SAN FRANCISCO- Celebrating the 120th anniversary of the Salvation Army San Francisco Chinatown Corps, leaders testified how the Salvation Army’s spirit has continued to compel the youths to serve their neighborhoods and change lives with the love of Christ.
"Before I also thought that Salvation Army is just a used clothes collection organization…now I have already joined the Salvation Army for 16 years, I have never regretted. As I come to know more about the Salvation Army, I come to love it more!" said Major Mei, the wife of Major Thomas Mei of the San Francisco Chinatown Corps, to the Gospel Herald.
As many people say "Need Knows No Season", the Salvation Army always offers assistance to those in needs; Major Mei was very touched by this spirit. She cited some of the best examples that are uniquely provided by the Salvation Army, such as care service for teenage unmarried mothers and life-building program for drug addicts.
"Many teenage unmarried mothers are abandoned by their families, the Salvation Army takes care of them and their children until they have graduated from high school," Major Mei said. "Our service is not just momentary, but our goal is to change their lives completely."
Similarity, for the drug addicts, the Salvation Army does not just stop by helping them to get rid of drugs and alcohols. Small factories and maintenance workshops are established to provide training and employment, so that they can earn a living by selling the goods in the marketplace as a way to rebuild their lives.
Building schools is also another important service of the Salvation Army. Now there are over 110 Salvation Army schools across the world in Europe, the United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and even China, said Major Mei.
Major Mei then explained that the core spirit and motive behind all these social services is to preach the Gospel of Christ, and this has always been the focus of the Salvation Army.
"The commission of the Salvation Army is to preach the Gospel, to save souls and to save lives," Major Mei continued. "If the people cannot even secure the basic needs of their physical lives, how can you preach the Gospel to them? So the Salvation Army first gives them food, save their physical lives and then to preach to them the Gospel, testifying to them that it’s God who saves."
Major Mei said this vision has never been deviated since the Salvation Army is founded. In 1865 England, the founder of the Salvation Army and a Methodist pastor William Booth, left his church and set up an evangelical organization to reach out to the poor people on the street. He associated with the drug addicts, prostitutes, hungry children and many others who are being abandoned by the society. Through these people, he formed churches and his vision was then spread to many other countries in the world. In 1878, the movement is given the name "Salvation Army".
Major Mei defines the Salvation Army as "a Christian church organization that operates with the system of an army". As any other Christian church, the Salvation Army offers pastoral care, discipleship training and leadership training for a new member. Firstly, a member must learn about the truth from the Bible. Then a member is required to study the history and commission of the Salvation Army as well as its background and spirit.
Many people are very curious about the Salvation Army’s uniform. She explained that the uniform represents self-discipline and obedience; it identifies the Salvationists as part of the Salvation Army as well as the best soldiers of Christ.
Two "S" is attached to the uniform, the first "S" means receive salvation while the second "S" means to serve others. This is the spirit of the Salvation Army. As the slogan "Heart to God, Hand to Man" has suggested, Salvationists are urged to take actions to server others rather than just saying in words.
Each color on the banner of the Salvation Army has special meaning as well. Blue represents holiness; red represents the precious blood of Jesus Christ; yellow represents glory. At the center, it is printed the Chinese characters "Blood" and “Fire", meaning the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the fire.
The well-recognized uniform has somehow brought convenience to the Salvationists when carrying out services. Major Mei shared her experience as a trainee in New York. Drug addicts and traders gathered at the end of a very dark street, although no one is willing to enter the place, as she was wearing the uniform, no one is dare to attack her recklessly. She went in, talked to a black woman, prayed with her and her life got changed.
Entering the 120th anniversary of the San Francisco Chinatown Corps, a week-long grand celebration was held last week. A brass band from the Kowloon Central Corps of the Salvation Army in Hong Kong came to give performance from August 12-20. Last Sunday, a parade started from the entrance door of The Salvation Army in Chinatown and marched through the neighboring streets, then marches back to 1450 Powell Street of the Salvation Army.
[Editor’s note: Carol U from San Francisco contributed to this article.]