Shining like Christ for 50 years

By Robert Mitchell

“Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All his wonderful passion and purity,
Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”

—Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me.

Elaine Howard is ending a 50-year career with The Salvation Army in Ohio that almost didn’t happen at all.

At her recent retirement luncheon, Elaine recounted how she initially applied for a job with The Salvation Army’s Southwest Ohio and Northeast Kentucky (SWONEKY) Division to work in finance. She got a call three days later saying the position had been filled, but she was asked to apply for a job in the program department instead.

“I came for the interview and was hired,” she said. “The person that was hired in the first job I applied for quit after one week, and after 50 years, I’m still here.”

Elaine said working in program “was right where God wanted me” and the finance job would probably not have been a good fit because “I don’t even like to balance my own check book.”

“He placed me where the gifts He had given me could best be used,” she said.

She began working at DHQ in Cincinnati on Jan. 29, 1973, and was immediately struck by the Salvation Army personnel she encountered.

“I was so impressed with the officers and soldiers who worked at DHQ with the joy that they had,” she said. “I wanted to have the joy that they had.

“I would go to the weekly chapel services and I was so amazed at all of the talent. Each week there would be a different officer playing the piano or a different officer singing. When it came time for the prayer chorus, there were no song books, no words written out on paper, no screens with words on them. But, everyone seemed to know the words.  They were singing from the heart.”

One of the first people Elaine met was Lt. Colonel (then Captain) Alice Joyce and her husband, Ralph.

“She was always so full of joy, always singing, and she had such a great sense of humor,” she said. “I really could see Jesus in her.”

That became Elaine’s goal—that people would see Jesus in her.

Elaine watched the officers at DHQ for more than five years, “wanting to know this Jesus that they knew.” She was invited to church at the Cincinnati Citadel Corps and after attending for four Sundays, she knelt at the altar and gave her life to Christ on Oct. 22, 1978. She became a senior soldier on April 15, 1979.

Over the years, Elaine met General Eva Burrows and public figures like Oliver North while serving in women’s ministries with women’s auxiliaries and Christmas programs. She also worked in the youth department and at Camp SWONEKY for 25 years. Some current officers still remember her from camp.

“They’ll tell me I made an impression on their life,” she says. “That’s rewarding.”

In recent years, Elaine has served as the administrative assistant to the divisional commanders in SWONEKY, Majors Tim and Willie Mae Lyle.

“If you’re a lifelong Cincinnatian, if you’ve been to Camp SWONEKY or if you’ve received a doll or bear or gift at Christmas time, this lady right here had something to do with it,” Major Timothy told Local 12 WKRC-TV.

Elaine was honored with a luncheon before her retirement and the Cincinnati Reds, her favorite baseball team, surprised her by sending their mascot Rosie Red to DHQ to say goodbye.

“I pray that through these many years at DHQ that Christ’s love has shown through me and that others have seen the joy of serving Jesus in me,” she said in her farewell.

Her colleagues certainly did. Debbie Baker, a co-worker and a 25-year friend, called Elaine kind, caring, compassionate, and a “true example of a person serving the Lord.”

“She is a person who makes you want to be a better person by example, not by talk,” Baker said.

Another longtime friend and co-worker, Ginny Tripp, said Elaine’s “dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ” shows through her talents, kindness, and thoughtfulness for others.

“Elaine is an amazing lady who truly thinks of others first,” Tripp said. “I have seen this working alongside of her over the years. She will go the extra mile every time.”