God is working in our church

by Warren L. Maye

“Decisions determine destiny” said Major R. Michael Himes, corps officer of the Manchester Citadel Corps in Connecticut. He was the special speaker during the Sunday evening service at the Old Orchard Beach camp meetings.

That evening, the quiet ambience of the Seaside Pavilion belied the intensity of Major Himes’ thought–provoking message on the theme “God is working in our church.” As he spoke, Himes fully examined his own spiritual journey, which began as a young Salvationist.

Himes’ message was preceded by the beautiful and harmonic singing of the Canadian Staff Songsters under the direction of Major Len Ballantine. Instrumentalists of the New York Staff Band under the direction of Bandmaster Derek Lance, also contributed a loving tone for worship and reflection.

The Salvation Army is a church

“The Salvation Army is more than a nonprofit; it is a church,” said Coeur Ngabo of the Portland, Citadel Corps during an interview onstage with Major Crista Dalrymple, Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries in the Northern New England Division.

“I am from Congo, but I’ve been here in America now four years. I’m married and I have two boys,” Ngabo said. He teaches computer full time, but as a French speaker, his challenge was learning English, the American way of life, and finding a church home. “I learned that The Salvation Army is like a family in the African way. I met an older lady named Joyce. She always had some words from the Bible to share with me, and she would pray for my son, Jacob. “One day, I realized that God is here in The Salvation Army.”

Major Dalrymple also interviewed Greg Luther who had struggled with low self–esteem and drugs after his parents separated when he was a child. He eventually discovered the Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in Portland where he found help. “Yes. It’s like family. The Salvation Army also has youth programs and is very accepting. I like what God is doing in my life.”

Canadian Staff Songster Rochelle McAlister also shared her testimony. “There are five things I learned that have brought me joy,” she said. McAlister listed them as: 1. Trust God and do what He asks you to do, 2. Practice gratitude, 3. Look up, don’t look side to side, 4. Think bigger and bless bigger, and 5. Hold suffering and hope in the same hand. “I pray you would know God’s beautiful, life–enhancing, and deep well of joy in your life,” she concluded.

Church at the crossroads

In his address, Major Himes vividly recalled how a particular room in his home corps became the place where he made a decision that sealed his destiny. That “once and for all” decision to follow Christ led him to “The Road Not Taken.” He recited that famous poem by Robert Frost, using it as a metaphor for his message. This son of Salvation Army officers described his journey of becoming a corps officer, taking on only four appointments during his ministry career with his wife Major Cathy Y. Himes and family, becoming a devoted minister to downtrodden people, and a dedicated “soldier in the army of the Lord.”

Himes also passionately expressed words of caution for today’s Salvation Army. It too is at a crossroads and must heed the warning of Matthew 7:21–23 and choose the road not taken, he said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Commissioner G. Lorraine Bamford prayed, and Commissioner William Bamford reassured the audience of the Army’s commitment to stand firm in the face of adversity. “I can show you the battle scars,” he said. “But we have reassurance from our international leaders that the Army is not going to waver, and I hold that with my heart, that The Salvation Army will continue to march on so that God would raise it up to win the world for Christ!”