All the World magazine has a distinguished history. For decades now it has reported on The Salvation Army’s worldwide mission to those in need. It is read both by Salvationists and that ‘army’ beyond the Army, a vast host of loyal friends and supporters. My wife Helen and I send Christian greetings to all of you.
I want to offer strong affirmation to every Salvation Army officer, soldier, employee and volunteer who is working to reach out to others in the name of Jesus. Your task is a sacred one.
I am praying for you as you obey the Matthew 25 teaching to be the compassionate face of Christ to those who have less.
Having served on five continents, we have still not seen ‘all the world’! In the five years now allotted to me as General, it will be a wonderful blessing to see at first hand what is being done to lift up the fallen and needy in many more places. What a sacred mission God has given to the Army! What a wonderful calling we have! He has raised up the Army to share the good news about Jesus Christ and to meet human need wherever and whenever we can.
Our journey, through 33 years as officers of the Army, has been so varied and enriching. I think of the places we have seen, where we have lived, where we have met so many people. The journey is to go on, God willing. It began in London. Though I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, it was in London that I received my education and met Helen.
Left: the Cliftons in Rotorua, New Zealand, in 2003 with Maoris in traditional dress
Leading the Pakistan Territory’s delegation to The Salvation Army’s International Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, in 2000
As territorial commander in Pakistan, the then Colonel Shaw Clifton – with his son, John – is welcomed to a youth rally in Liddar
The corps in Edmonton, London (from where we entered the officer training college) had a social conscience. We became caught up in the soup run late on Sunday nights, seeking out the street-dwellers in the city centre and on the banks of the Thames to offer hot soup and a sandwich. It opened our young eyes and moved our immature hearts. Little seemed to have changed since William Booth, on learning of those sleeping rough in London, said to his son, Bramwell: ‘Go and do something!’
We too wanted to go, to do something. So we found ourselves appointed to Africa in the late 1970s. Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) is a lovely land. Who can describe the colour and grace of the jacaranda trees to those who have not seen them? We were asked to teach at the Army’s Mazowe Secondary School, where we met hundreds of fine young African students all keen to learn. For them and their families, education was the key to advancement. We worked alongside, and learned from, many gifted African teacher colleagues. Graciously, patiently, they tolerated our inexperience, as did our more seasoned expatriate colleagues. Our years in Africa changed us for ever.
Never did we contemplate then the likelihood of being asked to serve in the United States of America. That call came after further service in our homeland and at International Headquarters in London. Boston, Massachusetts, is a great city, full of charm and not a few Anglophiles. We felt at home. There we led the work throughout Massachusetts and revelled in the ‘can do’ ethos that marks out the best in American culture.
We saw the range of services offered by the Army: the addiction services, second to none; family help, domestic budgeting counselling, clothing and food distribution were only the tip of the Army social service iceberg; sensitive help to single moms and their babies; multicultural outreach; a host of imaginative, relevant programmes – all backed up by committed officers and staff, supported and encouraged in turn by advisory board members, volunteers who help find funding and who open doors of influence.
Pakistan came next. What a change – from the sophistication of Boston, USA, to Lahore, Pakistan! There, however, we encountered the same Army spirit of determination and dedication among the Salvationists. They had less to work with. Money was scarce. However, the Lord provided.
He made sure the work among the homeless and illiterate would not suffer. He kept afloat the programmes for mothers and babies; kept open the schools; funded the children’s homes; brought in sponsorship for hundreds of young Pakistanis so they could complete their education; made provision for the medical clinics. He even gave us a brand new training college for the officer-cadets, with splendid help from the USA Eastern Territory.
The New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory revealed still more to us about the miracle that is God’s army of salvation. In New Zealand the work goes on unstintingly from the glacier-filled South Island to the tip of the North Island with its tropical vegetation. New Zealand is the loveliest of lands but her social and spiritual needs are deep and widespread. The Army is needed there. This is no less true of Fiji and Tonga, jewels set in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.
Europe, Africa, America, Asia, Australasia – not quite ‘all the world’, but we know God has planted his Army on these continents. It is by divine grace, not by accident, that today Salvationists work for Christ, meeting human need, in 111 countries. If God wills it, new doors will yet open.
May God’s blessing rest on what is being done and on those so faithfully doing it!
General Shaw Clifton became the international leader of The Salvation Army on 2 April 2006