridges"

Hopefully many in the future will find that a mutual understanding can be built through loving others and that no obstacles are too great when it comes to building a better world.

Sven Nilsson
Stockholm

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