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By Major Frank Duracher

Southern Spirit staff

In an age when words like jihad, Hezbollah and holy war emblazon each day's headlines, over 1,200 delegates to the 55th Southern Bible Conference learned that "Our Spiritual Warfare" is not only a real and continuing conflict, but that the victory promised in the Bible is assured as part of God's plan for mankind.

Dr. William Ury, Majors John and Anne Read, Commissioner Max Feener and Commissioner Israel Gaither were this year's instructors - each taking a different tact in examining biblical precepts of spiritual warfare.

Ury spoke on how Jesus dealt with spiritual warfare in the Gospel of Mark while preparing His disciples for their continuing role after Pentecost. Majors Read followed with their five-session study, with intriguing titles like "War of the Worlds," "War Lord" and "Army of God." Feener spoke on two aspects of "Our Spiritual Warfare" - hearing the battle call and being fully prepared. The National Commander rounded out the week's featured speakers, citing rules for engagement in this "Kingdom Warfare."

"Keep Calvary always in mind," Gaither said. "Don't forget where you received your first victory, and that Christ won it for you!"

Calling spiritual warfare both a defensive and offensive action, Gaither warned that Christians in the world today must expect an aggressive response from the enemy.

"I'm not concerned about the death of The Salvation Army - this mission will not go away. Just read the end of this book: We win!" he said.

This is Great Commission time in America, Gaither added. "The spiritual battles in America reflect the cultural wars all around us. Those issues are not the bottom line; this war is really a spiritual one."

In keeping with the territory's ongoing preparation for Kingdom warfare, two events were added to this year's conference to fittingly bring the climax. On Saturday evening, the Feeners were officially installed as Southern territorial leaders by Commissioners Israel and Eva Gaither (see Sept. 5 issue of Southern Spirit for report).

On Sunday morning, the newest session of cadets was welcomed by the territory. God's Fellow Workers began their two-year training experience with a hearty exposure of what it's like to be a part of an Army preparing itself for a spiritual battle amid an increasingly hostile world.

Katrina's challenge demanded Army's best effort

By Major Frank Duracher

Southern Spirit staff

Looking back at The Salvation Army's disaster relief response in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the massive work, still underway across the nation, easily stands out as the largest project in this organization's history.

Yet as horrific as the multiple-disaster events were, the ongoing work performed by thousands of Army staff and volunteers seems to be proving this to be "our finest hour," in the words of Major John Jordan, community relations and development secretary.

"This is the largest natural disaster in the history of America," Jordan said. "With Katrina and Rita, we are still dealing with an affected area that is about 400 miles wide, and roughly about 400 miles inland."

On top of that, 35 named storms in the Atlantic basin during the 2005 hurricane season tested the Army's ability to respond, he said.

"What I remember most from a THQ perspective, there was a total involvement of everyone on the building," Jordan said. "The gravity of this event quickly carried throughout the territory. Officers, soldiers, employees and volunteers responded each in their own way to help alleviate the suffering and aid in the enormous process of rebuilding."

Jeff Jellets, territorial disaster services coordinator, added that Salvation Army personnel and resources were sent from the other three USA territories, as well as Canada and Mexico.

"I came to work here in early 2001, and within a few months we were faced with 9-11," Jellets said. "I thought at the time, Nothing could be bigger than this. A few hurricane seasons later, four storms tore through Florida, and again I thought the same thing.

"Now that we are still dealing with Katrina and Rita, and will be for some years to come - it's hard to imagine anything bigger ahead. In fact, I don't want to think about it," he said.

Jellets said that the Army's disaster service efforts are ongoing, especially along the Mississippi gulf coast, south Louisiana (including the New Orleans area) and the east Texas coastline. In addition, Salvation Army corps continue to minister to evacuees literally all over the country.

Jordan and Jellets agree that several benefits resulted during this ensuing year.

"We did a lot of things right," Jordan said of the Army's relief and recovery efforts during this ensuing year. "First, we didn't panic. Second, we placed the right people in the right places, reflecting the universality of The Salvation Army which came into play. Third, our work with other volunteer agencies has been outstanding and enhanced."

Our partnership with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization is nothing less than outstanding, he said. In addition, all Salvation Army canteens are now equipped with GPS monitors, making an enormous difference in our ability to deploy personnel and equipment to where they need to go.

"We see disaster service for what it is: ministry," Jordan said. "It is not a part of ministry, or a certain kind of ministry - it is ministry in its own right. We are there as Christ Incarnate among people who are suffering."

The Salvation Army has made the transition from emergency disaster relief and response to community-based long term recovery, with services that vary depending on the need of the hurricane survivor.

"The Army has forged a variety of partnerships, some of our partnerships with NGO's and FBO's (non-governmental and faith-based organizations) have been long term and somewhat traditional, such as our relationship with the Southern Baptists," said Kevin Tomson-Hooper, territorial social services department director.

Due to the complexity of the social services continuum of care the Army has implemented in the recovery phase, new partnerships have been established in order to provide the broadest spectrum of service delivery. These new partnerships are with Habitat for Humanity, with a focus on supporting 1,000 households toward home ownership opportunities, Tomson-Hooper said.

"Plus, we have developed a partnership with the National Business Service Alliance, with a goal to provide 5,000 individuals with skill certification training to enhance their job skills. We are a member of the Katrina Aid Today National Case Management Program with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, through which The Salvation Army will provide 13,000 households with intensive case management support on their road to recovery throughout the gulf coast and across the country."

The goal is to continue seeking out the best approach to home reconstruction and new home construction with the intent being to maximize the generosity of the public who continues to support Salvation Army recovery programs.

"As we look toward the future we will be able to strengthen and enhance our preparedness as a result of forming new partnerships that has increased our organizational capacity to maximize our ability to blend our disaster relief efforts with long term social service recovery programs," he said.



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