Tuesday, April 25, 2017

RETURN TO BATTLE IN RUSSIA AND BEYOND



 SOON TO BE RELEASED -Sharing Excerpt 1 -

A TICKET TO YESTERDAY


Russian historian and novelist Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and communism. Solzhenitsyn, awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature wrote in his First Circle; “You can’t buy a ticket to yesterday,” seemingly referencing the futility of redeeming his nation’s evil history. Few persons are given the privilege to revisit and amend history in any truly significant way. However, Sven Ljungholm and his pioneering wife and daring partner Kathie were granted that rare prospect in 1991 guided by his grandfather’s diary detailing his 1918 history. Into the pages of his diary is compressed his experience and what he and other pioneers accomplished during the 2nd decade of the 20th century. 

The diary is replete with tales of starvation, suffering, and self-sacrifice. However, the diary is also filled with shouts of hallelujahs, songs of triumph and victorious praise. Sadly, though, the saga ends abruptly subsequent to a ten-year evangelical thrust, leaving one with significant questions about God’s unfinished work in Russia.
Sven and Kathie Ljungholm shared in the official appointment to re-establish the Salvation Army in Moscow, Russia’s capital city of 11 million inhabitants subsequent to the Army's absence of more than eight decades. Armed with two cartons of Russian Bibles, $250 in official Salvation Army funds, a small selection of humanitarian aid and the prayers of Salvationists the world over, they rolled down Gorky street in search of the promised ‘borrowed,’ unseen apartment.




The Ljungholms came into their roles as officers in mid-life. Sven was a successful travel industry executive having held positions including Executive Vice President of a major European tour operator and President of an airline. Kathie owned and operated her own bookkeeping service.
Their first appointment as Salvation Army officers was to revive an old and tired corps in New York on Manhattan’s 52nd Street, a stone’s throw from Sven’s earlier corporate headquarters on Madison Avenue.
Their creativity, combined drive, and entrepreneurship brought immediate results. Sunday worship services featured guest speakers, musicians, and other artists and their participation was advertised weekly in the New York Times. 

The Sunday congregation grew steadily and soon evolved as an eclectic gathering consisting of a score of inactive Salvationists eager to recommit their God-given talents, yuppies living on New York’s East side wishing to participate and assist in the ‘feeding of the street people,’ and a large number of active Salvation Army officers transferred in from other New York area corps wishing to involve themselves in an authentic reliving of the early Army ethos.

The corps’ concern for its Manhattan neighbours evidenced itself in a dramatic fashion. Sven was attending Fordham University earning his Master’s degree in Education Administration and with Kathie’s oversight the corps’ large basement area was transformed into student accommodation housing eighteen homeless men. A second-floor lounge was turned into a classroom and the building became a high school, certified by the New York board of education, with Ljungholm named its Principal. The cutting-edge educational model was made famous when the first of its graduates received their diplomas, robed in black gowns and wearing traditional mortar boards, in the cavernous Grand Central Station where many of the students had ‘lived’ for months before taking up residence on Manhattan’s fashionable upper east side at the Salvation Army Central citadel corps. A regular turnout of high school graduates was the result. Many of the graduates went on to higher education studying at local colleges and universities. Employment secured, families reunited, souls reconciled with God and twice weekly soldier and adherent classes initiated. The 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, issued a special commendation congratulating the corps on its initiative. The famous Marble Collegiate Church’s senior minister Norman Vincent Peale, the noted author of The Power of Positive Thinking, was one of many who contacted Ljungholm requesting information on how to establish a similar educational program. All of the US national TV networks, CBN, CNN, BBC, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Toronto Globe and the Christian Science Monitor featured the Army’s program with several stating it was very much in the tradition of William Booth!


Ljungholm traveled extensively at the invitation of many seeking his creative input related to both social services programming and fundraising. He was a regular guest speaker at Rotary clubs, of which he was a member, in many USA states, the UK, Scandinavia, and Russia. He was the principal speaker at the annual Church of Sweden meeting in Ostersund, Sweden. He returned to his native Sweden while stationed in Russia as the principal speaker at the annual Rotary convention in southern Sweden. Captain Ljungholm was the first ‘Westerner’ to address the Russian Parliament on the election of Boris Yeltsin as its President. And, he often accompanied Madame Ella Pomfilova, Russia’s Minister of Social Protection, at her request, as a consultant and spokesperson on matters of social concern. In addition, Ljungholm was a regular lecturer at the Youth Institute, Russia’s Military Officer Academy, and the Moscow Humanities University.
Sven Ljungholm earned his Ph.D., while on a short leave of absence from The Salvation Army, at the Moscow State Humanities University.


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