‘Big Blue Bear’ shares goodwill in Savannah

‘Big Blue Bear’ shares goodwill in Savannah

By: David Ibata

A furry, man-sized apparition was seen walking the streets of Savannah, Georgia, recently – not Bigfoot or Sasquatch, but a big blue bear wearing a Salvation Army officer’s hat.

“To be frank, I was tired of bad news and difficult situations and just wanted an afternoon of fun,” said Major Paul Egan of the Savannah Corps.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, Major Egan could not return the bear costume he had borrowed from Southern Territorial headquarters. So, he put the costume on and went to visit some children – at safe remove for “social distancing,” of course.

“We’d heard about ‘bear hunts’ going on in communities across the nation” – families walk around their neighborhoods, spotting teddy bears put out at people’s homes – “and April 1 was coming up, and I thought, what if the bear went and thanked some of the people doing these things in their communities?”

The Territorial Youth Department in Atlanta had loaned Big Blue Bear – yes, that’s its name – to the Savannah Corps last year for its 10,000 Scoops Challenge, a community ice cream social and fund-raiser. Big Blue came out again for the Red Kettle Kick-Off. The corps intended to return him, one of these days, but one thing led to another and the costume never made it home before the coronavirus pandemic in March shut down nonessential travel in Georgia.

The bear has been a children’s celebrity for 20 years, according to Sheila Livingston, territorial Christian education and youth discipleship director. He and Junior Soldier Girl have appeared at youth rallies, summer camps and community events.

“Big Blue Bear is from the International Congress of 2000,” Livingston said. “Junior Soldier Girl is probably five or six years old; we got her for a Junior Soldier event at a commissioning.”

On Wednesday, April 1, Major Egan said, “we walked around the neighborhood between our two buildings, the corps and the shelter. We also went out to the Farmer’s Market truck that parks in front of our building every Wednesday.”

Big Blue waved to families picking up meals provided by the Second Harvest Food Bank while school is out, and to women and children recently moved to a temporary shelter in the corps community center, where they have more space for social distancing (men remain at the main shelter). The bear carried a sign, “Thanks for making this time Bearable,” with the hashtag, #bearhunting.

“When we approached houses and waved at the families inside, they got it pretty quick by the poster we were holding up,” Major Egan said. “They all wanted to get pictures of the bear. We were happy for that. We’re trying to be good in Savannah not to put crowds together, so we’d see one family at a time and made sure everyone kept their distance.”

“One lady thought it was great. She expressed her disappointment to us that her grandkids were quarantined away from her and couldn’t see us.”

What’s next for Big Blue? “Easter will be a real time of disappointment for folks not to be together in large church services,” Major Egan said. “I hope we can bring the bear out again to help people find a way to safely enjoy life.”


Carolinas kids won’t be disappointed on Easter morning

Carolinas kids won’t be disappointed on Easter morning

By: Major Frank Duracher

Salvation Army staff and volunteers in several corps in the North and South Carolina Division are making sure that children awaiting a visit from the Easter Bunny won’t be disappointed because of the COVID-19 crisis.

During Holy Week, Major Susan Rodgers and her group are filling Easter boxes to be delivered in time for the holiday commemorating the triumphant resurrection of Christ.

“These boxes contain Easter Sunday dinner (items), filled Easter eggs for the kids to do their own egg hunt at home and Easter candy for the entire family,” Major Susan said.

The box also contains Easter Sunday kid’s activity sheets, family worship programs, toilet paper and hand soap. She also includes an Easter devotional book she had already purchased to give out on Easter Sunday long before this crisis rudely interrupted the corps church calendar.

Meanwhile in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Lieutenant Katie Tate has the Spartanburg Advisory Board members on hand to fill similar Easter boxes that will be distributed to community center and corps member families, with plans to complete the project before Good Friday.

“We have 600 eggs filled with candy to go along with card games, coloring books, crayons, sidewalk chalk and a devotional thought,” Lieutenant Katie said.

“Our hope is to bring the family together through these activities and let them know that The Salvation Army is still thinking and praying for them during these difficult days.”


Healed and made whole: An Easter message from General Brian Peddle

Healed and made whole: An Easter message from General Brian Peddle

Surely he took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

(Isaiah 53:4-6 Berean Study Bible)


The Easter message is the most profound, true, life-changing, life-giving message we can ever hear, respond to and participate in. In short, the Easter story is the culmination of God’s plan of salvation for the redemption and restoration of humanity. Such unconditional sacrificial love unleashes the mercy, grace and forgiveness of God. We should be experiencing boundless joy, caught up in awe and wonder, celebrating our new-found freedom and living in a new dynamic relationship with the Almighty.

We see in these verses from Isaiah just what God has done for us in Jesus. In going to the Cross, Jesus does something extremely positive, yet it involves him being subjected to pain, ridicule, brokenness and separation from the Father with whom he has shared a deep intimacy for all eternity. Jesus takes on everything that is negative, destructive and painful. This display of genuine, unconditional and sacrificial love is unparalleled in human history.

Even as we read and consider what Jesus takes on himself, we sense a release, an unburdening and a freedom. Jesus takes on our infirmities and carries our sorrows. Yes, there is a glimpse of the humanity of Jesus here as the Word that became flesh (John 1:14) – fully human while fully divine – understands the frailty, weakness and imperfection on a personal level. Having said that, we need to recognize that there is much more going on.

Jesus is doing more than identifying with us. He is taking on our weaknesses, infirmities and sorrows so that we don’t have to carry them. Link that opening statement to Philippians 4:6-7 (Do not be anxious about anything …) and 1 Peter 5:7 (Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you) to better understand what is offered to us in Jesus. Look again at what happens to Jesus – he is pierced, crushed, punished and wounded. Why would Jesus accept all of that? Why would God allow his only Son to endure all of that?

Another read of the verses from Isaiah illuminates what we receive through
this sacrifice – peace and healing for ourselves. The punishment inflicted upon Jesus brings us peace. We experience healing because Jesus was wounded. It is almost beyond our understanding, but a horribly painful moment brings us healing and a horrifically violent act brings us everlasting peace.

There is something of an unfair transaction going on that demonstrates the extravagance of God and his unmerited favor that we call grace. There is also something profoundly theological, sacrificial and covenantal taking place.

The sacrificial code and practices we find in the Old Testament are there to atone for our sins and imperfections. Here on the Cross, the spotless Lamb of God pays the ultimate sacrifice once and for all, ushering us into a new dispensation of grace and deliverance.

We have peace with God because of all that was accomplished by Jesus, and this peace is experienced by having faith in Jesus (see Romans 5:1: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ). Yes, it’s that straightforward – we don’t have to complicate it!

The Easter story doesn’t end with Calvary. Easter Sunday is about resurrection and new life. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are reminded that, If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! The old reality of being held captive by sin, of death being our final enemy, is gone! On Easter Sunday, we rise to new life in Christ – that new life is eternal life, it encapsulates victory over sin and death, it includes our healing and wholeness, it is a life of deep peace (Isaiah 26:3: You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you).

This Easter, you can experience healing and wholeness in Christ. It’s why Jesus came to earth. It’s what God desires most for you.

  • Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless stated otherwise
  • The Bible verses from Isaiah are brought to life through the song ‘Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs’, sung here by Govan Songsters (United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland)

The Salvation Army serves up ‘Sacks of Love’ and encouragement in Muskogee, Oklahoma

The Salvation Army serves up ‘Sacks of Love’ and encouragement in Muskogee, Oklahoma

By: Cindy Fuller

In these days of “social distancing,” The Salvation Army of Muskogee, Oklahoma, is stepping up to help those in the most need. Not only is the Army still providing food boxes through its social services office by appointment, it is taking food and words of encouragement directly into the community.

The Muskogee Salvation Army is adjusting its ministry to the poor and elderly by taking food boxes to those who are unable to get out and drive to the social services office. It is an important part of the mission and ministry of the Army to meet human needs in his name.

Stories of personal encouragement have strengthened those on the front lines of service. Shay Reeder, a Salvation Army employee, shared two stories about her food ministry. Moved to tears, one shut-in told her, “I only had a bag of green peas to eat for the last three days with some ice cubes. My insides are so empty I’ll have to eat small quantities so as not to become sick.”

The elderly, deaf shut-in then sent Reeder a “long-distance” hug of thanks.   

Another recipient of the food ministry mentioned she had just been discharged from the hospital, was on oxygen and was unable to get out of the house. She told Reeder, “I am not used to asking for help. This is truly a blessing.”

In addition to serving those who are immune-compromised, The Salvation Army’s catering truck is strategically going out into the Muskogee community with “Sacks of Love” for lunch and dinner. This ministry provides meals to anyone impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a tremendous amount of appreciation from those being served. Many people are already feeling the effects of the pandemic by having trouble finding enough food and supplies.

The truck and Salvation Army employees and volunteers are making deliveries in locations of high need and are maintaining social distancing by “honking” to let people know there are meals available.

During one delivery, a woman requested that the team check on a neighbor. When the ministry team arrived at the home, they discovered the family was in dire need of food boxes, as they had taken in homeless persons due to the pandemic. The Salvation Army provided the needed food and pastoral care to the family.         

Neighbors have also helped The Salvation Army be the ‘hands and feet” of Jesus. During a recent meal delivery route to a low-income apartment complex, neighbors went knocking on doors to ensure everyone received a meal.

Children in a high-need area are also helping. One little boy was so excited to get food, he began to dance and encouraged his friends to come over to get a meal. It was an exciting time for the little ones who have been cooped up in their homes, and a bright spot to their day.

Along with a kind word and encouragement from The Salvation Army, the “Sacks of Love” food ministry outreach is providing food for the body and for the soul during this unprecedented crisis. As someone stated, “I now have something to look forward to!”


Army in the South continues services as impact of COVID-19 pandemic grows

Army in the South continues services as impact of COVID-19 pandemic grows

By: Dan Childs

While the eyes of the nation remain fixed on New York as the hottest trouble spot in the U.S. in the COVID-19 public health crisis, Louisiana, Florida and Georgia remain as the most affected states among the 15 in the USA Southern Territory.

In Louisiana, some 9,150 coronavirus cases had been documented as of this past Friday, with 310 deaths. Elsewhere in the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Division, Alabama had 1,270 cases and 17 deaths, and Mississippi reported 1,177 cases and 26 deaths.

Salvation Army thrift stores in ALM are closed but are monitoring the needs of residents in need of clothes and household items. The division’s area commands, corps and service centers are providing food pantry distribution, utility and rent assistance, homeless shelter operations and some to-go meals and mobile food service delivery.

Florida reported 9,008 coronavirus cases as of Friday, with 144 deaths. The division’s Emergency Disaster Service has provided goods to 18 commands across the division, including MREs, hygiene kits, Midwest food boxes, surgical masks and gloves. EDS also placed shower trailers at Orlando Area Command to accommodate the increased number of shelter beds and at a Catholic Charites homeless encampment in Tampa. Most commands throughout the Florida Division continue to deliver services, modifying their operations as necessary.

As of April 2, Georgia had 5,444 reported coronavirus cases, with 176 fatalities. Georgia residents in all 159 counties have been directed to shelter in place unless providing essential services. All schools will remain closed, meeting in virtual classrooms, until the end of the academic year.

Corps and service centers are ramping up feeding services with CDC protective measures incorporated. Larger numbers of clients are being fed, and non-perishable food is being distributed, with emphasis placed on seniors and others who are at high risk, families with children and to people in areas with limited access to transportation.

Shelters in Georgia have expanded services to allow social distancing, and most are offering 24-hour sheltering for homeless people. The division continues to offer utility assistance, food and clothing to clients via phone and other methods not requiring physical contact.

Across the South, the centers of the Adult Rehabilitation Centers Command continue to house, feed and support the beneficiaries enrolled in the program, and the command is providing cargo truck support to divisions as requested, based on availability.

Elsewhere across the USA South:

AOK – Arkansas and Oklahoma had reported a combined number of 1,558 COVID cases by Friday. Corps in the division continue with regular services while practicing social distancing guidelines as prescribed by the CDC. Lack of personal protective equipment is becoming an issue, and food supplies are diminishing quickly.

KT – Some 2,845 of the 3,615 coronavirus cases in the division have been reported in Tennessee, where authorities in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga have identified alternative sites where up to 7,000 beds will be available to patients. Authorities in Louisville have been moving ahead to establish a field hospital at the city’s fairgrounds with at least 2,000 beds. The division continues to provide shelter, feeding and emotional and spiritual care in response to the crisis.

MWV – The division is exploring new initiatives within the realm of emotional and spiritual care with a view to helping officers in this extended response to the public health crisis. Emailed to corps officers was a resource titled “Socially Distant Random Acts of Kindness.”

NCV – The division has assigned a new planning chief role to develop a long-term response plan for NCV. In the District of Columbia and Virginia, 2,665 cases had been reported by last Friday.

NSC – Commands are delivering services, modified as needed locally and incorporating CDC protective measures. Shelters throughout the Carolinas are coordinating operations closely with divisional social services and public health officials. Some 3,647 COVID cases had been reported in the Carolinas as of Friday.

Texas – The division is resupplying personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and food boxes to corps, service centers and area commands as needed and available. The Salvation Army is working with state and local jurisdictions to address urgent needs, including logistics, supplies and programs that are part of the COVID response.

The top three priorities for the Army continue to be keeping Salvation Army housing programs open, continuing to provide meals to needy individuals and families and distributing essential supplies, such as food boxes, cleaning products and personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves.

The territory continues to offer an Emotional and Spiritual Hotline (844-458-4673) manned by 16 Salvation Army officers and employees from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week, with Spanish-language assistance available. Calls are being received from across the U.S. Additional personnel have been trained to provide counseling as call volume increases.


Salvationists, partners serve others as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic

Salvationists, partners serve others as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic

By: David Ibata

The Salvation Army in the Southern Territory mobilizes to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. As families face sudden joblessness and financial crises, and vulnerable homeless residents seek shelter from the disease, corps and commands come up with creative ways to serve people in need and welcome stepped-up support from their community partners.

Augusta, Georgia: Sgt. April McCormick helms the grill at the Augusta Center of Hope. “You haven’t tasted grilled food till you’ve had April’s grilled food!” the Augusta Corps said in a Facebook posting. The Center of Hope has been sheltering men, women and children around the clock, providing three meals a day as well as snacks and entertainment. To assist, a local Holiday Inn Express and Suites donated toiletries and blankets; the Jamaica Way Restaurant provided a dinner of homemade burgers, hot dogs, jerk chicken and other foods; and TBonz Steakhouse donated cole slaw, fresh vegetables and other items.

Photo Credit: Augusta BBQ

Johnson City, Tennessee: Thanks to the Johnson City Morning Rotary and Tennessee Hills Distillery in nearby Jonesborough, Tennessee, the corps handed out 50 bottles of hand sanitizer while serving carry-out dinners at the Center of Hope – one bottle for each client. Tennessee Hills is using its reserves of vodka, rum and gin to produce individual, airplane-size bottles of sanitizer for local organizations to use in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

Photo Credit: Johnson City 3

Cumberland, Maryland: Though the students of Bishop Walsh School in Cumberland, Maryland, are staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they remained committed to their service project. As part of their Lenten Challenge, students at the Catholic pre-K – 12th grade school led by Cara Bako organized a collection of food and toiletry items for charities. They delivered goods March 31 to The Salvation Army of Cumberland. The corps also thanked the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant in LaVale, Maryland, for a donation of fresh produce; and Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls and Bread for a donation of bread.

Photo Credit: Cracker Barrel LaVale MD

Richmond, Virginia: The Salvation Army Central Virginia opened a temporary housing center for the homeless in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The center, located in The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, is for people who are already in the housing system and at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. The center can house 75 adults and will have clean bedding, shower facilities, heightened healthcare screenings and three daily meals.

Photo Credit: Richmond BCG homeless shelter

Owensboro, Kentucky: Matt Weafer, owner of Niko’s Bakery and Cafe, made hundreds of yeast rolls and bread for the mobile feeding ministry to serve alongside spaghetti to neighbors in need at The Salvation Army Corps in Owensboro.

Photo Credit: Matt Weafer Owensboro1


Memphis Kroc Center staying in touch with members despite social distancing challenges

Memphis Kroc Center staying in touch with members despite social distancing challenges

By: David Ibata

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers pride themselves on creating community amidst sometimes desperate circumstances. But how does one do so when a pandemic and “social distancing” forces a center to close its doors?

The Kroc Center in Memphis, Tennessee, has risen to the challenge by going virtual – staying in touch with its 10,000 members through social media, posting fitness workouts to its Facebook page, and offering daily inspirational messages by dialing an “844” phone number, among other strategies.

Salvation Army facilities in Memphis closed to the public on March 16, following guidance of the city of Memphis and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“There are a number of people who count on us in a variety of ways,” said Cleo Griffin, Kroc Center director. “How were we to remain connected and engaged with them? We wanted to quickly think about resources we could deploy to our members.”

Major Marion Platt, Memphis area commander, and his staff established a toll-free number people can call – 844-830-1865 – and hear a message of hope from The Salvation Army. The line has been averaging about 200 phone calls a day.

The Kroc Center is streaming worship services on Facebook at 11 a.m. Sundays. Major Platt and musician Ronnie Murchison also are posting what they’re calling “a time of worship and encouragement” on Facebook at 6:45 p.m. Sundays.

Additionally, Facebook, Twitter and email blasts went out to Kroc Center members, advising them of resources posted online. Les Mills Fitness Classes, for example, offer 95 free workouts across eight categories for youth and adults. “Silver Sneakers” offers material on demand for older members.

The center also is producing and posting “Virtual Fitness” videos to Facebook – a series of classes, from cardio fitness to yoga, barre, kickboxing, Pilates and dance, led by Katie Veach, the Kroc Center’s health and recreation director, and her team of instructors.

“We’d already been doing some videos, so we knew we had the technology and an audience capable of using that technology to engage with members,” Griffin said. “We had to quickly determine what formats would be most desirable to people.”

“The response has been really favorable. Several of our videos have had over a thousand views. This has been our primary way of staying in touch with members.”

The Kroc Center also is assisting the Purdue Center of Hope, home to 130 women and their children, and women seeking to escape poverty, domestic violence and addiction.

Major Platt said, “We’re setting up a computer lab for the children because they will not be going back to school for at a least a month. A lot of our residents do not have the technology required for online schooling. This way, children can attend classes via the Internet.”

Back in the physical world, the Kroc Center has entered into an agreement with the Mid South Food Bank to be a food distribution center for Memphians in dire straits due to a pandemic-related job loss or other circumstances. Initial distributions were set for Mondays, March 30 and April 6. About 250 families were expected at the first event, and up to 500 families at the second.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Hoon Chung and volunteers are roaming the streets of Memphis in The Salvation Army mobile kitchen (canteen) – known as the FedEx Disaster Response Unit, for the company that donated it to the Army – taking nourishment to places homeless residents are known to congregate. They’ve been providing meals to about 250 people a day.

The initiative is supported by a Memphis resident’s idea to feed the homeless while also helping the city’s beleaguered dining industry. Donors give money that is channeled to local restaurants, which prepare boxed meals distributed by The Salvation Army. So far, seven restaurants have joined the effort: Garibaldi’s, Huey’s, Paradise, Hog Wild, Lenny’s, Pimento’s and Spell Restaurant Group.

“It’s become much bigger than we could have hoped for,” Major Platt said. “This is one of the most amazing things I’ve been a part of.”

As for the future, Griffin said, “Our city is under a ‘shelter at home’ executive order that expires April 7. At that point, we’ll determine the conditions in Memphis. If it’s possible to do some version of normal operations by then, we probably will try to get back to normal as quickly as possible. But it’s unclear what things will look like for anybody.”

If conditions continue as they are now, two of the Kroc Center’s biggest concerns are its financial outlook and the wellbeing of its staff. It has made an urgent appeal for people to maintain their memberships; the revenue stream is crucial for its operations.

The response has been encouraging.

Major Platt said, “The community is incredibly supportive. I’ve been blessed by the kindness of Memphis. They always think of The Salvation Army and want to know what we’re doing and how they can help.”

Griffin said, “We’ll continue to serve, using online resources and cooperating with local food bank to help people in need of meals. We’ll continue our canteen ministry to the homeless and try to support our staff at a reasonable level of compensation.

“Lastly, we’re trying to maintain an environment that allows us to reopen as quickly as possible with as many of the normal amenities as possible, when and if CDC and local government guidance allows for that.”


Army in the South hosts townhall conference call addressing COVID-19 pandemic

Army in the South hosts townhall conference call addressing COVID-19 pandemic

By: Brad Rowland

On the evening of March 31, The Salvation Army’s Southern Territory held its first-ever donor townhall conference call, with information on how the organization is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Major donors and advisory board members from across the southeastern United States were invited to attend via phone, with Major Terry Israel, community relations and development secretary, shepherding the call.

During the call, several interactive opportunities materialized, with feedback, questions from attendees and valuable polling data collected through the use of survey questions. In addition, the group of over 11,000 listeners was simply thanked for all they have done and will continue to do in service of the Army’s mission.

“Tonight, we want to say ‘thank you’ and provide ourselves as being transparent, accountable and responsive,” said Colonel Ralph Bukiewicz, chief secretary. “The Salvation Army has always wanted to nurture a culture of caring. It’s in our DNA. It’s part of who we are, in our passion to respond, first of all to the amazing grace and the transforming love that God has demonstrated to us. We can pass that along to our neighbors in need in the most practical and powerful ways possible.”

Major Israel and Colonel Bukiewicz were joined by Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, Major Andrew Wiley, social services secretary, and Jeff Jellets, emergency disaster services coordinator, for different segments of the presentation.

As part of the informational session, it was affirmed that every divisional headquarters has a crisis management team in place for coordination and support with three top priorities: keeping Salvation Army housing programs open, continuing to provide meals to needy individuals and families and the distribution of essential supplies, such as a food boxes, cleaning products and personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves.

In addition, the necessity of continued emotional and spiritual care was at the center of the discussion.

“Perhaps our greatest challenge has been in the provision of one of our most essential services – the delivery of emotional and spiritual care,” Jellets said. “While COVID-19 has made ‘social distancing’ the norm, The Salvation Army will not give up when it comes to comforting the lonely, isolated or distraught. Instead, we have established an emotional and spiritual care hotline where those in need can find a friendly, caring and compassionate voice who can help ease fears in these troubled times.”

The toll-free hotline, which can be reached at 1-844-458-4673, is available for anyone to call for support between 9 a.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET each day.

The work of The Salvation Army continues, both in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis and with other programming, including emergency disaster service deployments, persisting across the territory, all while following CDC guidelines for social distancing. The on-the-ground response is paramount but, in concluding the townhall conference call, Commissioner Howell made sure to note that the centerpiece of everything is the comfort and nurturing that arrives from a trust in Jesus Christ.

“Regardless of how threatening things may seem, let me assure you that if Jesus is in your boat, you’re not going to sink,” Commissioner Howell said. “If Jesus is in your boat, scary as the situation appears, you have nothing to fear. We’ll get to the other side of this…. Being in a storm with Jesus is far safer than being anywhere else without him.”


Bible conference, TMI, TYI postponed until 2021

Bible conference, TMI, TYI postponed until 2021

By: Dan Childs

The Southern Territory’s three major summer events have been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an announcement by territorial leadership.

The Southern Bible Conference, held in mid-August each year at the Lake Junaluska resort in western North Carolina, will not convene this year. The Territorial Music Institute was scheduled for July 26-Aug. 3 at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, but also will not be held this summer. Also postponed was the Territorial Youth Institute, which was to gather July 26-Aug. 1 at Camp Walter Johnson in Denton, North Carolina.

The current coronavirus public health crisis has enveloped the nation and world in a cloud of uncertainty, and with skyrocketing numbers of cases of the illness and the urgent need for people to practice social distancing, countless cancellations and postponements of public gatherings and even entire sports seasons have been announced

Factoring into Southern leadership’s decision to call the events off was uncertainty about how long the  pandemic will last and its residual impact on people’s health, employment and financial resources. Large public gatherings are not permitted now, and some estimates by public health authorities say it could be several months before such gatherings are allowed. Also influencing the decision was uncertainty about school schedules that may need adjustment, necessitating attendance during the summer. Finally, postponement of the three summer events will allow the South to focus its attention fully on corps and divisional programming.

“There are more reasons, but I believe this will help us all understand the decisions that we never wanted to make, but had to,” said Lt. Colonel Eddie Hobgood, territorial program secretary. “We also pledge from the Territorial Program Department to focus all of our efforts on continuing to resource our corps and divisions in the coming months and discover new ways to serve, teach and disciple. We are in this together and if we are of one mind, soul and spirit, God will use this pandemic to do a work in his Army we haven’t seen the likes of before.”

Lt. Colonel Hobgood said that plans are already moving ahead for all three events in 2021.


Prayer is essential in our spiritual journey

Prayer is essential in our spiritual journey

By: Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson

In order to develop our spiritual lives and to deepen our relationship with God, five factors are necessary – obedience, prayer, Bible study, fellowship and service. Relationships require communication, and our spiritual life is no exception. People of God must be people of prayer!

Spiritual life for all of us begins with the same prayer: “O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” A relationship with Jesus must begin with an acknowledgement that we are sinners and in need of his help. As our spiritual life develops, so must our prayer life. The first disciples asked Jesus to “teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples to pray.” (Luke 11:1) Prayer, or communion with our Lord, must be learned as our relationship deepens – much like our time with our spouse or a close friend. Spending time with God in prayer is essential for us to continue our spiritual journey – drawing closer and becoming more like Christ, restoring the image of God in which we were created.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is part of God’s response to Solomon’s dedication prayer as the Temple is filled with God’s presence in Jerusalem. It says, Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked says, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. There are several lessons concerning prayer we can learn. First, by joining “humble,” “seek” and “turn from wicked ways” with prayer, we learn that prayer is more than communication. Prayer is humble acknowledging that we cannot live our own way, but we must turn, or repent, and seek God’s presence. This is the essence of prayer before we say our first word. The second lesson comes from the word “if.” Prayer is a choice – we can bow before God and call on him as Lord, or we can ignore him and pretend that we are our own masters. The if/then aspect of this verse also teaches that God’s response is not a given, but that God has promised to “hear,” “forgive” and “heal.” It is also true that without prayer there is not forgiveness or healing.

So then, why are God’s people praying less and less? Why is the prayer meeting (if it is on the corps calendar) the hardest event of the week for people to attend? Why has prayer become, “bless us, bless the offering, bless our going out – amen?” Every great movement in Church history has been preceded by prayer, but it is missing from our calendars. Ask anyone who has been on this spiritual journey if they have any regrets and the No. 1 response would be, “We didn’t pray more!” So, in your personal life, in your corps life, in your family, in your community – pray more tomorrow than you did yesterday. God is waiting for you to spend time with him!