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Volume 24, No. 22

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The Salvation Army USA Southern Territory

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Dec 21, 2007

Comm. Feener | Maj. McGee | Maj. Duracher | Ms. Gotrich | Maj. Corbitt

‘Great experience
for all' the goal
for Lakeland, Fla.,
worship leaders

Key leaders in the Lakeland, Fla., Corps make the worship experience of the highest quality, according to Captain Ed Lee, Lakeland corps officer.

"Every week we strive to bring the congregation into the presence of God," Lee said. "We employ every aspect of our corps musical forces, not only providing something for everyone, but offering an opportunity for anyone to participate in some way."

Many newcomers are returning, and those who have been here awhile are discovering a new focus on how to relate to the Lord as a corporate body, and how best to extend that lifestyle throughout the week, he said.

"To me, worship is not just about what happens on Sunday, but how that translates into life experiences from day to day," Lee said.
Continued Below

Praise Team members lead the congregation in a blend of traditional and contemporary worship songs.

Faith takes
wing at the

General Clifton's

Lakeland Continued:

A new corps theme each January also helps the congregation stay focused throughout the calendar year, Lee also pointed out. The theme is not "set in stone," allowing for holidays and special Sunday observances; but is it a subtle reminder to everyone that this is the focus emphasized in worship.

"This past year we embraced the theme, ‘A Place To Belong,' and this coming year will be ‘Operation 3:16,'" Lee said.

Operation 3:16 is adapted from Max Lucado's concept that if "9-11" is the number nowadays often associated with terror, then "(John) 3:16" are the numbers of hope for the world - a hope only found in Jesus Christ.

"The theme gives continuity, and creates a positive worship environment. Entire families are coming to our worship, and we want to include and involve them as much as possible," Lee continued.

The "Ministry Focus" is a few minutes given occasionally on Sunday morning, when a family or individual speaks to the congregation about their own ministry within the corps, and/or how the corps is enabling them to fulfill their role as Salvationists. On this morning, Wayne and Jay Galke told the corps family about their canteen ministry among the local homeless population (see related story).

The Galkes have been married for 20 years and now in retirement they wanted to find a meaningful way to do something for others. When they saw The Salvation Army sign and realized that the Army has "church services," Wayne and Jay felt right at home.

"We started coming to the corps on Easter 2006 and became soldiers earlier this year," Wayne Galke explained. "When we go home at night we have nice warm beds to sleep in - these people have nothing, and they appreciate so much what The Salvation Army does for them," Jay Galke said. Strangely enough for Florida, one of the items most requested is a blanket.

"It does get cold in Florida, and when you're sleeping on the ground the cold goes right through you!" she said.

Another substantial aspect of worship and ministry is conducted by the corps musical forces. The Wilkinson family is immersed in that area of service. Stuart is the unofficial bandmaster, while Cammie plays keyboard and sings in the Praise Team. Daughters Victoria and Ellie are in the Young People's Singing Company and the Junior Band.

"We have a multi-generational congregation," said Cammie Wilkinson. "This is a place for families to come to worship - some families have three generations here. The blend of traditional and contemporary music has something for everyone."

Jim Carleton has been a soldier in Lakeland for 15 years, and leader of the Praise Team for 10. He spends several hours in preparation, and involves a number of musicians and singers in hours of practice during the week.

"What drives the worship experience," Carleton said, "is that people come eager to hear from God, to learn from and be challenged by Him."

"I love worshipping here and singing in the Praise Team," said Paula Pujol, a soldier in the corps since she was 12. "It's like a zone that you get in; that no matter what you do, it's all for His glory!"

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Airport chaplaincy program raises interest in the Army

By Major Frank Duracher
Southern Spirit staff

Toussaint Koudegnan was already a born-again Christian, having been converted as a youth in his native Togo in West Africa. His faith brought him through many trials, including a long stay in a refugee camp before being allowed to immigrate to Benin and eventually America.

"He kept himself clean from the things that were going on around him," said Major George Price, who met Koudegnan in the E Concourse of the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. "Toussaint is an amazing believer whose faith would put many of us to shame."

Koudegnan works in the international baggage claim department at the airport, and struck a friendship with Price several months ago. Koudegnan's curiosity about the Salvation Army uniform, worn by Price and other officers and soldiers in the airport's Chaplaincy Program, prompted the young man to ask about The Salvation Army.

"I wanted to know about the Army's doctrines," Koudegnan explained. "What does the Army believe about Jesus, or about the Army's mission in the world today?"

Price tried to make it a practice to see Koudegnan nearly every day, during break times or at lunch. Most of the time was spent talking about the Lord and The Salvation Army. That led the young Christian to visit the Atlanta Lakewood Corps, where he has been attending midweek and Sunday services faithfully. He is considering beginning soldier preparation classes to prepare him for enrollment within the next few months.

"He is amazing because he's trusted the Lord in everything he does," Price said. "The Lord has more than met his needs because of Toussaint's trust in Him."

Koudegnan proudly shares his faith with other airport employees and travelers and believes he has found a new church home at The Salvation Army.

"It's amazing how the Lord opens doors in order to lead you where He wants you to go," Koudegnan said.

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A Message from General Shaw CliftonChristmas is a time for memories.

Thoughts of Christmases past take me to my childhood. It was in Glasgow, aged 9, that I first played a brass instrument in a Salvation Army young people's band. December meant evening caroling in the streets. Out we would go, in our Army caps, wrapped up warmly against those icy chills and the snow that seemed then to come every year. There was the prospect of hot drinks and delicious snacks at the end of the night, our fingers thawing out painfully once inside again.

We would make our cheery sounds and folk would gather at their doors to listen. Coins rattled into the collecting boxes and shouts of ‘Happy Christmas!', ‘Merry Christmas!' would echo through the streets and the Glasgow tenement buildings.

The music told of a Savior. It spoke of hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, goodwill, Heaven. I liked it.

We would get very, very cold. Naturally, I had heard the stories of brass instrument valves freezing up but had hardly believed them - until it happened to me! Walking between street lamps in sub-zero temperatures to peer at our music in the yellow glow did valves no good at all.

But it was worth it. We were in it together. We felt somehow ennobled to be uncomfortable and aching in order to make our musical witness. We were intrepid players, ready to dare the elements. Softies? Never! Fairweather players? Not us! Frozen valves and frozen fingers were endured almost as a rite of passage. We could tell our stories and be admired, or so we thought, for our hardiness. Of course, the prospect of those piping-hot drinks and mince pies later on helped things along.

Since those halcyon days I've been spared to see many a Christmas. I've lived on five continents and know now what Christmas is like even in the southern hemisphere, often with clammy, hot weather - a far cry from Glasgow's frozen nights.

One thing has remained constant. Whether it is Scotland's chilling blasts or New Zealand's or Zimbabwe's burning summers, I have wanted to say a glad and grateful ‘Yes!' to God's gift of Jesus, to His offer of a Savior for my sin, and to His legitimate, persistent, loving call upon me to follow in Christ's footsteps day by day.

Are you also following?

A happy and blessed Christmas and New Year to you all.

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Soldiers find meaningful ‘worship' by helping homeless

Wayne and Jay Galke accidentally discovered a cause they could be passionate about when they responded to a request in the corps bulletin about a year ago. The request was for anyone wanting to volunteer time to minister among the homeless population in Lakeland, Fla.

"We were just asking for information about it from Captain Ed (Lee) later that week," Jay said. "Lo and behold, the following Sunday the captain announces to the congregation: ‘We have someone to do our canteen ministry among the homeless - Wayne and Jay Galke!'"The husband and wife looked at each other in astonishment. "We are?" they asked each other. So they decided that perhaps this is what the Lord wants them to do. That began the Galkes' canteen ministry to parts of town where up to a thousand homeless subsist.

They distribute food, clothing, blankets and other essentials. "We talk to them, let them vent to us, and pray with whoever wants us to," Wayne said.

The couple keeps a journal of each day's ministry with photos and thank you notes from the homeless themselves. It has become a form of worship for the Galkes - an extension of the spiritual nourishment they receive at the Lakeland Corps (see related story).

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Soldiers of the South discovering joy of ‘Being with God' through 24/7 Prayer Initiative

We are a busy people - year round. Yet it seems we are even busier at this time of the year. They don't call it the "Christmas rush" for nothing!

That is precisely why we need to take time to be alone with God. Cadet Daniel Heronemus so aptly put it: "We are too busy not to pray!"

Southern Salvationists are finding this out for themselves as we are engaged in this Territorial 24/7 Prayer Initiative. I want to share just a few testimonies with you about what comrades are encountering in the Lord's awesome presence.

Major Roy Tolcher, Killeen, Texas, corps officer, tells us about the 24/7 Prayer Wall they erected in the chapel. "Every day as I go through our little building, I have to go through the chapel to get anywhere other than outside. I always stop at the Prayer Wall and pray for those whose names and requests are written there."

Word is getting around about the Prayer Wall in the Killeen Corps, and people are stopping him in the grocery store or at Wal-Mart to ask him to pray for them. He tells them to their delight that he will add their names to the wall, proving that people want to be prayed for!

The officers and soldiers of the Baltimore Hampden Corps in Maryland are finding the joy of being alone with God as well. Robin Spackman feared that she couldn't take time to pray because of her job duties and raising two children.

"As always, God showed me the way," Robin testifies. "I know that my week at work and at home has been better because I took the time to fit God into my busy week."

Marylou Pfeiffer tells of her time in the corps prayer room: "For one hour it felt as though it was just me and the Lord in this room. I am at peace and my worries are gone."

The Territorial Prayer Initiative has transformed the prayer life of the cadet body on the campus of the Evangeline Booth College. What began as a 24/7 prayer commitment is continuing as a 24/365 vow to continue praying throughout the 2007-2008 school year.

When Major Willis Howell was asked how the SFOT could manage to keep the initiative going, the training principal's response was: "While not wanting to criticize the need for academic achievement, I believe there is greater value to the Army and the Kingdom by cadets learning to be more dependant on God and less dependant on their own classroom skills and abilities. Spending intentional, focused time (in prayer) has got to bring about a greater result than simply developing our cleverness."

So keep praying ... and enjoying God's presence!

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Christmas mourning

Dave jumped back from the door as a rat the size of a small dog ran across his feet.

We were standing in front of a dingy, rundown 10- unit hotel. Abandoned by time and the new interstate, it had become the lodge of last resort for families on the brink of homelessness.

The night before, we had received a phone call from two people. The first was a bright, cheery woman who said she wanted to adopt a needy family for Christmas by buying food, toys and clothes. A moment later, another caller told us that a family with children was staying at the hotel of last hope. The caller wasn't sure how many children there were but knew one was sick from the flu.

I called the cheery woman back and asked if that family would be O.K. She said it would, and we promised to get more information about the children.

Soon after our arrival at the hotel, and Dave's retreat to the van after the rat's welcome, we learned that the family we were seeking - the Grimms - were at a funeral home. Their young daughter had died the night before. Shocked, I got the information on the surviving two children.

I called the cheery woman and said, "I know this is more than you bargained for. I will find another family for you to adopt."

"No, no, I still want to adopt them - give me the information," she responded.

That was on Christmas Eve day. That evening, I went with the cheery woman and helped deliver the food and clothing to the Grimms. The family could not afford anything other than cremation and interment at the "poor peoples" cemetery.

On the day after Christmas, I stood in a drizzling rain as a Catholic priest intoned the burial rites of the Church. Present were the Grimm family and the cheery woman and her family. The cheery woman's husband leaned over and told me that they had taken the Grimm family to the Holiday Inn for Christmas dinner.

With the final amen, the cheery woman stepped forward and embraced the grieving mother and held her tight. They both wept. It was an embrace that encompassed all that one needs to know about the Christmas story and God's love.

It was a mournful Christmas. Out of the ashes, I have come to appreciate even more the unique ministry that The Salvation Army has in people's lives.

By this ministry the Grimm family felt the love of God by complete strangers (angels unaware) in a time of complete desolation. Moved by compassion and the love of Christ, the cheery woman and her family moved from being observers to active participants in the sacrament of service.

So often we in The Salvation Army get carried away with the sheer weight of the number of people we are helping with material assistance. On that mournful Christmas, what that family needed was the love that comes from God, communicated by one human to another in overwhelming circumstances.

Without the love of Christ on Christmas morning, our condition is described in Ecclesiastes 2:11: My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed. With the love of God being made manifest in his incarnation on Christmas morning, we are in the blessed state described in Ecclesiastes 3:22: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

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My favorite Christmas

This is my 55th Christmas, and I must admit that I never grow tired of the sights and sounds of what many call "the most wonderful time of the year."

I've loved every Christmas season, but a couple of them do stand out for me. For example, I remember Christmas 1957 - the year I found a shiny new blue tractor under our tree. You know the kind; you pedal it around kind of like a tricycle. I loved that thing, as I did all the electric trains I received on other Christmases. For a long time, I associated Christmas with getting a new train - sort of a requirement of some kind.

I guess I realized that Christmas is an extraordinary event, even before I learned that it comes every December 25 - or I understood the definitions of words like magi, advent or incarnation.

Here's yet another realization: which Christmas is my favorite? It's always "the next one." As soon as the New Year starts aging, I begin thinking of next Christmas. Lately another reason why I enjoy the Southern Bible Conference (yes, in August) is because I've found that Christmas is coming more rapidly after that annual event nowadays.

For me, heaven will be like a glorious Christmas that will never end. Your most wonderful joy will pale in comparison to what the Father has prepared for us. God's Word promises: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

No one knows when that Eternal Christmas will come, but it will. When we awake on that morning, it will be the best one of all.

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By Jude Gotrich

Traditions. This time of year is fraught with traditions. In my house, everyone looks forward to certain treats from the kitchen made only during Christmas. Our Christmas tree is selected at a tree farm, cut down, placed in the living room and dressed with the ornaments of years past. Decorations are placed outside and all around the house. Cards are sent. Gifts are purchased, wrapped and given to special people in our lives. Special meals are prepared and programs performed. Service is given on Christmas "kettles" and at toy shops and in many charitable events to help others - the list is endless. Christmas is a wish for "peace on earth," but sometimes the essence of the season is obscured by the chaos we create.

We have read so many books on "how to make a memory" for our families that we can literally make ourselves crazy getting all the stuff done that we think contributes to the Christmas spirit.

Several years ago I began to notice I was going in so many different directions at Christmas that I was totally stretched to the limit. It happens very easily when involved with The Salvation Army this time of year. I thought this frantic pace could not have been what God had in mind for the event of His coming to earth.

The Lord implanted in my mind the idea of selecting a single word to bring me through the season. So, each year I ask Him for a word that would give me a singular focus - a word that would highlight itself throughout the process of Christmas. The word would be a road sign leading me in a fresh direction, approaching the most incredible universal miracle - Christ's relocation to earthbound flesh, coming as an infant.

My word for Christmas 2007 has been "Immanuel," or "God [is] with us." As always, that Christmas word has been popping up everywhere every single day - book titles, carols sung, sermon topics and Christmas card greetings - and directing my devotional thoughts and prayers.

Immanuel comes from the voice of the prophet Isaiah in 7:14. The Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. As prophecy fulfilled, it is then recounted in Matthew 1:23.

God has always wanted to be with us. The Garden was created out of God's desire to walk with Adam. Moses was directed by God to erect a tabernacle - a place for God's dwelling - a portable tent so that the people had a sense of God's presence as they traveled. Solomon's Temple, designed with God's instruction, became the house of prayer; a place to be with God.

Then God sent Jesus and could have named him many things, but the first of His names was "Immanuel" because God is with us through His Son's physical presence. The meaning of Immanuel is consistent with His desire to be with us; His love drives Him to be with us. To top it off, Jesus while on earth gives us the image of "abiding" in Him (John 15:4), and as we abide in Him, He abides in us. He invites us to have Him dwell inside us. When Jesus resurrects and returns to heaven, He does not leave us alone but sends the Holy Spirit to be with us - to be Immanuel inside us.

So, how is God with you this Christmas, this moment as you read these words? He is with you in the chaos of the season. He is with you in the heartbreak of foregone Christmases as loved ones have passed and you bask in the memories. He is with you in your helping of others, bringing joy to them and to you. And because Immanuel abides in the heart of the believer, God is with us as we proclaim Him in all the activity that Christmas celebrates.

As we pray and commune with God, we do enter His presence and we recognize God is with us. Immanuel was a manifestation of God's communion and a promise of His presence. What a priceless gift! Rejoice, for God is with us.

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The light of love

After 23 years of marriage, I've finally given in. The white flag of surrender is white, just like the singlecolored lights on our Christmas tree. It would appear that my holiday preferences have been usurped by the wishes of the pretty blond who swept me off my feet a quarter century ago. The point is, I like multicolored lights. Throughout my childhood, the red, green, blue, and orange bulbs adorned the tree in the corner of our little house on Sunset Place. Naturally, each December, my childlike memory travels back to Hendersonville, Tenn., the city by the lake, where colored lights abound in gaudy fashion.

A few years ago, the wife and I decided to call a truce. We would have two trees, one with clear, white lights, and the other with my preferred hues. It's funny, but tonight as I stand back and admire the two trees in the house, I note with amusement that they both shine brightly with Cindy's clear, white bulbs. I mention this to her and the response is, "Go ahead and put up another tree and feel free to use whatever color you choose!" Three Christmas trees - I don't think so. As luck would have it, I've grown to love her single-colored Christmas world. Besides, the decorations are irrelevant. When she is in the room, the blue flash of her eyes is light enough.

I'm sure there were Christmas celebrations before she came, but her presence has replaced most of those distant memories. It feels as if she has been here all along. I can't imagine contentment before her nor bear to contemplate a future apart from her. No December chill, icy and inclement, could ever diminish the warmth of her touch. I did not intend to write about her when these words began to take shape, but in the moment I realize that I love her more than she can dream of being loved. The affection has become a part of my nature, a feeling I cannot control any more than I can rearrange the stars in the winter sky.

It is an intriguing concept, this uncontrollable love by way of natural instinct. I love my wife, children, parents, siblings and some friends by way of innate inclination, but most days that unconditional favor reaches only as far as that limited circle. As for the rest, they maintain provisional status depending on the circumstance of our association from day to day. Maybe it is foolish to admit that I don't always love the world as it longs to be loved. Neither do I see humanity through the pristine prism of God's graceful eye. It is a flaw I confess with some hesitation, finding uneasy comfort in the assurance that I am not alone, even in the good company of my extended Christian family.

We should love as we are given impulse by the presence of Christ in our hearts. If we do not love, it is because we have limited His presence. Is it possible we have shut the Lord out of certain rooms that, if left unlocked, could be filled with heavenly light meant to be shared with a loveless world? Another thought, somewhat related, comes to mind. Why are we more inclined to explore such questions at Christmas? Peace on earth and good will toward men should be a 365- day proposition. There is no need to parcel out the love of Christ by season. There is enough to go around for eternity if we will simply carry our share of the blessed responsibility.

Lord, forgive my shortcomings and selective affections. My heart needs a sweeping renovation in preparation of your coming. Let the transformation begin at the foot of a dirty manger.

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