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Volume 25, No. 7

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The Salvation Army USA Southern Territory

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April 28, 2008

Comm. Feener | Maj. Satterlee | Maj. Duracher | Maj. Corbitt

New beginnings at New River

Relocation to new community injects new life into Virginia corps

By Major Frank Duracher
Southern Spirit staff


There's a lot of sharing going on at the New River Corps in the Christiansburg- Blacksburg area in Virginia. The officers and soldiers of the corps have taken to heart the promise of Ecclesiastes 11:1 - Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again (NIV).

Martha Thornton helps serve hot plates to some 77 hungry regulars at God's Lunchbox, a collaborative effort between The Salvation Army and Virginia Tech.

Come Join Our Army

Musical Mentor

Rawl's Retirement

Keeping the family healthy

"I like the version from the New Living Translation: Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later," said Major John Blevins, corps officer.

Officially, this corps appointment for Majors John and Diana Blevins started in June 2001 in Pulaski, Va., but in late 2006 a much-needed relocation to Christiansburg was realized when a suitable church building was found on Highway 460 - a major thoroughfare dissecting the county and running alongside nearby Virginia Tech. The move was necessary to be centrally located in the five counties in their command.

"This building is nothing short of a Godsend," Major Diana Blevins said. "One Saturday morning I was doing garage sales - my hobby! - and the pastor of this church was putting a For Sale sign out in front."

Blevins said she turned around, spoke with the pastor and returned home to tell her husband that she'd found their new corps building.

"Everything fell into place in securing this building for our corps," Blevins said. "And it seems like after that fresh beginning, our corps was reborn. New people began coming to the corps, and our services to the community flourished."

Then tragedy struck. A lone gunman massacred 30 students and two professors at Virginia Tech, bringing the New River Valley communities to the world's spotlight.

Within hours of the first shots, the two majors and their corps staff member, Craig Woods, parked a Salvation Army canteen within 100 yards of Norris Hall and served hot meals and coffee to police, medics and media personnel. After the campus was secured, the canteen was moved to the University Inn to minister to the families of the victims. By that time, Salvation Army pastoral counselors were dispatched from DHQ.

"There were about 75 Salvationists working at Virginia Tech in the awful days that followed," Major Diana Blevins said. "Between our pastoral counselors and serving hot meals on the canteen, it appeared to the community that all these Salvationists were from the New River Valley Corps - and I guess in a way for those few weeks, we were!"

What's more important, she added, was that the public saw a little of what The Salvation Army can do in such a heartbreaking situation.

"Everyone wanted to help us help these grieving families," Major John Blevins said. "And now that a full year has passed, the community is still sold on the Army's mission here and it seems the more we give away to those in need, the more comes in!"

Continued »»

Major John Blevins is shown at Norris Hall on the campus of Virginia Tech, where Salvation Army personnel served police, medical workers and others in the wake of the tragedy that took place there a year ago.

Virginia corps gets off to a new start
Continued from above

A grateful Virginia Tech staff assists the Army in several ways, including this past Christmas season when university president Charles W. Steger kicked off the Red Kettle Campaign.

"God's Lunchbox" is a joint effort between The Salvation Army and Virginia Tech University, although the college had been searching for an agency to co-op with long before the April 16, 2007, tragedy (see related story).

"Many area merchants donate groceries and supplies to combine with the prepared food not used by students in the Virginia Tech dining rooms," Craig Woods said. "Again, the more we are giving, it seems the more the Lord is giving back to us!"

Janai Jones, 22, is a New River Valley Corps soldier and a senior at Virginia Tech. She will graduate in May 2008 with a bachelor's degree in human development. Her passion is working with children, including a latchkey ministry started at the corps during the week. Besides the Guards, Sunbeams and Adventure Corps programs keeping the kids occupied with badgework and fun outings, Jones helps Diana Blevins serve the children meals left over from God's Lunchbox that day.

"These children need someone to look up to," Jones said. "Often there is no one at home to be a role model. We can impact their lives here, and it blesses me to be a part of it."

With increasing community support, a growing volunteer base and appreciative service recipients, relationships are being built throughout the corps family.

"Our corps growth has exploded because of both the feeding program and the youth ministry," John Blevins said. "What God is doing here can only be described as ‘phenomenal.'"

Come Join Our Army

Major Dalton Cunningham (far right) enrolled five new junior soldiers on Junior Soldier Day of Renewal at the Corpus Christi, Texas, Corps. (L-R) D.D. Bernal, Jeremiah Garcia, R.J. Ortiz, Raymond Garcia, Joey Griffin, Frank
Alejandro, Jana Griffin.





Captain Jonathan McBride, Laurel, Miss., corps officer, recently welcomed eight new junior soldiers into the ranks.






Music discipline pays off for Durham kids
By Major Frank Duracher, Southern Spirit staff

Bill Harriss is a firm believer in Salvation Army music, particularly as it benefits young people of the Durham, N.C., Corps.

Harris, a fourth-generation Salvationist, considers himself a benefactor of the love and discipline he received as a young person through the Army's banding program. His parents are the late Brigadiers Ernest and Eva Harriss, and both sets of grandparents were officers in what became the Southern Territory in 1927. He currently plays second baritone in the Carolinas Divisional Band.

Harriss, a real estate attorney, has also been a member of the Durham Advisory Board for nearly 40 years. But his real loves are teaching and playing Salvation Army music.

"The youth of our (Durham) corps are great kids, and they seem to be benefitting from both the Corps Cadet and music programs here," Harriss said. "In music, there is the discipline of learning a complex new skill. The benefits extend to their school work."

Many are beginners, and teaching them takes patience. But it is paying off. Most aspire to play in the corps band and perhaps at divisional functions.

"Not long ago, one of my youth band students was having trouble with the concept of quarter and whole notes," Harriss said. "I pulled four quarters from my pocket to show how they equal a whole dollar. Weeks later she told us about being asked by her math teacher how she had learned fractions so easily. Her response was she had learned from her Salvation Army band teacher.

"Enrichment for my spirits - big time!"

Honored Retirement: Majors Phil and Betty Rawls

Major Patricia Earp

"But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the preaching of God's sacred Word among us..." is from the Epistle Dedicatory of the King James Bible. This sentiment of Defenders of the Faith members Majors Phil and Betty Rawls was evidenced by his passionate preaching throughout the years and spoken of many times at their retirement service at the Mills House Hotel in Charleston, S.C.

The presiding officer, Major Larry White, ARC commander, remarked that Phil was consistent in his ministry, his family life and his walk with the Lord.

Major Betty Rawls quoted a favorite verse, Jeremiah 29:11, saying that just as God had prospered them in their ministry, he would certainly give them a future as retirees.


Majors Phil and Betty Rawls are shown with Lt. Colonels Stanley and Jean Jaynes
and flagbearers Major George Harry and Major Michael Waters.


Betty's proud introduction of family members was laced with her subtle humor. Betty Jean Hamby's tribute to her parents described them as wearing many hats in their officership; spiritual leader, janitor, painter, marriage counselor, cook and social worker, among others. Through it all she saw them adopt the attitude of Jesus, even in tribulation. Grandson and former U.S. Marine Corps and Iraq veteran, Joshua Hamby, played a classical piano selection, Fur Elise, and granddaughter Christie Hamby spoke of learning to sing with her grandmother and sang a special selection proclaiming Jesus' power in our lives.

Major Phil Rawls responded by testifying to the truths he has learned over the years in his walk with the Lord.

The retirement ceremony was conducted by Lt. Colonel Stanley Jaynes with Defenders' sessionmates Majors George Harry and Michael Waters serving as flag bearers.

Phil and Betty were born and raised in coastal North Carolina. They served as officers for 38 years in Wilmington, Winston-Salem, Washington, Mount Airy, Burlington, Waynesville and Wilson, N.C.; Greenwood, S.C. and as chaplains at the Houston ARC.

Majors Phil and Betty Rawls will live in retirement in Washington, N.C.

Back to top.

Healthy families equal healthy Army

The United States Air Force, a friendly letter exchange, Asbury College, Camp Happyland and Evangeline Booth College. Love can bloom just about anywhere.

For some of the five officer couples in this report, it was love at first sight. For others, it took time and grace to bind their hearts together.

The values of marriage and family are interwoven within the beliefs of The Salvation Army. "Marriage and healthy families are one of the most important foundational structures of society. The health of any society and community can be measured by these institutions, and so the health of The Salvation Army can be measured by the health of our officers' and soldiers' spiritual, marriage and family life," said Lt. Colonel Don Canning, territorial assistant chief secretary for family development.

Lt. Colonels Don and Connie Canning stress the importance, not just for officers, but for everyone to view marriage as a covenant commitment between two people and in the presence of God. They recommend daily affirming your spouse and children and being intentional in both marriage and family commitments.

For more on some selected individual families, please download the .pdf version.

Going deeper with God: In the valley

All Christians have valley experiences. Some valleys are deeper than others. For some, the dark night of the soul can be long and almost humanly unbearable.

You may be passing through a valley now, or perhaps you know someone who is.

Why does God allow dark times to come? Why is life more difficult for some than it is for others? The Bible doesn't provide answers to these questions.

Job was afflicted with many troubles. Three of his friends visited him, each giving different reasons for Job's sufferings. None of them really knew the answer. Then the Lord came. Covering four chapters (Job 38-41), he spoke to Job about numerous mysteries of life. In responding, Job, who, throughout his trials had, again and again, expressed his trust in the Lord, acknowledged God's sovereignty (42:1-6). Then he prayed for his friends whose answers had brought him no comfort (42:7-9).

Paul had a thorn in the flesh. The Bible doesn't say what it was. But whatever it was, it bothered the apostle so much that three times he pleaded with God that it might be removed. This was God's answer: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

None of us can understand the mystery of valley experiences.

But from the life and teachings of Jesus, we can know these things: Loving us immeasurably, he took our place on the cross. He will never leave us. He will give us his strength. And, in the darkest hour, he still is our hope.

For several years, the Christian poet, William Cowper, passed through a dark valley of deep depression. Yet, through his many writings he continued to express his trust and hope in God. He wrote:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Tracy Dartt wrote words that became Lynda Randle's signature song:

...the God on the mountain
is still God in the valley...

In the Psalms we read these words of assurance:

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright... (Psalm 112:4).

And let us never forget the words of Paul, that nothing (not even the deepest valley) can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8: 39).

1. Consider verse two of William Cowper's song (SASB 29). Compare it with what Paul said in Romans 8:28. Apply what you read to your own life.
2. Read John 8:12. What is the darkness Jesus speaks about here?

Perfect joy and Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi and another friar were traveling in the bitterest cold. Over the howling wind Francis spoke. "Friar Leo, our friars have given good service and have been examples of holy living in many lands. But that is not where perfect joy can be found."

A little later Francis spoke again. "Friar Leo, even if our brothers give sight to the blind, make crooked limbs straight, cast out demons, bring sound to the deaf, cause the lame to walk, restore speech to the silent tongue and even raise someone to life who, like Lazarus, has been dead for four days, that is not where perfect joy is found."

Francis was not finished. "My brother, even if someone could speak with the tongue of an angel and knew how the stars move and send their light to us, he would still not find in any of this perfect joy."

"I tell you more, dear Leo," Francis continued. "Even if our friars could preach with such skill that the followers of every other false religion and the most hard-hearted blasphemer knelt in repentance before Christ, write this: That is not where perfect joy can be found."

Friar Leo could restrain himself no further. "If perfect joy cannot be found in any of these, where can it be found?"

"Imagine with me that we have reached our place of rest where we have entertained the thought of a warm room and good food. There we will stand, cold and wet, hungry and weary. We knock at the door. But instead of a welcome the doorkeeper comes out and in a rage says to us ‘Who are you?' We will answer, ‘Two of your friars.' He now answers, ‘You are liars! You are two sorry beggars trying to steal food from the poor and hungry. Get out of here!' And then he slams the door and we are left in the rain and snow. Now we would bear that with patience and we would believe that the doorkeeper has seen our hearts and knows us to be the poor sinners we have been and that God has made him answer us that way. Here it is we begin to find perfect joy.

"Now, the cold becomes too much for us and we feel we must again seek entry. So we continue knocking. But now the doorkeeper chases us away, abusing us and hitting us the whole time. Now, Friar Leo, if we suffer with love and gladness, write this down, this is now perfect joy.

"But imagine we decide to knock on the door again, pleading through our tears in the name of God for him to open the door. But now he answers, ‘You are the foulest of criminals. I will teach you a lesson you will not soon forget.' And he comes after us with a club, grabs us by our garments, throws us to the ground beating us with that cruel club and in so doing bruises every bone in our bodies. While this is happening, if our thoughts should now turn to the suffering Christ, that we are enduring all this because of our love for him and we are doing it without complaining or anger but with patience and joy, this dear Leo, is where perfect joy is found.

"And now let me end this. Our blessed Lord has poured out his grace and his many gifts upon us. But the most blessed is that through the Holy Spirit we can overcome the self and for Him we can willingly bear every pain and punishment and abuse and discomfort. In none of God's other gifts can we so see God's glory in us as in undeserved suffering in the name of our Lord Christ. We can only face them in this way because of God's work in us. As Paul said, Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). And again, May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).


Coin collectors will readily know what a mintmark is: a tiny letter, usually on the obverse of a coin to denote where it was minted. Most coins nowadays bear a "P" for Philadelphia, although you may still run across "S" for San Francisco or "D" for Denver.

The mintmark is unobtrusive and sometimes difficult to find, depending on the style and type of coin. But keep looking - it's always there, declaring something unique about the coin.

I'm always interested to find an old coin with "O" marked for my hometown. The U.S. Mint in New Orleans operated until the start of the Civil War, and resumed production of 10 denominations of coin and paper money from 1879 until 1904.

Jesus used a similar illustration in Luke 20:24. In fact, the lesson is so important that two more of the four Gospel writers give the same account. "Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it?" They answered that it bore Caesar's image.

The inference is clear: If something is marked by Caesar, then it belongs to him. But if it bears God's mark, then it belongs to the Lord.

The lesson is not to be taken literally, but figuratively. The world should always see that Christ Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We are his.

May our prayer be as expressed by the poet, Thomas O. Chisholm:

O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Always with you

It was a cold winter morning when the meteors came. I watched the tiny stars burn into nothingness, appearing and vanishing within a second's span. It was an attack of sorts, bits and pieces of celestial elements destined for target earth, mercifully deflected by this invisible membrane we call atmosphere. I kept waiting for something to break through, to penetrate the fragile bubble that separates our world from the cold reality of space, but they just skipped away, deflected onto another eternal path.

We call them shooting stars, and their appearance tempts us to dream and utter whispered wishes to the sky. Forgive me if I've stumbled upon your superstition. Did you think you were the only one who conversed with the heavens? Rarely a night goes by that I don't take a glance into the deepening blackness and utter something. It's a release of sorts; a therapeutic emptying of mind and soul directed at God by way of his universal avenue.

If it's possible to see God, I figure he's as visible there as anywhere. Childlike tradition holds that he resides there, but such belief restricts God to a particular location, a limitation that his transcendence simply will not allow. He is there, but he is also beside you as you read, a loving presence who seeks you out wherever you may be. By all means, keep searching for his revelation in the stars if you like, but understand that he is not distant. He is here.

For some of you, God's intimate presence is understood and acknowledged. You have no trouble feeling the warmth of his embrace. Others of you, for whatever reason, are not so reassured. My message here is simple - to tell you about a God whose central focus of existence is to be with you. If you're alone; if your heart shivers in the nighttime of fear, this is for you. Please forgive my personal approach, but the Lord tells me things now and again. He loves you, and he wants me to give you a message from him.

I remember a time when my young son found himself momentarily lost in a large department store. He was 5 at the time. I had let go of his hand for just a second. When I glanced down, he wasn't there. Turning around quickly, I saw him searching for me with absolute terror in his eyes. Just as the tears began to fall, I ran to him, fell to my knees and swept him up in my arms. "I'm here, Christian," I said, holding on to him as tightly as I could. I could not bear to think that he would ever be alone, afraid or separated from his father. My desire to be with him, to protect and soothe him, was stronger than any emotion I had ever known. It still is.

How can I convince you that your fear and loneliness is likewise agonizing to God? Can I find some way to help you understand the depth of his affection? Is it enough to tell you that his presence is constant? Would you believe that he can dispel all darkness and bring light to the most desolate heart? Is it possible that he comes running at the sound of your quivering voice crying out for him? We find comfort in the voice of the Lord as recorded by David in the midst of his own despair, "Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Is it possible to flee from your presence? If I ascend up into Heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in hell, you are there. If I take the wings of morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, you are there. Even there, your right hand shall hold me. When the darkness seems to cover me, the night hides nothing from you and shines as day. You know every facet of my condition, and yet you love me with an unsurpassed affection. You embrace me for eternity." Peace be with you.



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