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The Salvation Army, an international movement, is a branch of the universal Christian Church. Based on the Bible, its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is both spiritual and practical, encompassing the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and alleviating human suffering and distress without discrimination. (Mission Statement Salvation Army, 2000)
Originally known as the Christian Mission, the name The Salvation Army was adopted in 1878 and since then the organisation s structure has been based on military lines. Members of the Salvation Army include Officers, or Clergy; Soldiers and Adherents or Laity; members of various activity groups and volunteers. They are all motivated by a love of god and a concern for the needs of all humanity (Salvation Army 1998; ). This motivation is expressed in the work of the Salvation Army
Formed in the slums of London during 1865 by a former Methodist minister, William Booth, The Salvation Army had, as its original purposes the intention of making the church more accessible to the poor. However its initial followers were not welcomed by the wealthy and respectable church members of the day and Mr Booth was forced to provide a more permanent organisation for the ongoing spiritual care of his converts.
The main objectives of the Salvation Army of today are to preach the Gospel, spread Christian truths, provide basic human necessities such as food, clothing and shelter; and work to promote spiritual, moral and physical well being.
The Salvation Army gladly helps all in need, regardless of race, colour, creed, sex or age. Anyone can join. The members must be converted to Christ; accept the doctrines of the Salvation Army and agree to actively support the Army’s principles and work.
Commissioned Officers, who are ordained ministers trained for full-time service in Salvation Army Schools for Officers’ Training, form the leadership of the Salvos. These people dedicate their lives to the work of the Army. Each also belongs to a corps and is a soldier as well as an officer. Soldiers form the next strata in the heirarchy. These are members of the congregation and are in the local Corps Community Centre church-fellowship-welfare unit. Adherents are persons of good standing and character who, by attendance and financial support, consider the Salvation Army to be their place of worship.
As mentioned above, The Salvation Army is organised in a military pattern. It adheres to the New Testament concept of enlistment in the service of God as soldiers who subject themselves to Divine authority and discipline. The international leader is a General, whilst officers are ranked by seniority and merit. Women hold equal rank with men (if married, a woman holds her husband’s rank). Each officer must be prepared to transfer to a new post on short notice, according to the requirements of the service. This calls for complete dedication to the will of God. The Salvation Army serves people in over 90 countries. Its activities are diverse and vary according to the needs of the community.
In the United States of America the Salvation Army operates group homes for retarded people, drop-in centres for runaways and drug addicts, and programs to combat child abuse; whereas, in Jamaica in the West Indies the Army maintains an outstanding School, workshops, a training forum and a home for the blind.
In Europe the Army has different projects. For example in Paris the Army has a barge on the River Seine to provide food and shelter for the homeless. And in India the Army has more than 4,900 Centres including the Catherine Booth Hospital at Nagercoil, where fifty buildings provide a variety of services including medical, surgical and rehabilitation services to thousands of patients each year.
In Africa the Army operates more than 4,000 Centres across the Continent. These include schools for blind people and rehabilitation Centres for crippled children. And in Hong Kong many young people learn trades at Army vocational training centres.
The Salvation Army began its work in Australia in 1880 when Edward Saunders and John Gore led the first Salvation Army meeting from the back of a green grocer s cart in Adelaide Botanic Park. When Gore said, If there is a man here who hasn t had a square meal today, let him come home to tea with me, he was exemplifying the Army s commitment to the welfare of all men. Although the path was not always smooth, and surprisingly early salvationists faced rowdy and sometimes violet opposition, by 1890 mob attacks had virtually disappeared. By the turn of the century Salvationists were accepted in the Australian community.
Since its beginning in the United States in 1880, the Salvation Army has grown tremendously. In the U.S.A. today it has more than 10,500 Centres, including service units; 5,300 Officers and 32,000 employees. Wherever the Salvation Army serves, it is a shining example of faith in action.
Today members of the Salvation Army continue to work where the need is greatest, guided by their faith in God and love for all people. As an expression of its spiritual beliefs, the Army offers humanitarian services such as physical aid, special assistance and rehabilitation centres. Whenever disaster strikes, the Salvation Army mobile canteens bring food, clothing, blankets and medical supplies. Workers comfort victims, help re-unite families and find emergency shelter. It can truly be said that the founding objectives of preaching the Gospel; spreading Christian truths; providing basic human necessities such as food, clothing and shelter; and working to promote spiritual, moral and physical well being, have been achieved.
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