In the days following Major Göran Larsson's Promotion to Glory I shared the news with friends around the SA world. There was an immediate outpouring of tributes filled with a very deep affection for the man, and in which many attributed the word ‘hero’ in describing Göran.
Göran was truly one of my heroes. He had a Corinthian spirit about him; an especially high criterion of triumphing in the Army’s war against circumstances. – He was a unique man, a life enhancer with a passionate belief in the little man, a Salvationist faithful in his conviction caring about the unsung, unseen majority.
General Wilfred Kitching had this to say about heroes:
"It is said that every young man has his hero! If so, are we anyone's hero? The officer who is a 'soldier ever inch', who fearlessly attacks evil, loves the people, frequents their haunts to rescue them, persistently visits public houses to establish contact with men and is a friend to every boy and girl he meets in the street - that officer soon becomes a hero to some young Salvationist. And many young men and women have had their imagination fired by another's inspiring leadership in Army adventures. In many corps, richly endowed characters wander along life's highway, doing next to nothing with their lives - till their eyes are touched and their imaginations kindled. A hero appears!”
I've lost count of the many times he traveled to post-Perestroika Russia, in the scorching heat of summer and in bitterly cold winters. Göran shares from his visit to Siberia in chapter 25.
He coordinated and delivered humanitarian aid, medical equipment, food-stuffs and more, to aid a Salvation Army officer couple struggling to re-establish the Army in Moscow, under often extremely difficult circumstances. On one such visit he arrived traveling in a huge truck in the middle of the night. We managed to find a night watchman who unlocked a storage shed some 40-50 yards from the dirt road, and there Göran and I, with the help of a two others called up at 01:00, trudged, carrying heavy beef carcasses through two foot snowdrifts until the truck was emptied 4 hours later at dawn, with snow still falling.
And, he often brought with him teams of workers, including musicians and workers from his Stockholm SA corps. He was a key encourager and supporter who brought with him the spirit of the servant Christ, sharing it with hundreds of us. No task was too difficult and no assignment too lowly for Göran.
And once, when it appeared to Göran that the Swedish government wasn't pulling its weight in providing aid to the Russian people, when compared to other countries and international bodies, Göran decided their apparent indifference warranted a more direct attack. He requested that I make a hasty visit to Sweden to join him in an important meeting.
On my arrival at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport he drove us straight to the Parliament building and marched me into the Prime Minister's office to participate in a pre-arranged meeting. There we shared the army's Russian story. The next day, on my return to Moscow, I received a message that the Swedish Ambassador wanted to meet with Kathie and me; the meeting resulted in an immediate investment in our work bringing tons of necessary aid!
Lubyanka, KGB Headquarters Moscow, Russia
Göran also became a hero to many Russian Salvationists and other Christians he encountered.
I recall a visit to the KGB headquarters and Göran 's request for documents and proof of the prosecution, suffering and execution Christians, including Salvationists, had suffered in the early days of Stalin's reign. They insisted such records didn't exist, but Göran would not be discouraged or deterred. And it was only subsequent to his courageous refusal to 'back down' that the KGB officers acknowledged that SA officers and soldiers had indeed been among those persecuted by Stalin's henchmen.
Göran and his wife Chris served as Regional Commanders in Latvia, until his health deteriorated to such a degree that he had to return to Sweden for more sophisticated oncology treatment. During his 3-year battle with cancer his engagement in the salvation war never wavered.
Telephone calls, Email notes of encouragement and articles to be shared through my blog became essential weapons in his armament when his condition no longer permitted visits outside his quarters. Göran remained an enabler, sharing regularly. And his and Chris’s love for TSA's work in Latvia continues to be an inspiration to me to this day.
Yes, a hero to countless people has laid down his sword and now wears the victor's crown. Well done Göran and may we, like you, aspire to serve God as bold, courageous and victorious servants of Jesus Christ!
Copyright © 2016 by Sven Ljungholm
RETURN TO BATTLE IN RUSSIA – AND BEYOND
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