Assurance of God’s continued work in the lives of believers was perhaps the most precious takeaway for Salvationists who attended Old Orchard Beach Camp Meetings this year. A poignant illustration of this happened on Sunday morning when as many as 100 Adult Rehabilitation Centers singers aligned themselves on the platform of the Seaside Pavilion and sang passionate praises to the Lord. As they sang, their voices strengthened with conviction. Such songs as “God Is Working Even Now,” and “Walking Free” resonated as the connection between singers and audience deepened.
Friends and relatives danced in rhythm with the music. Eventually, the entire audience rose and applauded. Exuberant praise continued until each singer returned to his or her seat. The process evoked such emotion, that many people lifted their tear–stained eyes toward the rafters to praise God.
That experience was talked about for days. “That’s what The Salvation Army is all about!” said Commissioner William W. Francis, who had witnessed it.
Similar moments happened in the Pavilion when powerful messages by guest speakers Commissioner Mark W. Tillsley, Senior Instructor of Curriculum at the College for Officer Training and Territorial Theology and Christian Ethics secretary for the Territorial Commander’s Office; Commissioner William A. Bamford III, Territorial Commander, and Major R. Michael Himes, corps officer of the Manchester Citadel Corps in Connecticut, brought people to their feet. The speakers shared their perspectives on variations of the camp meeting theme “God is Working” (in our world, in our lives, and in our church).
The ministry of the Canadian Staff Songsters under the heartfelt direction of Major Len Ballentine and the New York Staff Band, directed by Bandmaster Derek Lance, set a worshipful tone throughout the meetings.
Lt. Colonel John Murray brought a rich bible study to the OOB Chapel. Majors Phil and Jodi Lloyd conducted beach bible studies. A variety of singers, dancers, and other creative artists captured the imaginations and hearts of hundreds of people at the Pier.
Other ministries such as the Move Dance Company and UNBOUND also helped set the tone for spontaneous worship during meetings at the Pier and Pavilion.
A march of witness down Old Orchard Street drew crowds who lined the street and shouted words of support as officers waved, and the NYSB played. Assurance that God is working was everywhere.
Rochelle McAlister, who lives in Toronto, was in Old Orchard Beach for the first time with the Canadian Staff Songsters. “I just love it. You can feel God’s presence here. I’m very attracted to the ocean and the power of God coming through those waves. It’s amazing. It’s just such a blessing to be here and part of the ministry.”
Major Len Ballantine said, “It’s a great blessing to my life. We’re all starting from the same page. We’ve got texts to deal with, we’ve got words to proclaim, we have a shape in the music that allows words to speak clearly, so my job as a leader of vocal music is to bring emotion and clarity and focus to each song, whatever the lyrics are designed to do. So, it’s a great joy.”
Alayna Starkey, who works in the Youth Department at Territorial Headquarters, helped with the children’s meetings. “In The Salvation Army, there’s so much transition that when kids are away from their parents, it’s just important that they have a place that’s safe and they feel loved.”
Kathleen Veltsos is in her first year as director of the Seaside Pavilion. “I love it. I am having a blast. I love the whole feeling of it all. My heart is so touched. It’s a ton of work, but there’s something about it. We’re being engulfed with love here.”
At the conclusion of the meetings, 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. This was their final appearance at OOB as active officers before retirement. “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!”
–Warren L. Maye, Robert Mitchell, and Hugo Bravo contributed to this story