A soldier for God
THE SALVATION Army began in 1865 when William Booth established an evangelical and philanthropic organisation to preach salvation from sin and propagate purity of life among the poor and destitute people of London’s East End.
The mission of the Salvation Army has not changed. It is an international movement, the evangelical part of the universal Christian Church, according to Major Vincent Davidson, who oversees the Spanish Town and Linstead corps in St Catherine.
Davidson told Family and Religion that the Salvation Army is intertwined in the life of the parish; fulfilling social and spiritual needs of people from all walks of life. “The message of the Salvation Army is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination,” he stated.
“One of the philosophies of our founder is that, if you preach to a person when he is hungry, he will not take in what you are saying to him. But, if you feed him and then preach to him, you will get a better result.”
He continued: “We conducted our summer vacation Bible school. The youth are positively impacted. We operate a basic school, again touching and shaping young lives,” he explained.
“Our church halls are open every Sunday for worship. Pastoral counselling, grief, marital and spiritual counselling services are offered daily. We respond with clothing and food in emergency-disaster situations.”
Addressing the issue of preaching the gospel, Davidson disclosed that the Salvation Army Spanish Town corps endears itself with the mandate given by Christ to preach the gospel.
“We preach not only from our pulpits, but also through our social services. We are an army with our sleeves rolled up to give service to others as defined by Matthew 25:36.”
According to Davidson, the Salvation Army recognises the challenges that face not only its social gospel, but the gospel of Jesus Christ. “You really cannot separate the two – the gospel and caring for others,” he said.
Reflecting on the contribution of the Salvation Army in the efforts by other religious leaders to use a spiritual approach to dealing with crime in Spanish Town, he said: “Our response to the crime monster is – we do not operate in isolation. We join with other church communities. We are a part of a coordinated response by all the churches in Spanish Town under the umbrella organisation of the Spanish Town Ministers’ Fraternal. We have made various bold moves and coordinated intervention to impact the community with the gospel, which is still potent and powered by God in bringing about meaningful spiritual and tangible results.”
Describing his personal journey, Davidson, who has completed 23 years as a Salvation Army officer, recalled how he wrestled with the thought of joining the Salvation Army for almost seven years because he needed to be sure.
“Eventually, I became convinced that I was called by God to become a Salvation Army officer to preach the gospel, whether from a pulpit or serving others. God continues to speak and even used me to reveal to other persons their calling. I did not need much convincing after that. I answered the call and said yes to God,” he said.
He informed that he is constantly reminded of his calling by one of his favourite verses of scripture, John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
Major Vincent Davidson