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.’
Gospel to every creature.’
“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.)
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.
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".