The act of “giving five”—a high hand slap—has come to symbolize victory. Ralph E. Chamberlain, Sr., a philanthropist who raised the profile of The Salvation Army with national television and magazine campaigns in the 1970s, had the phrase embossed on his New York license plate. For Chamberlain, that expression represented his conviction that responsible community members should devote at least 5 percent of their income or time to charitable causes, community projects, or other similar good works.
The five Generals who appeared together at Old Orchard Beach Camp Meetings this year have done that and much more.
No doubt, it was historic to bring five retired Generals together for a week of worship, praise, and Bible study. Entrepreneurs are already selling the printed camp meeting programs and Generals’ biography keepsakes on eBay!
What value could be placed on such an event? During the second weekend of meetings, Captain Pavel Gorbunov, a Russian officer from Moscow, said, “When I saw five generals standing together, I thought, ‘I’m seeing my whole spiritual journey in one glance!’ ” Since Gorbunov was saved at age 16, these Generals have given him a priceless commodity—hope.
“Where would I be had I not found the Army?” he asked rhetorically. “I would be drinking with my buddies or long gone—probably dead.”
In 1991, as Gorbunov said “yes” to the call of Christ, General Eva Burrows was beginning an additional two years’ service as General. By this time, she had led the Army back into Eastern Europe, re-establishing the work in Russia after 70 years of exile under communism.
In 1993, when General Bramwell Tillsley became the Army’s 14th worldwide leader, the United States was experiencing its first taste of international terrorism when a parking–garage bomb shook World Trade Center’s Tower One. Tillsley, in office only one year, campaigned in the United States and worldwide to spread the message that God’s love is more powerful than anything this world can bring against us.
Elected to the Army’s highest office as worldwide leader in 1994, General Paul A. Rader, an American, seized an opportunity to bring hope that racial reconciliation in the Salvation Army in South Africa and the United States could happen. He also appointed officers of color to high office.
I’ll always remember the hope that General John Gowans inspired when he spoke to thousands of Salvationists in Atlanta during the International Millennial Congress in 2000. A year later, in the aftermath of 9/11, he stood on a towering balcony overlooking Ground Zero and joined hands with several others, including me, to pray for the victims and their families.
In 2002, General John Larsson continued the Army’s pursuit of souls in the developing world and also in the Western world, where evangelism is becoming increasingly difficult.
Generals Gowans and Larsson have distinct leadership styles. But when it comes to music, it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Even before becoming international leaders, the duo left a legacy as a songwriting and composing team, having written 10 full–length stage musicals that inspired Salvationists the world over.
Let’s “give five” for the victories the five Generals have won for the Kingdom.