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William Booth

William Booth began The Salvation Army in July 1865. Preaching to a small congregation in the slums of London. Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth’s first converts to Christianity. His congregation were desperately poor. He preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead them to Christ and link them to a church for continued spiritual guidance.

Even though Booth’s followers were converted, churches did not accept them because of what they had been. However, Booth gave their lives direction in both a spiritual and practical manner and put them to work to help others who were like themselves. They, too preached and sang in the streets as a living testimony to the power of God.

In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers. By 1874, the numbers had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists. They served under the name The Christian Mission and Booth assumed the title of General Superintendent, although his followers called him ‘General’. Known as the ‘Hallelujah Army’, the converts spread out to the east end of London into neighbouring areas and then to other cities.

In 1878, Booth was reading a printer’s proof of the organization’s annual report when he noticed the statement, ‘the Christian Mission under the Superintendent’s of the Rev. William Booth is a volunteer army.’ He crossed out the words ‘volunteer army’ and penned in ‘Salvation Army.’ From those words came the basis of the foundation deed of The Salvation Army which was adopted in August of that same year.

Booth agreed to send Frederick Tucker to India in 1882.

Booth visited India in 1891 and again in 1895. His first visit was just nine years after the Army started work in India. By this time opposition had diminished. He was welcomed by government officials and there were large crowds to greet him at Egmore in Madras. After his second visit to India he issued a memorandum in which he expressed his hopes for the future of the Army:

‘But, what of the future? That is my anxiety. The opportunities are so vast and responsibilities connected with them so serious, that I am staggered by looking them in the face. Some of the things I want to be emphasized are:

  1. Maintain every advantage already gained, secure and train the converts already made
  2. Improve the training of officers
  3. Pay a thousand, nay ten thousand times more attention to the children
  4. Keep on supplying barracks in those villages where we have a reasonable number of soldiers
  5. Establishment of corps in all large cities
  6. Working out a new social scheme, which is destined to become a very great boon to the poor of this land.

General Booth’s death in 1912 was a great loss to The Salvation Army. However, he had laid a firm foundation for the organization.

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