Free milk flows to The Salvation Army in Georgia

PHOTO CAPTION: Lanita Lloyd (checked bandanna), director of emergency disaster services for the Georgia Division, and Kelley Bedore (right), director of The Salvation Army Service Center in Tifton, Georgia, hand out free milk at a “Milk-A-Palooza” in Tifton on June 23.

Free milk flows to The Salvation Army in Georgia

By: David Ibata

It’s not manna from heaven, but something close: Free gallon jugs of fresh milk to any household in need, courtesy of the Borden Dairy Co., the USDA and The Salvation Army.

“It’s a huge need, because our numbers of COVID-19 cases are rising, and people are afraid to go out,” said Kelley Bedore, director of The Salvation Army Service Center in Tifton, Georgia, a rural community about 180 miles south of Atlanta.

Borden, based in Dallas, Texas, was awarded a contract in May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under its Farmers to Families Food Box Program of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. The dairy will supply 700 million servings of fresh milk to qualifying nonprofits in the South and Midwest.

Twenty-nine Salvation Army corps and service centers in the Georgia Division have expressed interest in the program, according to Lanita Lloyd, divisional director of emergency disaster services. The Marietta and Thomasville corps and Tifton, Bainbridge and Americus service centers have signed up.

“The majority are starting with small quantities and making sure they can distribute the milk quickly, because most of The Salvation Army units do not have large refrigerated storage,” Lloyd said. “We’re disbursing milk within hours of receiving it.”

Tifton had its first “Milk-A-Palooza” on June 23.

“The Borden man brought about 250 gallons of fresh, cold milk from their plant in Albany (Georgia),” Bedore said. “He set up a table outside the service center, and we distributed milk to the community.”

Anticipating bigger crowds at the second milk distribution on July 10, Bedore, her team of volunteers and a Salvation Army mobile feeding unit (canteen) set up at the Tifton Mall shopping center. Bedore’s daughter, Logan Seeman, 22, pitched in, drawing up “Free Milk” signs.

About 400 bottles of milk were given to individuals and families; 30 bottles delivered to senior citizens at home; and 200 bottles shared with other social service providers.

“I reached out to different agencies to see if they had a need,” Bedore said. “One was a day care and another, a soup kitchen. So we’re providing for the other nonprofits in town.”

Bedore said The Salvation Army will continue giving out free milk as long as Borden keeps delivering it.

“Especially for the elderly or for the health-compromised, they can pull up in their car and we’ll put the milk in their back seat and they can be on their way with no contact,” Bedore said. “This has been such a blessing.”


$800,000 grant will help Atlanta Red Shield Services fight homelessness

$800,000 grant will help Atlanta Red Shield Services fight homelessness

By: David Ibata

A grant of more than $800,000 will help The Salvation Army fight homelessness in Atlanta, Georgia, by providing financial assistance to families facing hardship, eviction and utility shut-offs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Red Shield Services of The Salvation Army Atlanta Metropolitan Area Command recently was awarded a $816,796 grant by the city of Atlanta, which is distributing to social service providers some of the $88.5 million it received under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Red Shield Services operates a downtown homeless shelter with 320 beds.

“Almost half a million of the grant will go toward homelessness prevention – for rent and utility assistance to keep people from losing their homes,” said Sergeant Janeane Schmidt, Red Shield Services director. The rest of the funds will pay the salaries of newly hired Red Shield case workers and aides, and for increased operating expenses attributable to the coronavirus crisis.

Six new staff members will be hired. Two employees will work on homelessness prevention, one case worker will help people find permanent housing, and one case worker will handle job placements. Two more case workers, both part-time, will assist at the shelter.

“We were maxed out for a long time,” as Red Shield and other shelters went from nighttime-only facilities to 24-hour operations to get the medically vulnerable homeless population off the streets, Sergeant Schmidt said. “Our shelter costs also increased quite a bit because we went from two meals a day to three for more than 300 people. And imagine what our water bill was with people here all day.”

Normal shelter hours returned at the end of June for individual clients, and on the second weekend of July for families. The nearby Salvation Army Fuqua Boys & Girls Club has reopened, giving children a safe place to go during the day.

Red Shield Services is now working on an online system that will let people apply and upload documents for emergency financial assistance. “That way, we can process them without having them come into the office,” Sergeant Schmidt said.

Thanks to the CARES funds, those who still have housing “will be blessed by not being evicted or having their power shut off … all those people who suddenly have been hit with two or three months’ of bills and no income.”


Virtual summer: TYMI convenes online July 27-31

Virtual summer: TYMI convenes online July 27-31

By: David Ibata

“But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.” — Psalm 59:16-17 (New Living Translation)

The Youth and Music departments of The Salvation Army Southern Territory aren’t letting some virus get in the way of reaching young people with the Word of God. In these days of COVID-19, the departments are going “virtual” for combined, 2020 Territorial Youth and Music Institutes.

This year’s gathering of praise, fellowship and learning runs for five days, Monday-Friday, July 27-31. Rather than physically meeting as in past years, hundreds of delegates will log in online.

The organizers acknowledge the challenge of putting together a program that appeals to those who for months have been isolated from friends, schools and corps and living on their devices.

“A lot of our young people and young adults are kind of burned out on the virtual stuff,” said Major Tim Gilliam, territorial youth secretary. “Many of them did virtual studies the last part of the school year, and the last thing they want to do is get back on a device.”

With a theme of “Unfailing,” inspired by Psalm 59:16-17, “we think TYI and TMI will be compelling and intriguing enough that we’ll have a wide audience” – indeed, an audience that might surpass the attendance of past, in-person meetings.

Because content will be streamed live on YouTube and Facebook, and some sessions will be recorded for later viewing, many no-longer-so-young people who remember their own experiences at the institutes may return to sample this year’s offerings. (Attendees typically range in age from 15 to 25; TYI generates about 400 registrations, and TMI, 250.)

Nicholas Simmons-Smith, territorial music and creative arts education secretary, agreed with Major Gilliam: “Some of our kids are bored, some of them are de-motivated. This is an opportunity to get into their lives and get them fired up again. Hopefully, we’ll be able to develop the esprit de corps we have when we’re together.”

TYI and TMI will be accessed through Attendify, an app that will collate all information and send delegates to the right places at the right times.

Youth and music delegates will begin the day together at 10 a.m. EDT at Morning Manna, “a time of worship and Bible teaching, a 50-minute segment broadcast on all our social media channels,” Simmons-Smith said. “We’ll provide dynamic worship music, and TYI will offer wonderful teaching, Scripture and testimony.”

Featured guests Steve Carter and Megan Fate Marshman will speak on alternating mornings, on “Unfailing Love,” “Unfailing Grace,” “Unfailing Justice,” “Unfailing Truth” and “Unfailing God.” At 11 a.m., TYI and TMI attendees will split up and head off to their respective sessions (details below).

Everybody will get back together at 7 p.m. Themes will include a Music Night with Damien Horne and the Magi, a Gameshow Night, and a Testimony and Prayer Night. A Solo Night will feature performance videos submitted by delegates. A question-and-answer panel with Commissioners Willis and Barbara Howell and a Q&A forum with divisional music and creative arts directors also are planned.

The 9 p.m. hour will bring “Late Night Live,” set up like a talk show with a host, Major Marion Platt of the Memphis, Tennessee, Area Command, and special guests and a house band.

“The host will recap the message from the morning, so delegates will have that in mind when they go to sleep,” Major Gilliam said. “It will be more light-hearted, hopefully, with laughing and good fellowship and giveaways of things like AirPods Pros.”

TYI and TMI, Simmons-Smith said, “is something our kids look forward to every year. It’s important we maintain this connection with them. When we come out of this COVID crisis, we’ll need them fully engaged and on fire at their corps. This is an impetus to get them going before the school year starts.”

Territorial Youth Institute

“The breakout sessions will flesh out the ‘Unfailing’ theme, and there also will be practical classes, from ‘Adulting’ – how to prepare a personal budget, for example – to fun things like baking, and a Bible study,” Major Gilliam said. “There will a be a mix of serious and light-hearted content with variety and charismatic leaders.”

Other offerings will include “Social Distancing, Not Spiritual Distancing” led by Captains Rob and Heather Dolby, territorial missions specialists; “Breakout With a Workout,” with Kevin Chamlee, wellness director at Evangeline Booth College; and “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See,” an anti-pornography workshop led by Bernie Dake, assistant territorial music secretary.

A small group of about 20 delegates will participate in “Focused Living,” a leadership track conducted by the School for Leadership Development.

“We want to make things attractive so people want to participate,” Major Gilliam said. “And because this is a virtual and electronic event, we’re convinced people outside the typical age range for TYI also will participate.”

Territorial Music Institute

The Territorial Music Institute will offer three daily breakout sessions, at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. There will be tracks for brass and percussion instruments; worship teams; and creative arts.

“In the brass area, we’ll have Zoom interviews with outstanding Salvationists from around the Army world – people like Phil Smith, a professor of music at the University of Georgia and former principal trumpet for the New York Philharmonic; and Stephen Cobb, bandmaster of the International Staff Band in London,” Simmons-Smith said. “I’ll interview them, and they’ll lead a master class.”

Brass and percussion students who wish to do so also may sign up for private lessons. Each will connect with a teacher by Zoom for a 30- to 50-minute session.

Worship teams will be divided into guitar, bass guitar, piano, vocal and drum subtracks. “There might be a teacher doing a Zoom lesson and five or six people participating with guitars,” Simmons-Smith said. “It will be less of a master class and more of a session on practical technique.”

Creative arts will cover dance, drama and, possibly, photography. “These are more performance-driven. Throughout the week, they’ll build a piece to be performed at the end,” Simmons-Smith said.

For more information, and to register:


Recognizing God’s fingerprints

Recognizing God’s fingerprints

By: Captain Sandra Pawar

The following article originally appeared on the Australian Salvation Army website and was written by Captain Sandra Pawar, a Southern Territory officer serving in Australia.

“We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.” Richard Rohr

I’m a person who has a deep desire to be in relationship with people. I’m at my best when surrounded by others, having deep conversations, laughing with them and sharing life around a table or on comfortable living-room couches.

I’m the kind of person who longs to be fully invested in the community in which I work and live. Not only do I want to be fully present and involved in my community, I want to join God in what he is already doing in these places. I want to hear people’s stories and what God has been doing in their lives.

As a Christian, I know that when I work, live or move into a community, I’m entering a space where Jesus is already present and that all I am doing is joining him in what he is already doing. I have come to understand that it is God who is leading and inviting me to join him as his partner, not the other way around.

For a long time, I wanted to be the hero of the story, the problem solver, the person to bring Jesus to people, but that is such a dangerous and damaging approach. I don’t bring Jesus anywhere; he was there long before I even knew of the location.

In these days of social distancing and isolation I have struggled with not being able to be around “my” people. I have hated that I can’t visit people freely or have them visit me. I feel such a grief for the personal connection I have lost with people in my community.

I have also had times where I have mourned the loss of being able to bring the gospel to these communities. I have thought, “How will they know about Jesus if I am not allowed to share him with them?”

Jesus has been so quick to put me in my place. You see, Jesus is already there in that community. He is at work, and, in fact, he never left that community. Jesus didn’t have to follow any social distancing rules or self-isolate from his people. He was there; he has always been there.

Jesus was already present in our communities before we got there, before COVID-19 messed things up and before we had to retreat. This is important to understand because when restrictions are lifted and we are allowed to socialize with people again, our friends and our neighbors are going to have stories to share. They will have stories to share about how God spoke to them, how God provided for them, how God protected them and how God healed them. They might not mention his name, but it was him.

While we have been in our houses keeping our families safe, God has been moving. Beautiful stories have been unfolding in the lives of our community members. When life gets back to normal (whatever that will look like), it will be our job to hear, see and recognize the hand of God at work.

We will need to recognize the activity of God in the story of the community. Whether the community is Christian or not, whether religious or not, our theology tells us that God has been doing creative and redemptive work in the life of the community, if only we look for it.

Wherever a disaster was averted, an expected blessing received, God and grace were at work. Wherever things have worked for life and against death, Christ’s fingerprints can be seen. All things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17-18).


Where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here?

By: Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson

Soldiers on the march often ask, “Where are we heading next?” As the guidelines and restrictions brought on by COVID-19 change, many are asking, “Where do we go from here?”

When the Israelites were freed from Egyptian bondage, they followed Moses into the Sinai wilderness.  Many must have been wondering why they were heading southeast. The promised land of Canaan was northeast, and the usual route followed the Via Maris along the coast. God, through Moses, led them through the wilderness to Mount Sinai and in the process provided for their needs (water, manna, quail), protected them in battle (Midianites) and guided them with his presence (pillar of fire, cloud) – teaching them valuable lessons they would need in moving forward as God’s people.

Isaiah 55:8 says, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”  We need to make sure as we move forward that we are following God’s ways and not forging our own path.

I admit that the way forward is very uncertain – especially as government guidelines continue to change frequently. What I am certain of is that moving forward does not include “returning to normal,” especially as it relates to ministry. We are beginning the hard work of learning from these last few months and charting a course for tomorrow.

Please don’t hunker down in our buildings. We have learned that the “Church” is not an address but a body of believers living in communities. Our beautiful facilities should be training grounds preparing us to go into our neighborhoods and preach the good news of Jesus Christ. Please continue to explore new and inventive ways to minister to a lost and hurting world. I have seen many wonderful ways that corps and commands have adjusted to restrictions and still meet human need in Jesus’ name. We can’t continue to rely on the programs handed down from previous generations but must explore new ways to touch people’s lives with the love of God.

I believe that the lessons of “stay-at-home” and “social distancing” are that we must mobilize for mission. Jesus told his disciples just before His ascension, “Go and make disciples . . . and be sure of this:  I am with you always” (Matthew 28:19-20), even during a pandemic.

Where are you going from here?


‘It’s a new day at the Atlanta Temple Corps’

‘It’s a new day at the Atlanta Temple Corps’

By: Brad Rowland

“It’s a new day at the Atlanta Temple Corps.”

On Wednesday, July 1, Captain Ken Argot, corps officer, uttered that phrase as part of the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of a new day center. Though the opening ceremony was delivered in a virtual manner due to COVID-19 restrictions, the atmosphere was festive in nature, with genuine excitement about the work that has already been done and the work that lies ahead.

Captain Argot thanked partners in the community as well as internal support staff and volunteers. He praised Reggie Gilbert, an Atlanta Temple employee, as the location’s “ambassador to many in the homeless community,” and Gilbert certainly wasn’t alone in garnering accolades.

“None of this would be possible without the work of Caleb Louden,” Captain Argot said. “Caleb had the vision to create this opportunity. He wrote the grant, set the parameters and developed the initial partnerships.”

For nearly a decade, The Salvation Army operated a program titled “SALT’D,” an acronym for showers and laundry time with devotions, and the new day center signals an expansion of those efforts to a fully developed five-day program. Louden, who now works as an employee at territorial headquarters while remaining a soldier at Atlanta Temple, shepherded the development of the day center while serving as a Salvation Army mission specialist, and he spoke glowingly about the endeavor.

“This is a great day for The Salvation Army Atlanta Temple Corps,” Louden said. “For a couple of years, I had the privilege of helping to lead what we called SALT’D. It’s amazing to see this day finally here and to celebrate with you all what really is a new day for our day center.

“For many years, people experiencing homelessness found themselves living under the bridges along the Peachtree Creek, unseen by so many in our community and unseen even though they were living in unsafe, unhealthy conditions. They were, to a large degree, ignored. Over 10 years ago, some of our soldiers and officers made it their mission to go out to these people, and to serve them … They began to reach out to these individuals, offering material needs and friendship, and beginning relationships. It is that moment in the life of the corps that led to SALT’D, which has been one of our ways to serve the community and pursue our mission.”

Under the leadership of Jessica George, social services program manager, the new day center will operate Monday through Friday from 9-11 a.m., offering showers, laundry services, clothing, food, agency referrals and more. Plans are also in the works for classes to be offered at 11 a.m. each day, with topics such as simple budgeting, health and wellness, music, ESL, art and more.

Representatives from the community gathered alongside Lt. Colonel William Mockabee, Georgia divisional commander, and Major Bob Parker, Metro Atlanta area commander, for the ribbon-cutting. In addition, many spoke in praise of the community partnership, with Alan Goodman, president of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, saying the organization is “thrilled to be partners with The Salvation Army.” The day center expansion was aided by a generous grant from Dekalb County, with Melvia Richards, housing manager for Dekalb County, expressing her support.

As of the start of July, the center is now open and operating, with many coming through the doors immediately in search of physical assistance, emotional support or simply a warm greeting. The theme of a “new day” permeates the program’s existence, as those who come are simply given a chance to recharge and gather the provision needed to press on.

“These are the stories that describe, for me, so beautifully what we are all about here,” said Louden. “That is helping people, through relationships and material support, attain their goals in life and encounter God’s transformative word … This day center is a place of rest, a place of refuge for people who are weary and so very burdened. May God bless this new day center, and may it be a place of rest, belonging, transformation and love.”


Positive COVID-19 test shuts Kroc Center summer camp

Positive COVID-19 test shuts Kroc Center summer camp

By: David Ibata

With the guidance of the Shelby County, Tennessee, Health Department, and out of “an abundance of caution,” The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Memphis announced it had temporarily suspended its summer camp program after a camp employee tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee’s most recent shift was June 22, and the Kroc Center was notified of the positive COVID-19 test result July 1, according to an email announcement to center members. Camp was closed July 2 and will resume July 8.

Co-workers who had close contact with the infected employee were contacted and directed to be tested and to self-quarantine, per recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other Kroc programming and areas were not affected.

“While disinfecting is part of our daily routine, we will also take this time to deep clean the program areas utilized by camp,” the Kroc Center said.

The center noted such precautions as requiring employees and campers to complete a COVID-19 questionnaire and have their temperature taken before entering; denying entry to those with symptoms or who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days; cleaning and sanitizing multiple times daily; regular handwashing; and having employees wear personal protective equipment.


transMission standard ‘Stand Up’ reimagined, reworked

transMission standard ‘Stand Up’ reimagined, reworked

By: Brad Rowland

Since its release as part of an album titled “The World For God” in 2009, “Stand Up” has been a fixture for transMission, The Salvation Army’s contemporary worship outfit in the Southern Territory. The song, written by Marty Mikles and inspired by a traditional hymn titled “Stand Up and Bless the Lord,” is often requested when the group leads worship, and the song is both upbeat and energetic.

More than a decade after its original release, though, transMission collaborated with Swedish recording artist Samuel Ljungblahd and Ronnie Murchison on a reimagining of the song. Eventually, the new arrangement came to light in video form at the conclusion of the commissioning and ordination service for the Messengers of the Kingdom.

The video and audio recording, produced remotely with the exception of drums, was inspired both by the virtual circumstances and Ljungblahd himself.

“Because people were needing and wanting videos like this for their corps and ministries, we were asking, ‘What should we do?’ and thinking about next steps,” said Bernie Dake, assistant territorial music secretary. “From there, we just felt like we wanted to do as much as we could and, in talking to Samuel (Ljungblahd) about how they are dealing with COVID-19 overseas, he mentioned how he thought we should produce ‘Stand Up’ in this format. But we didn’t want to just reproduce what we already had, and I asked him if he was willing to sing on it. We then expanded it, reaching out to Ronnie Murchison and others to put their energy behind it, and it all came together.”

With haste, the project expanded, eventually including musicians from all corners of the United States and the world.

“After sharing it with some of our peers that have participated in transMission in some way over the years, things expanded. We quickly realized that it was becoming something of an homage,” Dake said. “Some of the parts changed, for example, and it was more of a tribute, or a reimagining, to the original song, more than a replication. We haven’t been able to record the song live in a way that we thought represented what we were hearing in our hearts and minds, so we thought this was our one chance. We gathered friends from all over the world, from different territories and right here at home, and we had a lot of fun in worship.”

Much of the arrangement centered on the original but with a few key tweaks. Jonathan Alfredsson, a piano player who often accompanies Ljungblahd, sprinkled in his own flavor to the keyboard part. Victor Morales, a Salvation Army musician from Puerto Rico, added energy with electric guitar, and Darryl Crossland, assistant divisional music director for the Florida Division, put together an updated brass arrangement to match the changes. Finally, Dake reached out to Natalie Ragins, a renowned organ player, to add a particular flourish to the piece of music.

“We met Natalie, who Samuel had met when he opened for Kirk Franklin, previously and she was so gracious and loving,” said Dake. “I haven’t seen her since, but we called her and told her we were redoing a song that could use some of her special touch. She was more than happy to help, and I think that was really the icing on the cake.”

The video, which can be seen below, is available for download on Ministry Toolkit, as well as streaming on YouTube and Facebook. In the first two weeks after its release, the video reached more than 14,000 viewers, clearly garnering an audience that enjoyed the new look and feel.

Many were moved by the new version of “Stand Up,” including the song’s original author in Mikles, who played acoustic guitar for the recording. Dake describes Mikles as “blown away” by the reimagining, saying it is “truly a blessing” to receive that level of feedback from the individual that penned the song.

During this challenging time, the idea to re-record the song may have been simple on the surface, but the collaboration has already been fruitful. While the song itself is more than a decade old, its impact continues and, with this release, could be refreshed and shared with a new audience.

“I thank the Lord for a constant reminder that we don’t know, when we’re creating something, how it can and will be used,” Dake said. “God continues to prove his faithfulness and he uses things to his glory in spite of ourselves. Sometimes we are too close to it to realize the impact, but to see others aiming to produce resources and worship alongside us, is really humbling. It’s amazing, really. To God be the glory.”


Waynesville, North Carolina, Corps increases capacity to serve community

Waynesville, North Carolina, Corps increases capacity to serve community

By: Major Frank Duracher

Nearly doubling the square-footage of the Waynesville, North Carolina, Corps building, a special ceremony was conducted by the North and South Carolinas divisional leaders, Lt. Colonels Jim and Linda Arrowood. The dedication was part of a two-fold event held during a Sunday worship service honoring Majors David and Debbie Cope, who retired from active service as Salvation Army officers after 35 years.

“There hasn’t been an improvement to the building here since 1965,” Major David Cope said. “The older portion of the building was not handicapped-accessible, nor was it client-friendly. People coming to see our social worker had to sit in the hallway, so we knew our guests needed the privacy and respect they deserve.”

An elevator now makes the entire facility accessible, and the additional 4,000 square feet of space will be used for regular programming, but also for seasonal outreach such as Christmas intake and distribution and emergency disaster relief operations. “The extra space can also be used for shelter in times of emergency,” Major Cope said.

“God is good and has provided this wonderful blessing, but now I have to turn it over to a younger generation,” Cope mused, referring to the incoming corps officers, Majors Michael and Susan Rodgers.

During the dedication ceremony, the Divisional Commander read Scripture from 2 Samuel 7:22: Sovereign Lord, You are God…the house of Your servant will be blessed forever. Colonel Arrowood then thanked the Waynesville Advisory Board, community supporters and volunteers for the hard work done to make the building renovation and extension possible.

“This place is inviting to everyone,” he told the audience. “It is a place for the whosoever; a place of inclusiveness; a safe haven for everyone. It is a place where The Salvation Army can meet human need without discrimination in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If we do this one heart at a time, Colonel Arrowood observed, “What an impact this building will make in this community!”


To Battle We Go: Local officers are the backbone of The Salvation Army

To Battle We Go: Local officers are the backbone of the Army

By: Dr. Steve Kellner

The first contact most new enlistees have with a member of any military service is with non-commissioned officers – sergeants, petty officers and chiefs – NCOs for short. From the recruiter to the drill sergeant, to the squad or section leader, NCOs provide the close-up leadership to soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen in training and combat. They are the bridge between commissioned officers and the frontline troops and are primarily responsible for the actual execution of the mission.

NCOs are able to do this because they have come up through the ranks and understand and can communicate well with those in the lower ranks. By contrast, most commissioned officers in the military have never been enlisted members. Commissioned officers must also of necessity be generalists, while NCOs are often very experienced experts in a more narrowly defined skill set, usually the skill set the lower enlisted troops are attempting to master.

Military services have always had sergeants and petty officers. In the last century or so, however, the importance of this level of leadership has been fully recognized, and the idea of a separate professional NCO “corps” is axiomatic in every successful service. The services know, as the saying goes, that “NCOs are the backbone of the Army.”

Local officers are The Salvation Army’s version of NCOs, providing stable, long-term leadership in the corps. No corps can function effectively without strong local officers, and the Salvation Army devotes a great deal of space in its Orders & Regulations to their qualifications and responsibilities. Like NCOs, local officers usually serve within a fairly narrow specialty, and they provide the week-in and week-out front-line leadership in all corps-based ministries. And while they can’t vote their officers out of the pulpit as in some churches, local officers exert an authority and influence as great or greater than lay leaders in any other denomination.

Of all the negative trends experienced by The Salvation Army during my lifetime, the most serious is the depletion of our local officer corps. Because our corps officers move so often, stable local leadership is more critical to the Army than to any other church. And local officers can provide the kind of specific ministry expertise that a corps officer may not have, or may have but not have the time to devote to a specific ministry. In many corps today the corps officers are stretched thin, forced to fill roles that local officers used to fill, with predictably poor results.

If our corps are ever to regain momentum and reach their full potential, our officers and remaining local officers will have to redouble their efforts to train a new generation of local officers. They will likely be very young, but that’s who we have to work with now. If properly trained and cared for, they can do the job perfectly well. The very survival of The Salvation Army as a movement may depend on this, because “Local officers are the backbone of the Army.”